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New California Traffic Laws in 2021: What You Need to Know

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Each year the state of California updates its traffic laws. Sometimes the changes are minor, but other alterations or additions have the potential to affect the driving records of the uninformed. Being unaware of new legislation is never an excuse for a traffic violation in the eyes of the law, which is why it’s important to stay up-to-date on new California traffic laws (whether it’s your home state, or you’re simply visiting).

How can I avoid points being added to my license?

As a driver, it is important to understand California’s Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS). The system is fairly straightforward: earn more than three points and you can lose your driving privileges. Violations of current state driving laws, and the number of points given for each, can be reviewed on the website for the California DMV.

In an ideal scenario, obeying all local road laws while staying out of accidents is the best way to avoid points being added to your license. Unfortunately, life isn’t always that simple. If you’ve been involved in an accident and you’re concerned about the effect on your driving record, hiring an experienced lawyer who is familiar with such areas of the law can help provide the best outcome for your case.

When do new laws go into effect in California for traffic and driving?

As stated in Government Code Section 9600(a), “a statute enacted at a regular session shall go into effect on January 1 next following a 90-day period from the date of enactment.” Although most new laws take effect on the first of January the following year, certain situations (such as the inclusion of an urgency clause) can result in a statute going into effect immediately when enacted.

One common point of confusion is when the operative date and the effective date of a law differ. Since the effective date is when a statute becomes law (a factor that is bound to immutable state constitution rules), and the operative date is when directives of that statute are actually implemented, it is only the operative date that can be determined to occur later by California State Legislature.

In other words, under specific circumstances, a law can be made effective at a date that is sooner (as early as the date of enactment), and can be made operative at a date that is later. In such situations, a gap can exist between the two dates, which is unusual, as most laws are made effective and operative on the same day. Cases that fall between the effective and operative date of a law are rare and extremely complex, and should be discussed with a lawyer.

Following the developments of recent state legislation efforts in the news, or visiting the website of the state law enforcement agency in your community, such as the California Highway Patrol, can help you stay informed of new road laws and their date of effect. In 2021, there are four new driving laws to be aware of.

AB 47: A New California Law Regarding Cell Phones and Driving

On July 1, 2021, a new law in regard to cell phones and driving will take effect. Assembly Bill 47 is one of the new California traffic laws introduced this year that can affect an individual’s driving record if violated. While a first offense is subject to a fine, a second offense within 36 months would add one point to the driver’s license.

According to Go Safely California, more than 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. in a single year due to distracted driving. AB 47 is a response to the growing trend in distracted driving seen largely among young people. The law places further restrictions around cell phone use while driving, and reinforces good driving habits, like keeping both hands on the wheel at all times. Additional stipulations around distracted driving include not eating while driving, and where cellphones can be legally placed inside a vehicle.  

AB 2285: An Update to California Speeding Laws and Move Over, Slow Down

Heavy traffic next to a stoplight - learn about important new California traffic laws in 2021

When Assembly Bill 2285 first took effect in January 2007, it was restricted to highways and freeways. The amendment to Assembly Bill 2285, effective January 1, 2021, extends this provision to local streets. The message remains the same: if you’re approaching a parked emergency vehicle with their lights on, it’s your responsibility to either change lanes or slow down to a reasonable speed.

Failure to move over or slow down will result in a citation (and a fine, if found guilty). Being found guilty a second time within 36 months of the first infraction can result in one point added to the offender’s driving record.

SB 909: Hi-Lo Siren Evacuation Warning System Now in Effect

Senate Bill 909 is a recent example of a bill passed with an urgency clause. Effective immediately upon enactment on September 29, 2020, the bill makes it legal for emergency vehicles to broadcast a Hi-Lo siren to notify citizens of mandatory evacuations in the event of floods, fires, earthquakes, and other major impending disasters. Tested with positive results in a two-year pilot program in Napa County in 2019, this new warning system provides an evacuation alert for California citizens by way of its unique sound, which is different from a regular siren. To know what to expect, listen to a sample of the Hi-Lo siren.

AB 2717: A Shift in Liability for Unattended Child Laws in California

Although existing law in California under Vehicle Code Section 15620 makes it an infraction to leave a child under the age of six unattended in a car under certain dangerous circumstances, fatalities in such events remain common. In a new effort to reduce such tragic incidents, the state of California passed Assembly Bill 2717, effective January 1, 2021.

As outlined by AB 2717, if an individual in California observes a child under the age of six unattended in a car, and holds a reasonable belief that the child’s safety is in danger, that individual is exempt from criminal liability for property damage or trespass incurred during actions taken in to safely remove the child from the vehicle, so long as certain steps are taken first. These steps include calling 911, and ensuring that damage to the vehicle is the only way to safely remove the child from danger, all while acting in good faith.

The Importance of Contacting an Attorney After a Traffic Accident

At a fundamental level, new California driving laws are meant to keep as many people on the road as safe as possible. Despite this, some traffic accidents are inevitable, and the complexity of the very laws meant to keep people out of harm can at times stand in the way of victims receiving rightful compensation for their injuries. Whether it’s an insurance company trying to reduce its bottom line while processing a claim, or another party disputing fault in the accident, it is vital for an injury victim seeking damages to choose one of the best law firms in California for their case.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident, the attorneys at Avrek Law may be able to help. With more than 50 years of combined legal experience, and over $1 Billion recovered for injury and accident victims, it is our mission to provide the best possible outcome in every case. Ready to tell us more about the details of your accident? We offer free, no-obligation consultations – give us a call today!

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