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Council approves traffic, vehicle code ordinance

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By Arin McKenna

Los Alamos County Council has unanimously approved comprehensive changes to the traffic and vehicle code that updates it and brings it into conformity with state law. Code changes include an updated fee structure for traffic violations.
“This started out as a review of the vehicle code, by looking at the changes that were made in the most recent legislative session and to make sure those changes that were made this year would be incorporated into our code,” said Assistant County Attorney Katie Thwaits. “During that review we realized that there were many sections of the traffic code that needed to be updated to be in compliance with State law.”
Key changes include:
• The section governing Driving Under the Influence now includes language governing ignition interlocks.
• A new section governing construction zones.
• A new section allowing for removal of a vehicle after a written warning has been issued.
• A new section governing sun screening for vehicle windows.
• A provision allowing for citations to be signed and filed with the court electronically, although the person cited must receive a physical copy.
• The current “handicap parking” designation will be changed to “significant mobility limitation.”
The code has not been significantly updated or amended since 1995, and some of the deletions and additions seem even more outdated. A definition of “metal tires” has been deleted and definitions for “manufactured home” and “off-highway vehicle” have been added. Another section prohibiting open alcohol bottles within a vehicle had the exclusion for “medical purposes” with a doctor’s recommendation, which is now deleted.
Penalty assessments also have not been updated for several years. The amended ordinance brings fees into alignment with state assessments. Many $15–$25 fees have been raised to $50, including those for obstructing traffic, jaywalking and operating an unsafe vehicle.
Fines are now doubled for speeding in a construction zone or safety zone.
According to the preamble of the ordinance, “…the amendments will not only bring the ordinances up to date and into conformity with state law, but they will to give the county’s citizens and general public travelling on county streets and roads the peace of mind knowing the county’s traffic and vehicle ordinances are similar, if not identical, to those in state law.”