Recent California Traffic Laws
Everyone... get ready. Here are the most recent new laws for California drivers
New 2023 Laws
Drivers are now required to change into another available lane, when possible, to pass cyclists, building on the current requirement for drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing. The law also permits Class 3 e-bike riders to use approved bicycle paths and trails, bikeways, and bicycle lanes. In addition, starting on January 1, 2024, the law allows cyclists to cross an intersection when a walk sign is on.
Parking lots across the state are now included with public roads as locations where street racing and sideshows are banned. Another law passed in 2021 (AB 3, Fong) allows courts to suspend an individual’s driver’s license for violating this ban beginning on July 1, 2025.
If a driver engages in reckless behavior – such as participating in sideshows, speed exhibitions, or driving at excessive speeds over 100 mph – and causes a death, they may now be charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, which may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for up to six years.
New 2022 Laws
Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3) places stronger penalties on those who participate in sideshows. Starting July 1, 2025, a court may suspend a person’s driver’s license for 90 days to six months if that person is convicted of speeding in connection with a sideshow.
Assembly Bill 43 (AB43) authorizes local officials to further reduce speed limits beyond the state’s current parameters in situations where needed to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
AB 974 requires minors to wear a helmet when riding a horse, donkey, or mule on a paved highway. Furthermore, when riding after sunset, all riders or their horses must wear reflective gear or lights.
New 2021 Laws
License points for distracted driving (AB 47): Using a cell phone in a handheld manner while driving is currently punishable by a fine. Beginning July 1, 2021, violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use) and to any use of these devices while driving by a person under 18 years of age.
“Move Over, Slow Down” amendments (AB 2285): Extends the provisions of the “Move Over, Slow Down” law currently in place on freeways to also apply to local streets and roads so drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights, including tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles, must now move to another lane when possible, or slow to a reasonable speed on all highways, not just freeways. The law is effective January 1, 2021.
Unattended children in motor vehicles (AB 2717): Exempts a person from civil or criminal liability for trespassing or damaging a vehicle when rescuing a child who is 6 years old or younger and who is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or other dangerous circumstances. The law takes effect January 1, 2021
New 2020 Laws
Starting October 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will require a valid passport or other federally approved document, like a REAL ID driver license or identification card, to board flights within the United States and access secure federal facilities and military bases. A valid passport will continued to be required for foreign travel.
We know the DMV calendar is booked. This new law makes it illegal to sell or offer to sell a DMV appointment.
This law repeals the court’s authority to order the DMV to revoke, suspend, restrict or delay the issuance of a driver license for a person convicted of a non-driving offense including offenses relating to vandalism, controlled substance or alcohol use (possession, or related conduct), firearm use, or soliciting/engaging in prostitution or specified lewd or dissolute conduct, if the violation was committed within 1,000 feet of a private residence and with the use of a vehicle.
This law requires drivers to pull into an adjacent lane when approaching or passing a waste collection vehicle with amber lights flashing. If that is not possible, the driver must slow to “a safe and reasonable speed”.
Removes motorized scooters from the list of vehicles requiring a Class M2 driver license or permit, thus allowing a person with a valid driver license or permit of any class to operate a motorized scooter. A motorized scooter is defined as follows: “a 2-wheeled device that has handlebars, has a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor or by a source other than electric power”.
Certain vehicles with white or green clean air vehicles stickers can receive an updated sticker valid through January 1, 2024. To qualify, the vehicle must have a new owner who has an income that is 80% or less than the statewide median income.
This new law extends the validity of a driver license for a person in the United States Foreign Service or their spouse for the period of their service and up to 30 days following their return to California.
New 2019 Laws
This law requires the DMV to include at least one question about laws pertaining to driving with an unsafe, unsecured load, such as ladders, buckets and loose items.
This law repeals the juvenile court’s authority to suspend, restrict or delay the issuance of a driver license for a habitual truant or ward of the state for up to one year.
This law requires drivers to pull into an adjacent lane when approaching or passing a waste collection vehicle with amber lights flashing. If that is not possible, the driver must slow to “a safe and reasonable speed.
This law allows applicants for a California driver license or state ID “to self-certify their chosen gender category of male, female or nonbinary in the application.” A nonbinary gender designation will appear as an “X” in the gender category on the ID.
This law mandates that repeat DUI offenders, as well as first-time DUI offenders who caused an injury as a result of their crime, install an ignition interlock device for a period of one to two years. The law also allows people who have had their licenses suspended under an administrative order “to obtain an IID-restricted driving privilege.” Previously, this law was only in effect for Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties. This law sunsets on Jan. 1, 2026, unless it is renewed.
This law requires California new- and used-auto dealers to attach temporary license plates on a vehicle at the point of sale if it does not already have DMV-issued plates. No vehicle can be driven off the dealership lot without a plate affixed to it.
This law creates a new program to grant low- and zero-emission vehicles access to carpool lanes regardless of how many people are in the vehicle. More information about this program is available on the California DMV’s Clean Air Vehicle Decals website. This law sunsets on Sept. 30, 2025, unless it is renewed.
This law expands the smog check exemption for vehicles up to eight years old. Previously, it only applied to vehicles up to six years old. However, owners of vehicles that are seven or eight years old will have to pay an annual $25 smog abatement fee. Owners of vehicles six years old or newer still pay the annual $20 fee.
This law extends the felony hit-and-run provisions to include cyclists on bike paths, requiring a cyclist involved in a collision to stop at the scene of an accident.
This law mandates a fine for vehicles and motorcycles with “modified or excessively loud exhaust or muffler systems.” Previously, violators could avoid the fine if they corrected the problem.
This law removes the requirement for riders of motorizes scooters to wear a bicycle helmet, provided they are 18 or older. It also prohibits riding a motorized scooter on highways with a speed limit greater than 25 mph, or roads with a speed limit greater than 35 mph, unless it is within a marked bikeway.
This law provides law enforcement the ability to issue a “fix-it ticket” to anyone under 18 who doesn’t wear a helmet while on a bicycle, skateboard or skates. It is correctable if the minor completes a bicycle safety course and gets a helmet that meets safety standards within 120 days of the ticket being issued.