If you live in or drive through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia or North Carolina (the fifth through tenth most populous U.S. states), several new laws affecting drivers, and potentially their car insurance premiums, go into effect on January 1, 2012 or later in the year. Here’s what you need to know to avoid costly traffic tickets and points on your driving record.
OMG! A ban on all mobile phone texting while driving for drivers in the Keystone State kicks in on March 8, 2012. Although you won’t be able to text, you can still use your hand-held mobile phone for other purposes like talking, GPS, music, etc. This state law overrides local ordinances such as Philadelphia’s ban on any use of mobile phones.
The state has also banned the use of red-light cameras in the new year, however Philly and other cities that have the cameras in place can continue to use them until at least June 30, 2012.
Pennsylvania has updated the definition of motorcycle to include vehicles with two stabilizing wheels on the back. If you own a three-wheeler or have modified a motorcycle by adding two stabilizing wheels to the back, you’ll now need a Class M license.
There’s still no state-wide limit on mobile phone use while driving in Ohio, but a number of bills are currently in committee. House Bill 99 would ban all text messaging while driving and Senate Bill 35 would prohibit use of handheld communications while driving (hands-free would not be affected). Ohio drivers and people passing through the Buckeye State should be aware that several municipalities have passed bills banning texting including Toledo, Columbus and Zanesville.
It hadn’t yet passed as of this post, but House Bill 4936 seeks to change Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law. Instead of having unlimited medical care after a car accident, drivers in the Great Lakes State could opt for car insurance policies with $500,000, $1 million or $5 million in bodily injury coverage, and payments to health care providers would also be capped. Michigan is currently the only state that provides unlimited, lifetime medical care to people who are catastrophically injured in car accidents. Michigan drivers also pay one of the highest average car insurance rates in the nation.
Who knew that Georgia made 90% of America’s golf carts, or that so many Georgia drivers use the low-cost vehicles in lieu of cars? Georgia lawmakers, apparently. Concerned about the potential for injury, they’ve passed a new law that creates a separate classification for golf carts and sets new standards for towns and counties that want to pass ordinances allowing drivers to use golf carts on city streets and multi-purpose pathways. Beginning New Year’s Day, all golf carts must have braking systems, reverse warning devices, tail lights, horns and hip restraints. A cart’s weight can’t exceed 1,375 pounds or exceed 20mph top speed, and they now must be registered as personal transportation vehicles with the Georgia DMV.
Laura’s Law goes into effect today. Named for the 17-year-old victim of a drunk driver, the law requires that repeat DUI offenders whose cases “have other aggravating factors” receive a minimum one- to three-year prison term and fines up to $10,000. Courts in the Tar Heel State can also require electronic alcohol monitoring of some offenders.
Another new laws affecting drivers, Run and You’re Done, is intended to prevent high-speed chases on North Carolina’s roads and interstates. In some instances, a convicted offender’s vehicle can be seized and sold, with proceeds going to local school districts.