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Tougher DUI laws, toy protection among the changes

By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Making toys safer, tighter rules for driving under the influence offenders and posting restaurant nutrition information are part of a bundle of new laws Californians will need to heed starting now. A new law bans the use of phthalates in toys made for children under the age of 3. Phthalates are used to make items such as teething rings and other chewable baby toys. Some studies have shown that the compound can have a number of negative side effects including genital defects, low sperm counts, early puberty and lower testosterone in boys. Glenn Simpson, owner of Me Gusta Baby in Auburn, says his store specializes in organic-friendly child items, including toys free of phthalate, bisphenol A and BPA. “I really do believe those chemicals are hazardous to people and to continue using them would be irresponsible,” Simpson said. Tamara Hadley, owner of Design Well Eco-Boutique in Auburn, added that water bottles also contain the same harmful compound. She suggests people buy aluminum or steel water bottles. “Those chemicals leech slowly so drinking bottled water every day could have an effect,” Hadley said. While that law protects consumers from harmful effects of chemicals, another set of laws aims to protect motorists from drunk drivers. One new law prohibits a convicted DUI offender from driving with a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher while they are on probation for driving under the influence. If a driver disobeys this law, they will receive a citation, suspended driving privileges and their car will be impounded. Another law states a driver arrested with a .15 percent blood alcohol level will require the court to give more consideration for having that driver install an ignition interlock device. A third DUI-related law allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to make any convicted DUI driver with a suspended license for a prior DUI conviction to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Scott Owens, Placer County deputy district attorney and office spokesman, said the new laws help the District Attorney’s Office prosecute offenders. The Placer County District Attorney’s office is the number one office in the state for DUI conviction rates, according to statistics from the California District Attorney’s Association. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, the office had a 91 percent conviction rate per number of arrests in Placer County. “Our goal is to stop the carnage that occurs on our roads,” Owens said. “The California Legislature continues to give us additional tools that not only impose additional punishments for DUI offenders, but more importantly, help prevent these folks from re-offending.” Other laws effective Jan. 1, 2009: - As of July 1, 2009, chain restaurants with 20 or more facilities in the state are required to provide nutritional information about their food. Nutritional information includes total number of calories, grams of carbohydrates, grams of saturated fat and milligrams of sodium. - GPS units can be mounted on a vehicle windshield as long as it’s in a 7-inch square on the lower passenger side or in a 5-inch square on the lower driver’s side. - The cost of a moving violation will increase by $35. It will cost an extra $25 to attend traffic violator school, an additional $15 for fix-it-ticket fees and add on $3 for parking fees. The money will fund courthouse construction, rehabilitation and maintenance. - Those selling counterfeit Clean Air stickers will officially be conducting an illegal operation. The stickers allow vehicles to drive in HOV lanes during peak times even if they do not meet the vehicle occupancy requirement. - Caltrans workers will receive extra protection. A new law will increase penalties for assault and battery crimes against state highway workers while they are working. - 911 abusers will face increased penalties in the form of a written warning or fine. The law applies to those who knowingly use the system for a reason other than an emergency. - Veterans displaying vehicles with license plates indicating they are a Pearl Harbor Survivor, Legion of Valor recipient, former American Prisoner of War, Congressional Metal of Honor recipient or Purple Heart recipient are allowed to park a vehicle - weighing less than 6,000 pounds - without charge in any metered parking space. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.