Q: I recently heard that as of Jan. 1, 2009, drivers are no longer allowed to text message while they are operating a vehicle. True?
A: Yes. California passed SB28, which prohibits drivers from using electronic wireless communication devices to write, send or read text-based messages. This law specifically addresses, but is not limited to, instant messages and all forms of e-mail based correspondence. If cited by a law enforcement officer, drivers will have to pay $20 fee for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. No points will be placed on DMV records for this violation but penalty assessments will be added which could more than triple the base fine amount.
To get all the “buzz” on the new cellular phone laws, check out the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ Web site www.dmv.ca.gov/cellularphonelaws/index.htm
Q: Can I make payments to the DMV through my bank?
A: Yes. The DMV has the capability to accept fees for its online services, such as registration and driver license renewal fees, through online checking as long as you provide your bank with the license plate number of your vehicle. Contact your bank for details regarding your account allowances and limitations or for more information, visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/faq/genfaq.htm.
Q: My father only speaks Spanish so I always try to make sure I help him with his DMV needs. A few months ago, when I was not available to help him, he tried to use the online appointment service on the Spanish DMV Web site and found that there was no Spanish version! Will this feature be added soon?
A: Yes. The DMV has recently gone live with the online appointment service on the Spanish DMV Web site. Now Spanish-speaking customers can log on to www.es.dmv.ca.gov to use the 24/7 appointment service to make appointments at any field office statewide. Like the English version, he will be able to make appointments for driving tests, vehicle title and registration services and driver license services and more.
George Valverde is the director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.