Nationwide, there are thousands of auto accidents every day. The emotional toll on family and friends is both staggering and long-lasting. The annual economic and societal cost of these accidents is more than $871 billion.
Teen drivers and their parents feel the impact of accidents in many ways. Some know of friends who have been involved in traffic accidents, many of them avoidable. For certain individuals, the losses have been very personal. Teen drivers and their parents are also keenly aware of how quickly crashes can drive up insurance rates.
Accordingly, families, government agencies, and advocacy groups all want to see traffic laws updated and improved. It’s vital to be vigilant in the ongoing quest for safer roads.
New California Laws
California’s new traffic safety laws cover everything from distracted driving to bicyclists in intersections. Unless otherwise noted, the laws went into effect on January 1, 2020.
Distracted Driving Enforcement
The dangers of texting while driving are well understood. In California, it is already illegal for motorists to use a handheld phone in any way. If you’re under 18, it is illegal to even use a hands-free phone while driving.
Assembly Bill 47 adds teeth to existing statutes. Both AAA and the California Highway Patrol sponsored the bill. As of July 1, 2021, a driver convicted for a second time within 36 months after the first incident gets a point added to their record. Since this is a new law, the second violation must occur after July 1, 2021.
Current cell phone laws already impact violators in a dramatic way. In California, even a single ticket may impact insurance rates. Following a citation for illegal phone use, premiums increase an average of 45%.
Bicyclists in Intersections
It's vital to steer clear of bicyclists who share the road with you. There's now a new law governing bicyclists in intersections. Beginning in 2020, it is legal for a bicyclist to travel straight through a left or right-turn-only lane when the traffic signal allows this. Assembly Bill 1266 authorizes updated bike signage, pavement markings, and lane striping to support this new provision.
Other New Laws
Other new laws cover DMV appointments, cannabis use, and wildlife recovery. Assembly Bill 317 makes it illegal to either sell or try to sell your DMV time slot. Passengers cannot consume cannabis in taxis, limousines, buses, and campers. Finally, a new law authorizes the state’s Fish and Game Commission to start a pilot program allowing permitting for roadkill recovery.
Rating California’s Traffic Safety Laws
One industry expert praises California's track record overall.
“We consider California to be a traffic safety leader in the nation," said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Traffic Safety (Advocates), a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C.
"Having enacted 10 of the 16 optimal laws in our annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, California is awarded the highest 'green' rating. Of paramount importance are the laws requiring everyone to buckle up and all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. But there’s still room for improvement considering 3,563 people were killed on California’s roads in 2018.”
Proposed Driving Laws
Although California's newer laws improve traffic safety, more can be done. Chase wants to see more legislation regarding teen driver safety, ignition interlocks, and blood alcohol limits.
“State lawmakers can take action this year to improve road safety by passing AB 3067, which would make sure older teen novice drivers get training and practice behind the wheel," said Chase.
For drivers under the age of 21, California already has a zero tolerance alcohol law. Chase seeks a more stringent blood alcohol limit for drivers 21 and older along with an increased use of ignition interlock devices.
“SB 545, which would require use of ignition interlock devices (IID) for all offenders, should be enacted to decrease the drunk driving death toll which is approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities," said Chase. "Lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from .08 percent to .05 percent would also help combat this scourge, but that bill stalled this session. We have proven countermeasures. Let’s get them in place to make our roads safer for all.”
Until these regulations are put into action, one way you can take your safety into your own hands is by taking a California defensive driving class. Throughout this course, you'll learn how to protect yourself on the road in all kinds of scenarios so you don't become another crash statistic.