California is famous for its tough emissions standards, liberal lane-splitting laws, and progressive approach to HOV and toll roads to deal with traffic. (Yup, we let electric vehicles ride single passenger past the rest of the crawling commuters.) As of July 1st, 2018, some new laws went into effect to increase passenger safety in the Golden State.
What Are the New California Driving Laws?
There are three new laws ensuring public safety effective 2018:
- SB-19 – Public Utilities Commission: Duties and responsibilities: governance
- SB 20 – Vehicles: Busses: seatbelts
- AB-2687 – Vehicles: Passenger for hire: driving under the influence
None of the above laws impact private drivers of vehicles for personal use. Of course, the normal California seatbelt laws apply.
Who does SB-19 effect?
The Duties and responsibilities: governance law transfers certain responsibilities from the Public Utilities Commission to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Mostly, the law applies to driving not-for-hire passenger vehicles. A not-for-hire vehicle is one where the passengers riding it are not paying or paid for. The types of vehicles this moves into DMV jurisdiction and governance include private vans, shuttles, and multi-passenger vehicles.
The intent is for all those wonderful church vans, employee shuttles (like company commuter buses), volunteer senior shuttles, and the like to safely get the people they care for where they need to go.
Ultimately, this means the DMV can create, apply, and enforce policies and laws that apply to vehicles carrying people on behalf of an organization or program.
What does SB 20 mean for bus riders?
You may have noticed that some busses have limited seatbelts—mostly for priority or disabled seating. Under the new laws, busses are going to be a lot safer. Here is what the law entails:
- Busses are required to provide seatbelts for all seats and maintain them in good working order.
- All passengers over 16 years old are legally responsible to wear a seatbelt if available.
- All passengers 8 – 16 years old must be in a seatbelt on a bus – whether that is enforced by the parent, guardian, or driver.
- Children under 8 years old and smaller than 4’9” must be safely and properly restrained by a safety belt and/or seat.
- Exceptions are made for passengers leaving their seats to use the bathroom.
- Busses have to enforce the law by verbal notice or by having visible signs or placards regarding the law.
What happens if I don’t wear my seatbelt on the bus under the new law?
It’s not just jumping turnstiles or riding without paying the fare that can cost you. If you are caught not wearing an available seatbelt, you’ll be fined.
- Up to $20 for the first offense
- Up to $50 for each subsequent offense
Fines are also applied if you do not comply with the laws as they pertain to minors you’re responsible for.
Passengers on buses without seatbelts cannot be fined for not wearing seatbelts.
What does AB-2687 mean?
Stricter laws have always applied to commercial drivers. The gig economy has historically not applied the same DUI standards your commercial vehicle driver is held to, like truck drivers, to Uber, Lyft, and other for-hire vehicles. No matter if it is privately owned or not, the new law brings the gig economy into the commercial economy.
Your average person is considered legally over the limit if they have a .08% or higher blood alcohol level (BAC). Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard. The new bill holds drivers of paying customers to the .04% commercial driver BAC limit. That means your Uber won’t be having a beer just before picking you up.
It’s not just alcohol. It’s illegal for drivers to drive under the influence of any drugs or combination of drugs and alcohol.
While California has legalized marijuana, driving while high is still grounds for a DUI. So, don’t drive with Mary Jane as a copilot.
What qualifies as a passenger for hire vehicle?
Most of those cars you call on your smartphone, like Lyft or Uber, are passenger for hire vehicles. Anyone driving a paying customer is a driver of a vehicle for hire by a passenger. It does not matter if the money is paid directly to the driver or not. It only matters that the rider is paying. However, the law may be enforced more broadly. Even if you are driving your own car, it is safer and cheaper to never drink any alcoholic beverage and drive.
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The law may also be applied to anyone driving passengers in while doing “any act” or neglecting “any duty” that causes or risks a passenger bodily harm. So, if you are a task rabbit or driving work associates to the airport, think twice before driving after a drink. The new .04% BAC level is less than a drink an hour for the standard person.
The takeaway is that if you are driving alone, you can legally register up to a .08% BAC without legal repercussions. However, if you are driving someone else, the standard is .04%.
Always Wear a Seatbelt
Regardless of what you drive, California driving laws require you to wear a seatbelt. It doesn't matter if you are pulling out of a parking lot or motoring down the highway. Buckle up and avoid a seatbelt ticket. For more drivers safety information, tips, and courses visit iDriveSafely.com.