As of Tuesday, don't even think about lighting up a cigarette containing tobacco or "any other plant," a pipe, or a cigar if there is anyone in the vehicle under the age of 18 - unless you would like to risk receiving a citation.
Although this violation can only be enforced if you are actually stopped for some other offense, it does carry with it a $100 maximum fine. And the officer doesn't need to see you puffing; simply having your smoke of choice lighted and in your possession constitutes an infraction, even if you are a passenger in the vehicle and even if the vehicle is parked.
Another new law that will go into effect July 1 is designed to warn drivers about the consequences of driving under the influence.
As a condition of obtaining or renewing a driver's license, the applicant must sign a declaration stating that they understand that being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both impairs their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle and that it is extremely dangerous. They must also certify that they understand that if a person is killed as a result of their driving under the influence, they can be charged with murder.
Young drivers, under the age of 18, will have to hold off on all technology-based communication while driving as of July 1.
That means no chit-chatting on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, no texting, no paging, no typing MySpace messages on the portable laptop, and no good old-fashioned walkie-talkie talking while driving a motor vehicle.
There is an exemption in the law for emergency situations. An officer cannot pull someone over for the sole purpose of determining if they are committing this offense. There is a $20 fine for a first-time offender, $50 "plus any administrative fees" for any subsequent offense.
And finally, there is the most important new law for 2008 that will take effect July 1, which my family likes to call "Michelle's Law."
Just because Gov. Schwarzenegger was having a little trouble making up his mind about whether to sign the new bill which will require all California drivers to use hands-free devices for their cell phones, and just because I sent him a letter and a column that I had written on some pretty horrible deaths that were attributed to drivers talking on wireless phones, and just because he wrote me back telling me of his decision to sign the bill before it was announced to the general public, DOES NOT make the new cell phone law "my" law.
So, if you are not crazy about the new law, and the accompanying $20 fine for a first offense and $50 fines for subsequent offenses, please just think of the timing of that series of events as a lucky coincidence.
However, if you like the new cell phone law, go ahead and feel free to call it "Michelle's Law."
It actually has a kind of nice ring to it.
Michelle Groh-Gordy is a longtime traffic-school instructor and the owner of InterActive! Traffic School Online (www.trafficinteractive.com). Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to DriveTime, c/o The Sun, 4010 N. Georgia Blvd., San Bernardino, CA 92407.