New traffic safety laws in 2021
As 2020 comes to a close, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants to highlight some new roadway safety laws that take effect in 2021.
License points for distracted driving (AB 47, Daly; 2019): 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.
Unattended children in motor vehicles (AB 2717, Chau): 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.
“Move Over, Slow Down” amendments (AB 2285, Transportation Committee): 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.
Emergency vehicles (SB 909, Dodd): Allows authorized emergency vehicles to use a “Hi-Lo” warning sound. This distinctive sound, different than a siren, would be used to notify the public of an immediate need to evacuate an area in an emergency. The CHP is currently developing regulations to standardize the Hi-Lo warning sound statewide. Until the regulations are adopted, law enforcement agencies can use the Hi-Lo warning sound by obtaining a permit from the CHP. The law went into effect September 29, 2020.
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