ACIC Asks Gov. Schwarzenegger to Sign Safety Bills

The Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) is asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign into law highway safety legislation that would target street racing and beginning teen drivers.

“Insurers are always concerned about highway safety. We believe two bills pending before the governor are significant steps toward improving highway safety conditions for California drivers,” said ACIC President Sam Sorich.

The bills are AB 1325 by Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), and AB 1474 by Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia). If signed, both bills would become effective Jan. 1, 2006.

AB 1325 would increase the minimum imprisonment penalty for illegal street racing from one to 30 days. It would increase the maximum imprisonment penalty from 90 days to six months.

“Regrettably, street racing has become a pervasive activity, especially among young drivers,” said Sorich. “Drivers who engage in this activity are focused on the thrill of high-speed driving, not the potentially disastrous consequences when the activity goes astray.

“As a clearly warranted first step in stemming the increasing number of occurrences of this dangerous activity, penalties should be increased. Existing law clearly is inadequate.”

Sorich noted that AB 1474 makes two important changes to California’s graduated drivers license program for beginning teen drivers.

First, it would extend from six months to one year when graduated drivers licensees are prohibited from transporting individuals under the age of 20. In addition, AB 1474 would expand the restriction on driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“California’s existing graduated drivers license program has been successful in reducing crashes, injuries and deaths. A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found vehicle deaths involving 16-year-old drivers decreased nearly 30 percent between 1993 and 2003, a period during which 46 states, including California, instituted graduated licensing programs,” said Sorich. “Clearly, the graduated license program has been a success in California and this legislation will make it even more successful in improving highway safety.”