The new year will bring several new traffic safety laws for California. These laws were passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The new laws will have an impact on child safety seats, how we use wireless devices when we drive and increased penalties for drivers who operate while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Here are some of the new traffic laws that will take effect in California, come Jan. 1:
Child safety seats: This law was passed during the 2015 legislative session. But it will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Under this new law, children under the age of 2 must ride rear-facing in an appropriate child passenger safety seat. Children weighing 40 or more pounds, or standing 40 or more inches tall are exempt. California law also requires all children under the age of 8 to be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of a vehicle.
Using electronic devices: Drivers in California, beginning Jan. 1, will no longer be allowed to hold a wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device while driving a motor vehicle. Drivers can’t hold the device, but they can mount in the 7-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver, or in a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver.
One other option is to fix the device to the dashboard in such a way that it doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view of the road and doesn’t interfere with airbag deployment. Under this law, drivers can operate a device with a single swipe or tap of a finger, but not while holding the device.
DUI penalties: A new law will require DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device or IID in their vehicle for a specified period of time in order to be able to get a restricted driver licenses or to reinstate their license. The law also removes the required suspension time before a person can get a restricted license provided the offender installs the IID in his or her vehicle. This law will formally extend the current four-county IID pilot program until Jan. 1 2019 at which time all DUI offenders statewide will be required to install the device in order to get their license reinstated.
Motorcycle lane splitting: While current California relating to motorcycle lane splitting doesn’t change, the new law clearly defines lane splitting. Current law allows motorcyclists in California to split lanes safely. The new law also allows the California Highway Patrol to develop lane-splitting guidelines.
School bus safety: This new law will require all school buses and any bus or vehicle used to transport school-age children with a “child safety alert system.” Every school is required to have a transportation safety plan with procedures to make sure that no child is left unattended in a vehicle.
Charter and tour bus safety: A law pertaining to charter buses requires that all buses manufactured after July 1, 2020 should have emergency lighting fixtures that will turn on in the event of a crash. This law also requires a bus company to ensure that the driver of the charter bus provides instructions about safety equipment and emergency exits to all passengers before the trip. A separate new law will require the CHP to enter into agreements with local governments to increase the number of inspections for tour buses operated within their jurisdiction.