New Laws for Motorists
updated: Dec 21, 2012, 12:30 PM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - New rules that govern the California driving public will go in effect
on January 1, 2013. These rules are the product of legislation passed by the Legislature and
signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2012.
"The changes to California's traffic safety laws are designed to protect the motoring public," said
California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow. "Citizens are encouraged to
familiarize themselves with these new laws in advance of the new year. Adhering to the rules of
the road may save your life, or the lives of your fellow motorists."
The following are summaries of some of the new laws taking effect January 1, 2013:
• Driving Under the Influence (AB 2020, Pan) The law no longer allows a person who
has been arrested and is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, the
option of a urine test. Prior to this change, a person had the option of submitting either
urine or blood to determine the drug content of their blood.
• Charter-Party Carriers of Passengers: Alcoholic Beverages: Open Containers (AB
45, Chesbro) This new law prohibits underage drinking in charter-party carriers (limos,
buses, etc.) and makes the carrier and driver responsible for communicating this to their
passengers. The law also requires a designee, who is at least 25 years of age, to be
present whenever there are passengers who are under 21 years of age on board the
vehicle and alcohol is being transported. The designee shall be responsible for ensuring
the rules are followed, and the safety of the underage passengers throughout the duration
of the trip.
• Electronic Wireless Communications (AB 1536, Miller) This law allows California
drivers to use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving. This will require the
use of a device that is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and
hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication. The device
is required to also be used in a voice-operated, hands-free manner to be in compliance
with the law.
•Financial Responsibility and Insurance (AB 1708, Gatto) Drivers will now have the
option of providing proof of insurance and registration on an electronic device
(smartphone, tablet, etc.), when it is requested by law enforcement.
•High Occupancy Toll Lanes (AB 2405, Blumenfield) This law creates the Choose
Clean Cars Act, which allows cars with a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker free access to carpool
lanes that are converted to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.
•Autonomous Vehicles (SB 1298, Padilla) This new law allows driverless cars to be
operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle has a fully
licensed and bonded operator in the driver's seat to take control if necessary. The bill also
instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern the licensing,
bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicle technology.
•Emergency Services: Seniors (SB 1047, Alquist) Similar to an AMBER Alert, the CHP
would activate a "Silver Alert" upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported
missing to a law enforcement agency and that agency determines that certain criteria is
met. The criteria includes: the person is missing under unexplained or suspicious
circumstances or the law enforcement agency believes the person is in danger due to age,
health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; the person is in
the company of a potentially dangerous person; or there are other factors indicating that
the person may be in peril. Finally, there is information available, if given to the public,
may assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
•Driver License (AB 2189, Cedillo) This law allows a driver's license applicant who
provides satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized
under federal law, but who is not eligible for a social security account number, is eligible
to receive an original driver's license if he or she meets all other qualifications for
•Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems (SB 1303, Simitian) This new law
establishes consistency in the operations of red-light enforcement cameras throughout the
state by requiring governmental agencies to follow specified guidelines regarding
intersections, signage, and the notice to appear.
•License Plates: Obstruction or Alteration (AB 2489, Hall) This new law prevents the
altering and positioning of license plates from its original markings and clarifies the
penalty imposed for obscuring the readability of license plates.
•Child Passenger Restraints (AB 1452, Hill) Hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers will
now be required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child safety seat
requirements, installation, and inspection to parents and caregivers upon discharge of a
child, if the child is less than eight years of age.
•There are also two new laws related to recreational off-highway vehicles. One (AB
1595, Cook) defines an off-highway motor vehicle to include a recreational off-highway
vehicle (ROV) and establishes additional requirements governing its safe operation. The
other law (AB 1266, Cook), which goes into effect July 1, 2013, prohibits a passenger in
an ROV from riding in a seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer. It
also prohibits operation of the ROV if the passenger is not seated with both feet on the
floorboard and able to grab the occupant handhold with the seat belt and shoulder belt or
safety harness fastened.
•Additional Registration Fees (AB 1404, Feuer) This law authorizes three counties (Los
Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino) to increase vehicle registration fees to help fund
vehicle theft programs. Increases would be from $1 to $2 for passenger vehicles, and $2
to $4 for commercial vehicles.
•Inflatable Restraint Systems (AB 1854, Brownley) This law makes it illegal for a
person to knowingly distribute or sell a previously deployed air bag or component that
will no longer meet the original equipment form, function or proper operation.
•Driving Under the Influence: Alcoholic Beverage or Drug (AB 2552, Torres)
Although this change in the law does not take effect until January 1, 2014, it
distinguishes whether an individual was arrested for driving under the influence of
alcohol or drugs. Ultimately this change, singling out drugs with its own subsection in
the Vehicle Code, will make it easier to track the prevalence of drugged driving in
California. This new law, coupled with the efforts requiring the use of Ignition Interlock
Devices, will help reduce impaired driving throughout California.
These points are only a synopsis of some of the new laws adopted. For complete information on
chaptered bills enacted in 2012, please refer to the Legislative Counsel website at
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