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AB-261 Authorized emergency vehicles.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 01/15/2021 09:00 PM
AB261:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 261


Introduced by Assembly Member Seyarto

January 15, 2021


An act to amend Sections 21655.5 and 23301.5 of the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 261, as introduced, Seyarto. Authorized emergency vehicles.
Existing law authorizes the Department of Transportation and local authorities to designate certain highway lanes for the exclusive or preferential use of high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs), requires the department or local authorities to place signage advising motorists of the rules governing the use of those lanes, and prohibits the use of those lanes by motorists other than in conformity with the posted rules. Under existing law, the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is exempt from various provisions of the rules of the road as contained in the Vehicle Code if, among other things, the vehicle is being driven in response to an emergency call, the driver of the vehicle sounds a siren, and the vehicle displays a lighted red lamp visible from the front as a warning to other drivers and pedestrians.
This bill would additionally permit an authorized emergency vehicle to operate on an HOV lane if specified conditions are met, including, among others, that the vehicle is being driven while responding to, or returning from, an urgent or emergency call and the driver of the vehicle determines that the use of the HOV lane will likely improve the arrival time of the authorized emergency vehicle and its delivery of essential public safety services.
Existing law provides for the exemption of authorized emergency vehicles, as defined, from the payment of a toll or charge on a vehicular crossing, toll highway, or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane and any related fines, when the authorized emergency vehicle is being driven under specified conditions, including that the vehicle displays public agency identification and is being driven while responding to, or returning from, an urgent or emergency call. Under existing law, an authorized emergency vehicle returning from being driven under those specified conditions is not exempt from a requirement to pay a toll or other charge imposed while traveling on a HOT lane.
This bill would remove that restriction so that an authorized emergency vehicle returning from being driven under those specified conditions is exempt from a requirement to pay a toll or other charge while traveling on a HOT lane.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 21655.5 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:

21655.5.
 (a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities, with respect to highways under their respective jurisdictions, may authorize or permit exclusive or preferential use of highway lanes for high-occupancy vehicles. Prior to establishing the lanes, competent engineering estimates shall be made of the effect of the lanes on safety, congestion, and highway capacity.
(b) (1) The Department of Transportation and local authorities, with respect to highways under their respective jurisdictions, shall place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, signs and other official traffic control devices to designate the exclusive or preferential lanes, to advise motorists of the applicable vehicle occupancy levels, and, except where ramp metering and bypass lanes are regulated with the activation of traffic signals, to advise motorists of the hours of high-occupancy vehicle usage. A person shall not drive a vehicle upon those lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices. A motorcycle, a mass transit vehicle, a blood transport vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked as such on all sides of the vehicle, or a paratransit vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked on all sides of the vehicle with the name of the paratransit provider may be operated upon those exclusive or preferential use lanes unless specifically prohibited by a traffic control device.
(2) Notwithstanding Section 21055, an authorized emergency vehicle that satisfies all of the following conditions may be operated upon those exclusive or preferential use lanes:
(A) The authorized emergency vehicle properly displays an exempt California license plate and is properly identified or marked as an authorized emergency vehicle, including, but not limited to, displaying an external surface-mounted red warning light, blue warning light, or both, and displaying public agency identification, including, but not limited to, “Fire Department,” “Sheriff,” or “Police.”
(B) (i) The vehicle is being driven while responding to, or returning from, an urgent or emergency call, engaged in an urgent or emergency response, or engaging in a fire station coverage assignment directly related to an emergency response.
(ii) For purposes of this paragraph, an “urgent” response or call means an incident or circumstance that requires an immediate response to a public safety-related incident, but does not warrant the use of emergency warning lights. “Urgent” does not include any personal, commuting, training, or administrative uses.
(C) The driver of the vehicle determines that the use of the exclusive or preferential use lane will likely improve the availability or response and arrival time of the authorized emergency vehicle and its delivery of essential public safety services.
(c) When If responding to an existing emergency or breakdown in which a mass transit vehicle is blocking an exclusive or preferential use lane, a clearly marked mass transit vehicle, mass transit supervisor’s vehicle, or mass transit maintenance vehicle that is responding to the emergency or breakdown may be operated in the segment of the exclusive or preferential use lane being blocked by the mass transit vehicle, regardless of the number of persons in the vehicle responding to the emergency or breakdown, if both vehicles are owned or operated by the same agency, and that agency provides public mass transit services.
(d) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) “Blood transport vehicle” means a vehicle owned and operated by the American Red Cross or a blood bank that is transporting blood between collection points and hospitals or storage centers.
(2) “Mass transit vehicle” means a transit bus regularly used to transport paying passengers in mass transit service.
(3) “Paratransit vehicle” as defined in Section 462.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature, in amending this section, to stimulate and encourage the development of ways and means of relieving traffic congestion on California highways and, at the same time, to encourage individual citizens to pool their vehicular resources and thereby conserve fuel and lessen emission of air pollutants.
(f) The provisions requirements of this section regarding mass transit vehicles and paratransit vehicles shall only apply if the Director of Transportation determines that the application will not subject the state to a reduction in the amount of federal aid for highways.
(g) The authority for a blood transport vehicle to use exclusive or preferential lanes in accordance with subdivision (b) shall only be operative under either of the following circumstances:
(1) The Director of Transportation determines that the use of those lanes by those vehicles will not cause a reduction of federal aid funds for highways or otherwise be inconsistent with federal law or regulations, or with any agreement between the state and a federal agency or department, and the director posts that determination on the Department of Transportation’s Internet Web site. internet website.
(2) The Federal Highway Administration of the United States Department of Transportation, upon the request of the director, makes that determination and the director posts the determination on the Department of Transportation’s Internet Web site. internet website.

SEC. 2.

 Section 23301.5 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:

23301.5.
 (a) An authorized emergency vehicle is exempt from any requirement to pay a toll or other charge on a vehicular crossing, toll highway, or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane, including the requirements of Section 23301, if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) The authorized emergency vehicle is properly displaying properly displays an exempt California license plate, plate and is properly identified or marked as an authorized emergency vehicle, including, but not limited to, displaying an external surface-mounted red warning light, blue warning light, or both, and displaying public agency identification, including, but not limited to, “Fire Department,” “Sheriff,” or “Police.”
(2) (A) The vehicle is being driven while responding to to, or returning from from, an urgent or emergency call, engaged in an urgent or emergency response, or engaging in a fire station coverage assignment directly related to an emergency response.
(B) For purposes of this paragraph, an “urgent” response or call means an incident or circumstance that requires an immediate response to a public safety-related incident, but does not warrant the use of emergency warning lights. “Urgent” does not include any personal use, personal, commuting, training, or administrative uses.

(C)Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), an authorized emergency vehicle, when returning from an urgent or emergency call, or from being engaged in an urgent or emergency response, or from engaging in a fire station coverage assignment directly related to an emergency response, shall not be exempt from any requirement to pay a toll or other charge imposed while traveling on a HOT lane.

(3) The driver of the vehicle determines that the use of the toll facility shall will likely improve the availability or response and arrival time of the authorized emergency vehicle and its delivery of essential public safety services.
(b) If the an operator of a toll facility elects to send a bill or invoice to the a public agency for the use of the toll facility by an authorized emergency vehicle, vehicle that is exempt pursuant to subdivision (a), the fire chief, police chief, county sheriff, head of the public agency, or his or her designee, the designee of any of these persons, is authorized to certify in writing that the authorized emergency vehicle was responding to to, or returning from from, an emergency call or response and is exempt from the payment of the toll or other charge in accordance with pursuant to this section. The letter shall be accepted by the toll operator in lieu of payment and is a public document.
(c) An authorized emergency vehicle that does not comply with this section is not exempt from the requirement to pay a toll or other charge on a toll highway, vehicular crossing, or HOT lane. Upon information and belief of the toll operator that an authorized emergency vehicle is not in compliance with this section, the fire chief, police chief, county sheriff, head of the public agency, or his or her designee, the designee of any of these persons, upon the written request of the owner or operator of the toll facility, shall provide or otherwise make accessible to the toll operator the dispatch records or log books relevant to the time period when the vehicle was in use on the toll highway, vehicular crossing, or HOT lane.
(d) This section does not prohibit or amend an agreement entered into between the owner or operator of a toll facility and a local emergency service provider that establishes mutually agreed upon terms for the use of the toll facility by the emergency service provider. This section shall does not prohibit the owner or operator of a toll facility from having a policy that meets or exceeds this section. If at any time an emergency service provider or the owner or operator of a toll facility opts to terminate an agreement regarding the payment and processing of tolls or other charges, this section shall apply to the emergency service provider and the toll facility. An agreement between an emergency service provider and the owner or operator of a toll facility does not exempt other emergency service providers not named in the original agreement and the toll facility from the requirements of this section when those other emergency service providers use a toll facility in the jurisdiction of the owner or operator of the toll facility.
(e) Sections 23302 and 23302.5 do not apply to authorized emergency vehicles exempt pursuant to this section.
(f) As used in this section, “toll facility” includes a toll road, HOT lane, toll bridge, toll highway, a vehicular crossing for which payment of a toll or charge is required, or any other toll facility.