Rear-facing child safety seats, driver cell phone use, motorcycle lane splitting, and traffic crash reporting requirements are among the topics of new California laws that will take effect on Sunday, Jan. 1, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The following laws will take effect Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017:
Child Safety Seats
Assembly Bill (AB) 53, which was passed by the Legislature in 2015, but takes effect in 2017, requires children under age 2 to be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians. Previously, only children under age 1 were required to ride rear-facing.
Children over 40 pounds or over 40 inches tall will be exempt from the new law because some rear-facing car seats cannot accommodate children exceeding these criteria. Current law generally requires children under age 8 to be secured in an approved child safety seat.
Hand-Held Wireless Devices
AB 1785 revises the current law on using smartphones and other wireless communication devices while driving. The new law requires all hand-held devices to be mounted within a vehicle for a motorist to use the device in a limited manner while driving. The use can only involve one swipe or tap of the driver’s finger. The device can be mounted or affixed on the dashboard, center console or lower corner of the windshield as long as the driver’s view of the road is not hindered.
Reporting Traffic Crashes
Current law requires any motorist involved in a traffic crash in which an injury occurs or in which there is property damage in excess of $750 to report the incident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by filing the appropriate SR-1 form. Senate Bill (SB) 491 raises the threshold amount for reporting accidents to $1,000.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting
AB 51 authorizes the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to develop guidelines for motorcyclists who engage in “lane splitting.” Lane splitting is when a motorcycle is driven in between traffic lanes and cars, which may be stopped or moving. California is the only state that allows lane splitting. The CHP will draw on the expertise of an advisory group to develop the guidelines, which will be designed to improve safety and reduce crashes.
The following motorist laws passed in 2016 will take effect at a later date:
Ridesharing Vehicle Drivers
AB 2687, which takes effect July 1, 2018, establishes a new lower blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.04 percent for drivers of ridesharing vehicles, such as Uber or Lyft, when there is a paying passenger in the vehicle. The BAC limit for most drivers is 0.08 percent.
As of Jan. 1, 2019, SB 1046 requires most repeat DUI alcohol offenders and first-time DUI alcohol offenders involved in an injury crash to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles for six to 48 months in order to have their full license reinstated. IID installations significantly reduce repeat DUI offenses and lower the number of crashes associated with drunk driving.
Temporary License Plates
Effective Jan. 1, 2019, AB 516 requires the DMV to develop a system for car dealers to electronically report vehicle sales to the DMV before the vehicle is delivered to the purchaser and to issue temporary license plates for all unplated vehicles sold in the state. Dealers will also be required to attach the temporary license plates to the vehicles upon sale. Vehicle owners will have a 14-day grace period to install the permanent plates on their vehicles after the plates are issued by the DMV.