Saturday, September 7, 2013

Does Using A Wireless Phone to Read a Map While Driving Violate The Vehicle Code?

This question was taken up by the Appellate Division of the California Superior Court in Fresno County earlier this year, and it resulted in the published decision entitled People v. Spriggs (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th Supp.1.  California Vehicle Code § 23123(a) says that a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone, unless the phone is configured and used for hands-free listening and talking.  A driver was cited by the CHP for looking at a map on his cell phone while holding the phone in his hand.  The officer and driver agreed at the trial that these facts indeed occurred.  The driver was convicted, and he appealed.
On appeal, the driver argued that he did not violate the Vehicle Code when he held the phone, because he was not conversing, or listening and talking.  The appellate court disagreed, stating that “the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone. That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and e-mails.”  The Appellate Division further held that neither a plain reading of the statute, or its legislative history support the conclusion that Vehicle Code § 23123(a) “was designed to prohibit hands-on use of a wireless telephone for conversation only.” 

The appellate court concluded that the statute focuses on the distraction a driver faces when using his or her hands to operate a phone, whether by talking, or for other uses.  The court quoted the state Assembly analysis of the bill which led to the statute, showing that the intent of the law was to reduce motor vehicle accidents in California by improving reaction time in the event of an emergency by requiring both hands to be on the wheel.  The Appellate Division said that according to their plain reading of the statute, it was clear that the California legislature intended to prohibit the use of a wireless device while driving, whether for phone use, the use of a map application, or any other use, as this should help to reduce car accidents.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Construction Accident Prevention: Ladder Safety

The prevention of work-related injuries is a priority for business owners and employees in the construction industry. Construction accidents can occur on work sites when proper safety guidelines and requirements are not met. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2011, contractors represented 12 percent of fatal injuries on the job, with California showing some of the highest rates of contractor work-related fatalities in the country. Injuries that occur in the construction industry require 14 days median away from work, with 30 percent of these injuries requiring a full month away from work for recovery.

According to OSHA, work related fatalities in construction are attributed to four major causes: falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and getting caught/stuck. Many injuries on construction sites are preventable, if the appropriate steps are taken to meet safety regulations. One important way to prevent falls at construction sites is by ensuring ladder safety.  This fact sheet from provides a ladder inspection checklist, which suggests checking your ladder for flaws and making sure it’s clean and dry before stepping on it. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Keep Your Teen Driver Safe this Summer: Eliminating Distractions to Prevent Teen Auto Accidents

It’s the official start of summer, and many children may already on vacation from school throughout Southern California, as well as most of the country. For parents of teenagers, one major concern associated with the season is their kids’ safety on the road. According to a May 2012 AAA report on teen drivers, the under-20 age group accounts for more fatal auto accidents per mile driven than any group other than above 80. Furthermore, the rate of accidents which result in injury to passengers and those in other vehicles is highest for drivers aged 16 and 17. The level of distraction of the driver is a major factor that determines motor vehicle safety in general. Other teenagers in the vehicle may interfere with the driver’s ability to stay focused on the road. The AAA study found that teens are more likely to be involved in a car crash if there are other passengers under the age of 21 in the vehicle. In addition to passengers, teens may be tempted to use their mobile device while driving. Under California law, no one may use a hand held device while operating a vehicle. The official government website for the prevention of distracted driving clarifies that in California, cell phones are banned for minor drivers, whether or not they are handheld or hands-free, if they are pulled over for another traffic violation.
There are steps parents can take to prevent their teen’s involvement in driving violations or even accidents causing injury to themselves or others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that parental involvement is key to preventing teen auto accidents. Parents are advised to enforce rules when it comes to their teenagers’ driving habits, including when and with whom they head out on the road. Make sure your teen driver knows the dangers of distracted driving and strictly prohibit the use of mobile devices while your teen is in the driver’s seat. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lancaster City Council Adopts Ordinance with Solar Provisions for Home Builders

On March 26, 2013, the City of Lancaster, CA adopted an ordinance that includes solar provisions as part of its residential development standards for home builders. The law, which was passed in furtherance of Lancaster’s General Plan 2030, requires a minimum photo-voltaic kW per unit for single-family homes which receive a building permit after January 1, 2014. The Residential Zones update portion of Ordinance 989 includes a matrix which applies the solar provisions to developments of different sizes and zones, in much the same way that building placement and size is regulated. Section 17.08.305 of Ordinance 989 sets forth the guidelines for solar energy system installation.

The passage of the Residential Zones update may lead to a spike in the need for solar contractors in Southern California. This could result from the Lancaster Ordinance, as well as the general trend in construction for a more environmentally-conscious approach to building. Furthermore, builders in cities close to Lancaster, which is in proximity to both Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, may be seeing a spillover to cities outside of Lancaster because of a potential rise in solar installation there. The most significant piece of knowledge for a California contractor in this regard is the license classification for solar contractors. The California Code of Regulations, pursuant to the Business and Professions Code, calls for a Solar Contractor, License Classification C-46, as follows:

“A solar contractor installs, modifies, maintains, and repairs thermal and photovoltaic solar energy systems.

A licensee classified in this section shall not undertake or perform building or construction trades, crafts, or skills, except when required to install a thermal or photovoltaic solar energy system.”

It is important to remember that a general building contractor must not accept a subcontract unless it includes work in two separate trades, OTHER than carpentry and framing, or the prime contractor also has a license for the specialty required in the subcontract.  Lancaster and Southern California contractors may benefit from attaining the C-46 license classification in preparation for the new law to take effect in 2014.