LACar’s Reed Berry, aka “The Traffic Guy” takes a look at the new California driving laws for 2020 and how they affect us California drivers next year. To get a good start to your new year, it might be a good idea to make sure you are up to date. Happy New Year!
Hey, what was that I noticed speeding by so fast? No, it wasn’t a vehicle. It was the year 2019 which, in what seems to be the blink of an eye, has come to an end, making way for a new decade – the 20s. And with the start of this new year – and decade – there are a number of new driving-related laws, and some changes to existing law, to become familiar with. Check out our summary of what you need to know. Unless otherwise noted, they take effect January 1, 2020.
THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET “REAL”
Starting October 1, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security will require a valid U.S. Passport or other federal compliant form of ID, such as the new REAL ID driver license, to board airline flights within the United States and access military bases and other secure federal facilities. You don’t have to wait to get a REAL ID driver license. They are available now and, in fact, the California DMV has been offering them since early 2018. But, before you run down to the DMV and simply ask for one, understand that you will need to arrive prepared in order to qualify for a REAL ID driver license. You will need to provide one proof of identity, such as a birth certificate or valid passport (plus any legal name change documents if the names differ,) as well as one proof of social security number and two proofs of California residency, such as bank statements or utility bills. More information and an online application can be found at [email protected].
DMV APPOINTMENTS = NO SALE!
In our make-a-quick-buck “side hustle” society it may be tempting to do this, but new law prohibits any person from selling, or offering for sale, an appointment at the DMV.
NEW LAW FOR SCOOTER COMMUTERS
New law removes motorized scooters from the list of vehicles requiring a class M2 driver license or permit. What does that mean for you and me? Jump on that scooter and ride like the wind! Now, anyone with a valid driver license or permit of any class is allowed to operate a motorized scooter.
HOOKERS ARE OFF THE HOOK! (WITH THE DMV, THAT IS.)
Previously, if you were caught engaging in prostitution (prostitute or client) in a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a residence, your driver license would be suspended. New law eliminates the authority of courts to suspend, revoke, restrict, or order the DMV to delay the driving privilege of a person convicted of prostitution, vandalism, or other non-driving offenses. But before you grab some cash and head out for some car fun tonight, realize that this change only applies to your driving privilege. Prostitution and lewd conduct are still against the law.
MOUNT YOUR PHONE OR GET A POINT
Current law prohibits you from holding a cell phone in your hand while operating a motor vehicle. And, in fact, a law that took effect in 2017 requires you to have your phone mounted in a bracket while driving. Be on notice cell phone violators…starting July 1, 2021, a new law adds an additional penalty to your fine – a point on your driving record for each hands-free phone violation occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction of the same violation. That means a day in traffic school or hours behind the computer taking an online traffic school course to clear such a point from your record.
ROAD KILL = DINNER!
Why waste perfectly good meat? New law authorizes the Fish and Game Commission, in consultation with the CHP and other stakeholders, to establish a wildlife salvage pilot program authorizing the issuance of a permit for the removal and recovery of certain animals that have met their untimely end as the result of being hit by a vehicle, providing the meat is used for human consumption. Deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and wild pigs are the tasty treats in the wild game road kill buffet.
HOV DECALS FOR LOW-INCOME DRIVERS
Certain used vehicles that were previously issued green or white clean air vehicle decals granting access to HOV (carpool) lanes will be allowed to receive another decal if the new owner of the vehicle has an income of 80 percent or less of the statewide median income. The decals are valid until January 1, 2024.
HOV DECALS REGARDLESS OF INCOME
In 2020, low-emission vehicles and transitional zero-emission vehicles will be issued orange clean air decals allowing drivers access to the HOV lanes regardless of vehicle occupancy. The decals are valid until January 1, 2024.
FOREIGN SERVICE HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
New law extends the validity of a California driver license for a person (or their spouse) in the United States Foreign Service for the period of their service and up to 30 days following their return to California.
MOVE OVER FOR TRASH TRUCKS
Drivers approaching or passing a stopped “waste service vehicle” are required to make a lane change into an available lane adjacent to said vehicle and pass at a safe distance, with due regard for safety and traffic.
BICYCLES AND TRAFFIC SIGNALS
Bicycles are supposed to obey the same traffic laws we as drivers do, but there are some exceptions. New law allows bicycles to travel straight through a right or left-hand turn lane if an official traffic control device indicates the movement is permitted. The Department of Transportation is required to develop standards to implement this.
DO YOU FEEL THE NEED FOR WEED?
Obviously, drivers are not allowed to use or operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, but now California law has been amended and prohibits the consumption of cannabis, in any form, by passengers in a bus, taxi, pedicab, limousine, housecar or camper.
ALTERNATIVES TO LICENSE PLATES?
Although it doesn’t specify what they are in the legislation, new law extends the pilot program to evaluate the use of alternatives to license plates, stickers, tabs and registration cards until January 1, 2021. Hopefully, the alternative is some kind of cool electronic device with flashing lights and sound effects, but I have a feeling we will all be reduced to boring scannable bar codes on our vehicles at some point.
For additional information on California law, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov