Hit-and-run alert system much like Amber alerts among new laws

Starting with the new year, signs similar to this Amber alert will provide information about drivers sought in hit-and-runs.
Starting with the new year, signs similar to this Amber alert will provide information about drivers sought in hit-and-runs. Modesto Bee file

A few new traffic laws go into effect Friday, including the creation of an alert system that will provide information about hit-and-run drivers sought by police.

Like Amber, Silver and Blue alerts, the Yellow Alert program will post information on electronic changeable message signs along highways throughout the state. The alerts will provide law enforcement officials another tool to apprehend drivers who leave a crash site before authorities arrive.

The Yellow Alert system likely would have been used this past week after a crash killed two men and seriously injured a child on Sisk Road in north Modesto. Police investigators are looking for the driver of a dark-colored sports car they believe was racing with the Ford Mustang that crashed Monday afternoon, killing its driver and a passenger.

In Stanislaus County, there were 142 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in death or injury, according to the most recent statistics available from the state Office of Traffic Safety.

Yellow Alerts will be designated for hit-and-run crashes that have resulted in death or serious injury and will be limited to the area where a hit-and-run occurred. The California Highway Patrol says it will assist any local law enforcement enforcement agency requesting help in determining whether the information they have meets the criteria for a Yellow Alert.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, pushed the Yellow Alert bill through the state Legislature, hoping to help police find those responsible and stop other drivers from fleeing. Gatto has said if drivers know their information will be posted on these electronic road signs, it is more likely they will not drive away from a crash.

The criteria established in the new law include the availability of information about a hit-and-run driver or a vehicle believed to have fled after a crash. Law enforcement officials also have to determine whether releasing such information will be helpful before deciding to issue a Yellow Alert.

The CHP this past week also was informing Californians about other laws that go into effect New Year’s Day and apply to aspects of road safety.

A law requiring all slow-moving vehicles to pull over safely to let traffic pass has been amended to apply to all vehicles, including bicycles. Vehicles are required to let backed-up traffic of five or more vehicles get by.

Electric bicycles are now defined in three categories by a new law that sets up safety restrictions and regulates access on trails and paths. A class 1 or 2 electric bicycle will have a maximum speed of 20 mph, and a class 3 will have a maximum speed of 28 mph. Class 3 bicycle riders must be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet.

A law now will allow electric skateboards to go almost anywhere bicycles can go, subject to local rules. They had been banned under a 1977 law aimed at gasoline-powered boards that were much noisier than today’s models.

The new law dictates that these skateboards can go no faster than 15 mph and can be ridden only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less or specific designated bikeways. The rider must be at least 16 years old and wear a bicycle helmet.

The bill was introduced by Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Riverbank. Olsen pushed the proposal at the urging of Intuitive Motion, which makes electric skateboards in a small part of the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant. Olsen has said the legislation updates outdated laws to give an environmentally friendly transportation option, while encouraging the growth of an industry to create jobs.