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New year means new laws for Kansans

The new year has begun and Kansans are faced with new laws that went into effect Friday.

Cell phone use in cars

Many young drivers in Kansas won’t be allowed to use their cell phones while driving. Legislation now restricts the use of cell phones, text-messaging devices, audio-video players, or laptop computers for those with learner’s permits, farm permits, or restricted licenses until they are at least 16½ years old. Drivers could use a cell phone to report illegal activities or summon emergency assistance.

Statistics indicate that drivers using cell phones or other electronic devices are more likely to be involved in vehicle accidents and many were ages 14 to 19.

Only five states — California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington — have a total ban on drivers using hand-held cell phones.

Teen driving restrictions

A new graduated driver’s license system for Kansas teens also went into effect Friday.

Features of the new licensing system include:

  • At ages 14 and 15, teens may apply for an instruction permit after passing a written and a vision test and submitting an application from a parent or guardian. These teen drivers must drive with a supervising driver at least 21 years of age, who holds a valid license. The instruction permit must be held for one year.
  • At age 15, teens can apply for a restricted license. These teens must complete an approved driver safety course and must submit an affidavit from a supervising driver as proof of 25 hours of driving experience prior to the restricted license being issued, as well as an application from a parent or guardian. The restricted license allows teens to drive to and from school or work but does not allow minor non-siblings as vehicle passengers.
  • At age 16, teens continue to operate under a restricted license for six months. Teens must submit an affidavit noting 50 hours of supervised driving, 10 of which must be completed at night. These teens may drive unsupervised to and from school, work, and authorized school activities and anywhere between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Seat belt use is required at all times.

DUI laws

The drunk driving laws in Kansas prohibits driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above. The limits are lower for drivers of commercial vehicles and minors — .04 and .02 or higher, respectively.

The .08 limit is the standard measurement used across the U.S. for “impaired” drivers. The Kansas law extends to alcohol, drugs, or both.

If convicted of a DUI with a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle, punishment will be extended by one additional month of imprisonment.

For those with the first drunk driving conviction, a 48-hour jail sentence must be served and/or 100 hours of community service performed. Fines are $500 to $1,000 with licenses suspension for 30 days and 330 days of license restrictions following the suspension. Their vehicles could be impounded for up to one year and a court-ordered treatment program is possible.

A second drunk driving conviction would bring a sentence of 90 days to one year in jail; $1,000 to $1,500 fine; suspended license for one year; ignition interlock device required for one year after suspension of license; vehicle could be impounded for up to one year; and a court-ordered treatment program must be completed.

A third DUI is a felony offense. The offender must serve 90 days to one year in jail, pay $1,500 to $2,500 in fines, and the same requirements as a second DUI offense.

If arrested and convicted for a fourth drunk driving offense, the punishment is the same except after release from jail, the offender must be supervised for one year by Kansas Department of Corrections and the fines begin at $2,500.

A driver’s license will be permanently suspended for a fifth DUI conviction with the same fines and incarceration as in previous convictions.

An ignition interlock device is designed to minimize the opportunity of a driver operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The device works by requiring a breath sample prior to starting a vehicle and periodically as the vehicle is being driven. If the breath sample provided contains an alcohol level below the acceptable threshold, the vehicle will be allowed to operate.

Vanity plates

Duplicate personalized or vanity license plates were eliminated Friday. The Department of Revenue reported there are about 85,000 vanity tags in Kansas and about 33,000 of those are duplicates.

All but the original owner of a vanity tag had to give them up.

Passing lanes

Drivers who linger in passing lanes on highways could be stopped. For now, officers will hand out warnings but beginning July 1, tickets will be issued.

The law does not apply within city limits.

Last modified Jan. 6, 2010

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