Tough new road laws for texters, drunks

New laws on everything from speed limits to texting to how long you can idle your car went into effect Jan. 1.

By QuinStreet Feb 4, 2014 6:15PM

This post comes from Penny Gusner at partner site on MSN MoneyThe New Year ushered in new laws across the nation.  Changes range from faster speed limits to harsher penalties for drunks and texters.


Over 800 new laws went into effect in the Golden State.  Drivers could be affected by:

  • Transfer of ownership of a vehicle to a relative or revocable living trust is now prohibited until all toll-violations or parking fines and penalties known by the DMV are paid by the transferee.  This will keep drivers from evading paying for toll or parking citations by just transferring the title of a car to another family member. 
  • Teenage drivers under the age of 18 are now prohibited from using an electronic wireless communications device to read, write or send a text-based communication while driving -- even if with a hands-free device.  Teens, thus can’t engage in voice-activated texts, which previously was allowed.  This law also closes a loophole teens had been exploiting of using a tablet or laptop instead of cellphone behind the wheel.
  • The statute of limitations increased for hit-and-run collisions that result in serious permanent injury or death from three years to six years from the date of the accident.
  • Going into effect Sept. 16, 2014, when passing a bicyclist drivers will be required to provide three-feet of clearance between any part of the vehicle and the bicycle.  If a motorist is unable to provide this minimum passing distance -- due to roadway or traffic conditions -- then the driver must slow down to a “reasonable and prudent speed” Base fine for a citation is $35, if the bicyclist is injured due to violating the law the fine can increase to $220.


Everyone may be talking about Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws that started on Jan. 1, but other laws also went live on this day.  One specifically concerning drivers that drink.

  • As of Jan. 1, drivers who are caught with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher (down from the previous threshold of .17) or refuse to take a test of breath, saliva, blood or urine (as required by law) will be labeled a persistent drunk driver.  This designation comes with heftier fines and penalties.
  • A persistent drunk driver continues to need to complete a Level II alcohol and drug education and treatment program. But now once driving privileges are restored the driver must hold a restricted license that mandates the use of an ignition interlock device.
  • The one-year waiting period has been reduced to one month, for drivers over the age of 21, to apply for early reinstatement of their driving privileges with an ignition interlock-restricted license for persistent drunk drivers. The waiting period is now only two months for those who refused tests.


New laws concern vehicles with snow and ice on them and distracted drivers:

  • The day before the New Year, Connecticut enacted a law requiring commercial motor vehicle to remove snow from the roofs, trucks and hoods or the operator could be fined from $75 to $1,250.  The stiffer penalties ($500 to $1,250) are reserved for when flying elements cause personal or property damage.  Parked vehicles and vehicles already in motion when snow, sleet or freezing rain starts are exempt.
  • Fines have been increased for motorists who use a handheld cellphone or other electronic device while driving.  A first offense will now be $150, a second $200 and subsequent convictions a fine of $400 to $500.  The new law requires the DMV to place the conviction violation on a driver’s motor vehicle record and assess at least one point.
  • Also, distracted driving laws were updated to prohibit drivers from using their cellphone when a vehicle is temporarily stopped due to traffic, road conditions or traffic signal devices or signs.


Drivers may go faster, but need to stay off their cellphones.

  • The maximum speed limit on toll-roads and interstate highways was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph.
  • Drivers are prohibited from using an electronic handheld device in any capacity while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway unless a hands-free device is used.  Previously, it was just illegal to use a hand-held cellphone in construction and school zones for adult drivers. The law continues a ban on wireless device use by drivers under age 18 and texting while driving for all drivers.
  • New cellphone law is a primary offense that comes with a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $150 for each subsequent offense.  After a fourth offense, the Secretary of State has the power to suspend a person’s driver’s license.  A first offense is not considered a moving violation, but subsequent offenses are.

Car side mirror © Adam Gault, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesIowa

Teen driving laws updated.

  • All young drivers are required to carry an instruction permit for a full year, up from just six months, before they can apply for an intermediate license. 
  • Unsupervised young drivers are now only allowed one unrelated minor passenger during the first six months of holding an intermediate license. 
  • Young drivers with a minor school license are also restricted to just one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision.
  • A different law transitions full driver’s license from being valid five years to eight years, excluding minors and temporary foreign nationals.  At age 72, though, licenses shift to a two-year renewal period.


New laws include a driver authorization card.

  • Nevada residents unable to meet citizenship requirements for a standard driver’s license can apply for a driver authorization card. The DMV is prohibited with sharing information for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • Validity for most drivers’ licenses will lengthen to eight years from just four.  Drivers age 65 or older will still continue to renew their license every four years. 
  • New legislation requires the driver’s license written exam to include a question on the state’s law prohibiting texting or use of a hand-held cellphone while driving.

New Hampshire

A new law requires anyone driving with a passenger under the age of seven to make sure the child is properly fastened and secured by a child-restraint system, unless the child is at least 57 inches tall.  Previously, it was age six and 55 inches tall.


Don't smoke if you have kids in your car.

  • As of Jan. 1, smoking in a motor vehicle when a person under the age of 18 is present is illegal.  The fine is $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.  It is a secondary offense.
  • Fines for texting or using a handheld cellphone while driving have been raised to a maximum of $500 by raising the offense from a Class D to Class C traffic violation.


Points and fines for distracted driving offenses have increased.

  • The state made it illegal to use handheld portable electronic devices when driving in posted work zones.  The fine is between $100 and $200 for a first offense and $250 to $500 for a second or subsequent violation within a two-year period (the same fine amounts that went into effect for texting while driving in July 2013).
  • Points for certain “distracted driving” violations have increased. The state will assess two points for a first offense of using a portable electronic device in a work zone and five points for a second or subsequent offense. Texting while driving will now be assigned five points for a first offense.  Previously, it was two points for your first ticket and then five points for any subsequent violations for texting.
  • On May 1, 2014, it will become illegal to allow your vehicle to idle for more than five minutes in any 60-minute period, while the vehicle is stationary.  Exceptions are granted for certain types of vehicles, such as military and buses, and situations. For example, if idling is necessary to operate safety equipment, maintenance purposes or if traffic conditions cause a vehicle to remain stationary.

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Feb 8, 2014 8:08AM
can't let your car idle for more than five minutes in Vermont? wonder how many people are breaking that law right now in 10 degree weather? stupide.
Feb 8, 2014 6:06AM

To dam many politicians wanting to run the lives of the people....Down with big government..Power to the people...

Feb 8, 2014 9:25AM
So Nevada is authorizing illegal's to get a DL. But they wont recognize my out of state CCW permit. Other states should refuse to recognize Nevada drivers "privilege' to drive in said states.
Feb 4, 2014 8:59PM

There are plenty of existing laws now that aren't enforced, so what makes politicians think any of these will make anyone safer?

Also, the only two times any of these MIGHT be acted upon and/or enforced are at the end of the month when LEO's need to make their ticket quotas (yes, they DO have quotas. I work for the police. I know), and right before and/or during an election season.

Feb 8, 2014 9:12AM
I must violate some laws every day, it's just a matter of figuring out which one.
Feb 8, 2014 4:28AM
"Over 800 new laws went into effect in the Golden State."

Wow what an extremely ugly disaster liberal extremist homosexual democrats have made of California. I mean, with the highest taxes in the nation, incredible over-regulation (you can't tie your shoes without a government permit) and 800 freaking new laws in a year, who really want's to live there? Hell, the beach is wonderful, but California's beaches really aren't that great compared to other parts of the world.
Feb 8, 2014 4:42PM
we need to pass a law if politicians open their mouth it should be life in prison 
Feb 8, 2014 3:57PM
Nevada now has a driver authorization card for illegals and dmv is prohibited with sharing any info with immigration enforcement......what a joke.  So now we protect the illegals from deportation???
Feb 8, 2014 12:07PM
They couldn't assess more taxes, so new regulations are instituted. Oh well, California has so many regulations already, 800 more is just another drop in the bucket.............
Feb 8, 2014 10:51AM
More loss of freedom.  When are we going to wake up?  When we find that everything that's not compulsory is forbidden?
Feb 8, 2014 9:59AM
Un-fracking believable. Why allow people to drive themselves at all? I'll put those states on my "no go" list. Bye-bye tourist dollars.
Feb 8, 2014 4:25PM
More REGULATIONS, it all about money,money,money.
Feb 8, 2014 9:51AM
Feb 8, 2014 1:38PM
Soon there will be so many laws death will be the only viable option..... even that is taxed and you cannot end your own life with being punished. Just how damned stupid are politicians? Apparently they park their brains in the hallway before entering their offices. You are an idiot if you think they represent you in any fashion. Vote the bastards out. You can write in anyone, even yourself, for any office. Choose responsibly.
Feb 8, 2014 9:54AM

I'd like to see a federal traffic law or mandate (so it apply nationwide) requiring ALL, and ONLY ALL police and sheriff department vehicles to be equipped with revolving or flashing "BLUE" emergency lights - this instead of the current system of mixture of RED, AMBER, BLUE, and CLEAR (WHITE) lights displayed (depending on which city, county and state you're in) on police vehicles.  


Many southern states, and I believe Connecticut and/or Massachusetts already use BLUE lights on their vehicles while nearby, in the state of New York, use of the BLUE light(s) is reserved for use on the "private vehicles" of  "volunteer firefighters" responding to their firehouse or scene of a fire.


Oh well...Just a thought.



Feb 8, 2014 12:57PM

Now for all of you that have been saying, "There ought to be a Law against that". there is.

And, for all that have been doing it because everybody else is doing it, Don't get pinched doing it. As for Oregon and the No Smoking Law, they soon be repealing it as it violates the Constitution Rights of people and when in a car you are on private property.. Just ask California.

What is the difference between a Distracted Driver and One with their Head up Their Butt. Neither one is looking or paying any attention to what is going on around them or even knows what they are doing behind the Wheel.

Feb 8, 2014 1:43PM
The world only needs ten simple laws, an the enforcement of those is ultimate and infinite.
Feb 8, 2014 4:31PM
It seems that our elected officials have put the state before the people, both in local politics and in the federal government.  Now, we were just told during the SOTUS that based on what one man thinks is right, he will rule (not govern), with his own pen.  Total disregard for the will of the people as we have already seen in the past 6 years. This is tantamount to a person thinking they are the king, not an elected official.  and also, we are seeing way too much of non-elected bureaucrats making very unpopular laws and putting them down on top of the people and our Constitution that was meant to protect the people from an overbearing government, such as we have now.
Feb 8, 2014 6:06PM
Ban cell phone use in cars unless it's a dire emergency or to report an accident or crime! With highways and streets packed with moving traffic these days, you have all you can do to just drive defensively without having to look through your rearview mirror and see someone tailgating you and at the same time  blabbing on a phone .
Feb 8, 2014 8:01PM
Nevada is a joke!! The breaks we give illegals is unreal!! Your drivers license is your I.D. card!!
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