‘Capitol Connection’ – Keeping New Laws in Mind

March 7, 2012

As your legislator, I have the unique opportunity of interacting with constituents on a daily basis. Whether I stop by a grocery store or eat at a local restaurant, I am always in contact with concerned citizens. Recently, while working a high school basketball game, I spoke with a constituent who shared an interesting question with me. How can older drivers stay informed of new or updated laws? As teenagers, we apply for our driver’s license and are given a manual with all of the current laws to keep in mind. Those who have not taken the test in many years may need a refresher. Over the years, laws are changed or created to resolve new challenges, and it is important to keep them in mind. In Connecticut, driving is a privilege and not a right, and we agree to abide by all driving laws. This article highlights some of the new laws that you may not be familiar with.

One important example of new legislation is the “Move Over” law that was established in 2009. You may not be familiar with it, but the law is a life saver. According to the Connecticut General Statutes, this law requires that “any operator of a motor vehicle on a highway when approaching one or more stationary emergency vehicles located on the shoulder, lane or breakdown lane of such highway shall immediately reduce speed to a reasonable level below the posted speed limit, and if traveling in the lane adjacent to the shoulder, lane or breakdown lane containing such emergency vehicle, move such motor vehicle over one lane, unless such movement would be unreasonable or unsafe.” As a police officer, I know how important this legislation is. While it may not seem overly remarkable, it has saved numerous lives. By moving your vehicle over one lane, emergency workers on the side of the road can safely do their job.

Another example includes anti-idling regulations and laws. What exactly is idling? When someone allows their vehicle to stand still for more than three minutes with the engine running, it is considered idling. Over time, the cost of idling adds up in both fuel expenses and heightened exhaust emissions. Currently, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has a regulation that prohibits all kinds of vehicles from unnecessary idling for more than three minutes. At this time, this regulation is only enforced by DEEP field staff. Almost every year, the legislature’s Environment Committee considers proposals that would expand enforcement for local police officers to hand out tickets for excessive idling.

In addition, there are some laws for teenagers and parents to consider as well. In Connecticut, we now have a graduated license process for new drivers at the age of 16 and 17. The first stage is the learner’s permit, where the new driver is accompanied by an experienced supervisor. Once the driving test is passed, the new driver is given a restricted license and is restricted from carrying any passengers except for an instructor or a supervising driver. They also have a curfew, driving no later than 11:00pm at night. After the age of 18, it becomes a full driver’s license, and they can carry only as many passengers as there are seatbelts in the car. It is also important to keep in mind that all drivers are not allowed to text or operate a cell phone while driving. Since we are still in winter, you should also be aware of the “ice missile” law that requires drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicle because it can fly off, hit other vehicles and possibly lead to an accident. These are just a few of the laws to be aware of when driving or teaching your children about driving safety.

In the end, it was an important question and caused me to write this article on where you can get updated information about new laws. You may occasionally read about new laws in the newspaper or hear about them on television, but there is another reliable source to check each year. At the end of every session, the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research posts a summary of the Major Acts that will become law. To stay informed on these new laws, please make sure to visit their website each year at www.cga.ct.gov/OLR.