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New laws for 2016 now in effect for California drivers

Popular hoverboard riders now must be 16 or older

Several new driving laws came into effect in the new year aimed at improving safety for child passengers, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Representatives of AAA Northern California said some of the new regulations are clarifications to existing laws and further define the rules of the road for drivers.

"AAA hopes to alert people to the latest changes," AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said in a statement. "AAA actively works to promote safe and responsible transportation, and we supported many of these new laws."

Popular "hoverboards" or electric motorized boards are at the center of one of the new laws, Assembly Bill 604, which mandates that the rider of the board be age 16 or above and requires the rider to wear a helmet.

The boards can be operated at speeds of up to 15 mph on sidewalks, paths or trails, with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph. The new law states local governments and other agencies can enact further regulations restricting use of the boards in public.

Two of the new laws -- child safety seats and reporting traffic crashes -- will become active in 2016, but won't actually take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, since it takes about a year for agencies to adhere to the new modifications, AAA officials said.

The child safety seat law, Assembly Bill 53, requires children 2 years old to be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians. Only children under 1 were required to ride rear-facing previously. The law provides exemptions for children over 40 pounds or 40 inches tall.

Senate Bill 491 raises the threshold for when any motorist involved in a crash is required to report it to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Drivers will have to report it when an injury occurs or when there is property damage above $1,000, more than the $750 amount mentioned in current law.

SB 491 also claries rules regarding headphones or headsets by explicitly prohibiting the wearing of earbuds in both ears while operating a vehicle or bicycle.

For a complete list of laws taking effect in the new year, drivers can go to dmv.ca.gov/

Jade Atkins, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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