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Become familiar with new laws and please wear bike helmets

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Operating cars, motorcycles, scooters and bikes on the streets can have serious consequences if rules aren’t followed.

Both the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the California Department of Motor Vehicles shared information on new roadway safety laws that took effect Tuesday for 2019.

It’s our responsibility to know the new rules and adhere to them.

CHP recently highlighted the following bills “to support its mission of providing the highest levels of safety, service and security.”

Passing waste service vehicles (AB 2115, Santiago): When approaching or going past a refuse collection vehicle with its amber lights flashing, drivers must move into an adjacent lane, if possible, and pass at a safe distance. If it is not possible, drivers must slow to a safe and reasonable speed. This law provides a safety margin for sanitation workers.

Certain vehicle exhaust violations have mandatory fines (AB 1824, Committee on Budget): A fine will be mandatory when loud motor vehicles and motorcycles are cited.

Previously, a driver or motorcyclist who was cited for modified or excessively loud exhaust or muffler systems could correct the violation to avoid a fine.

Bicycle helmets (AB 3077, Caballero): Anyone under age 18 not wearing a helmet on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, or skates will receive a “fix-it” ticket. A citation is considered non-punitive and correctable if the minor completes a bicycle safety course and has a helmet that meets safety standards presented within 120 days to the issuing law enforcement agency.

Helmet use on motorized scooters (AB 2989, Flora): Bicycle helmets are no longer required for riders of motorized scooters who are age 18 or older. Motorized scooters can operate within a Class IV bikeway as well as a Class II bikeway and on highways with speed limits up to 25 miles per hour. Local jurisdictions can pass ordinances to allow motorized scooters on highways with speed limits up to 35 miles per hour. It remains illegal to operate a motorized scooter on a sidewalk.

The laws try to make our transportation routes safer and, for the most part, make sense. Existing law provides that charges be dismissed for a juvenile's first citation for riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard without a helmet. AB 3077 amends the law, Lincoln Police Chief Doug Lee told Gold Country Media, to provide that a citation is correctable (or non-punitive) if the parent or legal guardian delivers proof that the juvenile has a helmet and has completed a local bicycle safety course or a related safety course. As the police chief points out, this could increase awareness about the importance of wearing helmets at all times.

Bike advocate Tom Frady writes the Life in the Bike Lane column for Gold Country Media and regularly asks parents to teach safety by wearing bike helmets so their children pick up lifesaving habits.

“As you know, I am a helmet fan and would like to see everyone wearing helmets on skateboards, roller skates, scooters, bikes and motorcycles,” Frady said about the helmet-related laws.

AB 2989 seems confusing. Bicycle helmets, which used to be required for all riders of motorized scooters, as of Tuesday no longer have to be worn by riders who are age 18 or older. But all ages should wear helmets because they can and do save lives.

"If you hit a pothole on a bicycle with a big wheel, you could have a problem. You hit a pothole on this little thing, you're going to go down," said forensic kinesiologist James Kent, in July in "If I fall over sideways and I can't break that fall and don't have a helmet on, I can potentially kill myself."

Santa Monica and San Francisco officials and bike safety advocates also advocated for helmets.

Constance Farrell, public information officer for Santa Monica’s city manager, said in that same story, "We continue to believe it's safest when helmets are used by riders of all ages, whether on a scooter or a bike."

Closer to home, Lincoln Police Chief Lee supports wearing helmets on bikes and scooters (and unicycles).

“I'm a cyclist and I never ride without a helmet. I also ride a unicycle and even though my top speed is about 8 to 9 MPH (meaning a solo crash would be more like falling off than crashing),” Lee said, “I still wear a helmet in case I am struck by a vehicle and launched through the air.”

CHP public information Officer David Martinez also advises wearing helmets.

“Helmets do save lives. Anyone riding a bike involved in a collision, without a helmet, has a good chance of suffering some type of head injury,” Martinez said. “I think it’s a safe practice when you’re on a skateboard, scooter or bike to wear a helmet at any age.”

A comedian advertising his upcoming performance says that he can’t attract women because he wears a bike helmet and knee pads, making him seem too responsible. On the contrary, being responsible actually makes him seem like someone who’s smart and caring.

Gearing up with bike helmets makes total sense at all ages.