New California Laws For Thee (and ME) in '23
Here We Go Again - A new year means new laws
New laws and changes that affect drivers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians here in the Golden State. Fortunately, there aren't as many for 2023 as there have been in previous years, so these should be easier to remember as you hit the road.
By Reed Berry
Wed, Dec 28, 2022 08:02 PM PST
This article does not constitute any legal advice. Make sure to always check the laws that apply to you.
Tickets, heavy fines, collisions, increased insurance rates - who needs them? Safety should be a sufficient reason to obey traffic laws but, if that's not enough to do it for you, being a scofflaw will hit you right in the wallet.
So, save some money, save a life (someone else's or your own) and, most importantly, save your lame excuses for not following the law for someone that cares.
Here come the new laws. Love 'em and live 'em!
The Bicycle Omnibus Bill, aka "OmniBike," (AB-1909) makes the following changes to the California Vehicle Code:
e-Bikes - Previously, state law prohibited operating motorized bicycles or Class III eBikes (the fastest of three eBike classes) on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, and local authorities were authorized to prohibit the operation of Class I and II eBikes in those places, as well. New law removes the Class III prohibition and authorizes local authorities to prohibit the operation of any class of eBike on hiking, equestrian or recreational trails. The bill would also authorize the Department of Parks and Recreation to prohibit the operation of an electric bicycle or any class of electric bicycle on any bicycle path or trail within their jurisdiction. In other words, your eBike is fine on bike paths or in bike lanes, but stay away from recreational trails and similar areas.
Passing - California law previously required drivers to overtake and pass bicycles in a safe manner at a distance of no less than three feet. New law requires a vehicle that is passing or overtaking a bicycle to move over to an adjacent lane of traffic, if one is available, prior to passing.
Bicycle Licenses - Did you know that many cities required bicycles to be licensed? Have you ever seen a police officer stop a bicyclist to check their bike license? Of course not. California law previously allowed local authorities to adopt a bicycle licensing ordinance and also allowed them to prohibit residents from riding unlicensed bicycles. New law prohibits jurisdictions from requiring bicycle licenses. I guess this just serves to legalize what people are doing anyway.
Signals - Although it doesn't take effect until January 1, 2024, this new law is pretty cool and gives bicyclists something to look forward to. Previously, bicycles were supposed to stop for a red light (do you ever see them do that?) and wait for the green light before proceeding through an intersection. New law allows bicyclists to follow the same rules as pedestrians crossing at an intersection. You may proceed on a red light if a walk sign or walking person symbol is displayed, unless otherwise directed by a bicycle control signal.
Previously, pedestrians could be stopped and cited for crossing a street outside an intersection or crosswalk. AB-2147, also known as the Freedom to Walk Act, decriminalizes jaywalking. However, law enforcement can still stop and cite a person if "a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision." So, in other words, exercise care and attempt it only when safe.
Street Takeover / Sideshows
Street takeovers and "sideshows" (activities in which errant drivers perform burnouts and reckless stunts on public streets and in intersections) frequently draw huge crowds but, needless to say, they can be very dangerous, often resulting in serious injury or death to spectators at such events. New law targets dangerous drivers, charging them with felonies in deadly crashes.
According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2021, they responded to almost 6,000 such events, issuing 2,500 citations statewide, making 87 arrests.
SB 1472 is known as "Ryan's Law." It was named after Ryan Koeppel, a 16-year-old that was struck and killed by a repeat reckless driver in August 2020. The law allows prosecutors the ability to charge a driver with felony manslaughter when excessive speed, street racing, or participation in a sideshow results in a fatality.
Parking Near Transit
Cities in California will no longer be able to impose minimum parking requirements on new developments within a half-mile of public transit. AB-2097 is designed to create more housing by doing away with the mandates that require property owners to build lots of costly parking spaces. It doesn't prevent property owners from building parking spaces for their developments, it just removes the minimum parking mandates. So, bottom line is, there will be more places to live, but fewer places to park. Nobody said life would be perfect, right?
Consumer Notice For "Self Driving" Cars
A new California law is designed to protect car shoppers against deceptive marketing by vehicle manufacturers. While SB-1398 doesn't mention any specific company (Tesla) by name, the new law takes aim at manufacturers that advertise their vehicles, or imply, that the vehicle is "full self-driving" (FSD) or has an "autopilot" feature that requires no intervention by a human driver. Vehicle manufacturers may not mislead consumers by using any terms or claims in the marketing materials that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the vehicle will function in a fully autonomous manner. Vehicles with partial driving automation features must come with a notice clearly describing both the functions and limitations of the feature, and is to be presented to the buyer or owner upon delivery of the vehicle. Great idea, but maybe they should have done this before a driver was caught in a YouTube video napping behind the wheel of his Tesla while driving on a busy L.A. freeway.
For more info on California law: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/
All images sourced through Unsplash.
Featured image by Alexis Balinoff.
Freeway overpass image by Chris Linnett.
Pacific Ave in Venice by Emanuel Ekström.
About The Author
Known professionally as "The Traffic Guy," Reed Berry has been a driver safety educator for over 30 years. Reed has conducted traffic school classes and suspended license workshops throughout California, and has served as keynote speaker at safety conferences and corporate events across America. He has appeared on radio and television programs both in the U.S. and internationally to discuss safety-related issues. A contributor to LA Car since 2003, Reed Berry is a member of Motor Press Guild, the Los Angeles Press Club and SAG-AFTRA.