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(photo by Santa Monica Police Department)

Q. I frequently see people smoking while walking along the bike path at the beach. Isn’t it illegal to smoke on the beach in Santa Monica?

A. It is a violation to smoke on any public beach in Santa Monica. However, the parking lots, bike path, and pedestrian pathways are not considered part of the beach. The beach is considered to be the area of accumulated sand, stone, or gravel deposited along a shore by the action of waves and tides. If someone is smoking while riding a bike on the bike path or smoking while taking a walk on the pedestrian path (commonly known as the Boardwalk), they are not in violation of the smoking ordinance. Once they step onto the beach with a lit cigarette or other smoking device, they become a potential recipient of a citation. Typically a police officer must observe the violation in order to issue a citation. There are signs posted along the beach in Santa Monica which inform beach patrons of the rules and regulations of the Santa Monica State Beach.

I must say those signs do work and they do have an impact on those that come to enjoy our beach. Recently, I was assigned to a bike patrol detail during the 2010 Glow event. While on routine patrol, I was stopped several times by pedestrians who wanted clarification of the law as it pertains to smoking on the beach in Santa Monica. After clearing things up for them, several of the pedestrians replied, “I’m glad I talked to you officer. I don’t need a citation right now, especially during these economic times.”

Q. My teenage daughter has been diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. She is currently wearing hearing aids and has shown remarkable progress in hearing audible sounds. With the assistance of hearing aids, will she be able to obtain a California driver’s license?

A. Yes. Although hearing is important, having hearing impairment is not an absolute disqualifier for obtaining or maintaining a California driver’s license. The California Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s (DMV) handbook states in part, “Drivers who know they are deaf or hearing impaired can adjust. They can learn to rely more on their seeing habits.” Individuals with hearing impairment should have good vision in order to drive in California. Even though there are laws that prohibit drivers from wearing headsets or earplugs which cover both ears, the California Vehicle Code makes exemptions for hearing-impaired drivers.

I think your teenager would greatly benefit from obtaining a California driver’s license. The accomplishment of obtaining a driver’s license can be a great self-esteem booster to any teenager. Your teenager must also know that responsibility comes with that great accomplishment. Be sure to talk with your teenager and make them aware of the hazards that are so common with driving. A hearing-impaired driver will have to pay extra attention to their surroundings and constantly assess traffic conditions.

Let’s use the following scenario for an example:

A hearing-impaired driver is heading west on Wilshire Boulevard approaching Fourth Street. The driver has a green light to continue through the intersection. Suddenly, an ambulance with its lights and siren activated approaches Wilshire from Fourth and the ambulance driver has a red light. By law, all drivers must yield to the right when emergency vehicles with activated lights and sirens approach (Remember: red light move right). The hearing-impaired driver may not be able to hear the ambulance approaching, so this driver will have to rely on their vision and look ahead to see what other vehicles are doing. Are they stopping at a green light? Are vehicles moving over to the right? The hearing-impaired driver must be able to constantly assess traffic conditions from all directions in order to make the right decisions while driving. Once the hearing-impaired driver sees traffic yielding to the right, that driver can immediately yield to the right as well. The ambulance will be able to continue on to its destination.

With a little hard work and the proper training behind the wheel, your teenager can become one of safest drivers on the road. It is often said that when one of your senses is diminished (sight, smell, hearing), your other senses are increased or heightened. Personally, I find some truth in that claim. My daughter has hearing loss and also wears hearing aids. I’ve observed her other senses help make up the difference with the hearing impairment. You can find out more information regarding driving with hearing impairment from the California DMV’s website at www.dmv.ca.gov.

This column was prepared by NRO Mike Boyd (Beat 8: Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or michael.boyd@smgov.net.