The Connecticut legislature passed a bushel full of laws related in some way to transportation during the 2021 legislative session, including numerous new laws with far-reaching impact. Some have taken effect as of July 1 this summer, others will become effective as of October 1. Among the highlights, as summarized by the state legislature’s non-partisan Office of Legislative Research:
Vision Testing for Driver’s License and Permit Applicants
Under a new law, driver’s license or instruction permit applicants may satisfy vision screening requirements by submitting the results of a vision exam conducted by a licensed medical professional instead of completing a vision screening conducted by DMV.
Out-of-State Motor Vehicle Registrations
A new law extends, from 60 to 90 days after establishing residency, the grace period during which a resident may drive a vehicle registered out-of-state without penalty. It also lowered, from $1,000 to $250, the penalty for residents who drive such a vehicle after the grace period and requires that the fine be suspended for first-time violators who prove they registered their vehicles.
License Suspension for Illegal Cannabis Possession
The new law legalizing recreational cannabis requires the DMV commissioner to impose a 60-day license suspension on anyone under age 21 convicted of possessing any amount of cannabis.
Smoking and Vaping at Rail Platforms and Bus Shelters
A new law prohibits smoking and e-cigarette use in any area of a platform or shelter at a rail, busway, or bus station that is owned or leased and operated by the state or any political subdivision. Prior law prohibited smoking (but not e-cigarette use) only in partially enclosed shelters on these rail platforms or in bus shelters.
A new law requires drivers to yield the right-of-way to a bus traveling in the same direction when the bus signals to reenter the flow of traffic. Under the act, a violation is an infraction.
One-Year Combination Registrations for Seniors
Existing law allows registrants age 65 or older to opt to renew their passenger registrations for a one-year period instead of a two- or three-year period. A new law also allows them to opt to renew combination registrations for a one-year period
Back Seat Passenger Seat Belts
A new law generally requires all motor vehicle occupants to wear seat belts while the vehicle is moving. Prior law required only the driver, front seat passenger, and certain back seat passengers (e.g., passengers under age 16) to wear them. Under the new law, the failure to wear a seat belt by any back seat passenger age 16 or older is a secondary offense, meaning that officers cannot stop a vehicle unless another violation has occurred. Violations are infractions.
Distracted Driving Fines
A new law increases the fines for violating the state’s distracted driving law from (1) $150 to $200 for a first violation, (2) $300 to $375 for a second violation, and (3) $500 to $625 for a third or subsequent violation.
Paratransit Drivers as Mandated Reporters
A new law adds paratransit drivers to the list of mandated reporters who must report to the Department of Social Services when they have reasonable cause to suspect that an elderly person needs protective services or has been abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned. A paratransit vehicle is a motor bus, taxicab, or other motor vehicle in livery service that is (1) operated under a DOT certificate and (2) on call or on demand or used to transport passengers for hire (PA 21-122, effective July 1, 2021).
Yielding to Pedestrians at Crosswalks
A new law expands the circumstances under which drivers must yield to pedestrians at uncontrolled crosswalks. Specifically, drivers must do so if a pedestrian (1) is within the crosswalk, (2) steps to the curb at the crosswalk’s entrance and indicates intent to cross the road by raising their hand, or (3) indicates intent to cross by moving into the crosswalk’s entrance a body part or extension of one (e.g., a cane). Under prior law, drivers were required to yield only if a pedestrian stepped off the curb or into the crosswalk.