As it does every year, January 1st marks the changing of the guard. New laws will become effective, and others will phase out. Sometimes you'll notice, and other times you won't. It usually depends on your state.
But January 1, 2012 will bring high-profile changes at both the federal and state levels. Parts of the Affordable Health Care Act will come into force, and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will cease to exist. Statewide voting restrictions are widespread, and hands-free cell phones are becoming the norm.
Here's what you have to look forward to in 2012.
New Voting Laws in 2012
For anyone who wants to vote in the 2012 primaries and elections, make sure your state hasn't made any changes. Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin will now require voters to show a picture ID. And Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee will demand proof of citizenship.
And Maine will no longer allow election day registration, so register now!
New DUI Laws in 2012
DUI laws are getting stricter in the next year. California has authorized 10-year license suspensions for repeat offenders. And Tennessee mandates breath or blood tests for those accompanied by a child.
Nebraska is also criminalizing driving drunk with a child in the vehicle. But the state will make interlock devices more available, allowing offenders to keep their licenses as long as they drive sober.
New Cell Phone Laws in 2012
Appalled that the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that states outlaw hands-free devices? Tough luck. The way 2012 is looking, a total ban may be near.
Nevada and North Dakota are going hands-free while Oregon and Pennsylvania are going text-free. That's right--no texting at stoplights.
If you want to know more about your state's new laws, do an Internet search. A number of state legislatures will be posting lists in the following weeks, and local newspapers often include a summary of new traffic laws.