On January 1, 2019, a host of new traffic laws with take effect in California. Motorists—and even cyclists—throughout the state must be aware of the updated rules of the road to avoid traffic violations and even criminal charges.
The following are some of the new laws which are effective at the beginning of the year:
- DUI ignition interlock devices (IIDs) – From now until January 2026, repeat DUI offenders and first-time DUI offenders who have injured another person are required to have an IID installed in their vehicles for 12 to 48 months. In the event of a first-time DUI without injury, a judge has the discretion to order the installation of an IID for a maximum of six months. Additionally, individuals who are serving an administrative-order suspension can apply for restricted driving privilege, which requires the installation of an IID.
- Clean air vehicles – The DMV should have already notified vehicle owners that green or white Clean Air Vehicle decals are no longer valid in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes—carpool lanes—in 2019. If a vehicle was issued a green or white sticker from January 2017 to March 2018, the owner may apply for a new red sticker which grants access to HOV lanes until January 2022. Any decals issued before 2017 cannot participate in the program any longer.
- Scooter helmets – Anyone who is 18 years of age or older are no longer required to wear helmets while riding a motorized scooter. Furthermore, motorized scooters cannot be ridden on highways with a posted speed limit of over 25 mph or roads with a limit over 35 mph—unless there are marked bikeways present.
- Bicycle hit-and-run accidents – The state’s felony hit-and-run provisions are extended to cyclists on bike paths (Class I bikeways), which requires a cyclist involved in a crash resulting in the injury or death of another party to stop at the accident scene.
- Passing trash collection vehicles – When approaching or overtaking a waste service vehicle when the amber lights are flashing, drivers must move over to an adjacent lane and pass at a safe distance. If this cannot be done, motorists must drive at a slow and safe speed.
- Smog checks – The smog checks exemption now applies to vehicles which are eight years old at most. The previous law set the limit at six years old. However, an annual $25 smog abatement fee applies to vehicles that are seven or eight years old. For vehicles six years old or newer, an annual $20 applies.
- Loud muffler fines – Vehicles and motorcycles equipped with an excessively loud or modified exhaust or muffler system are subject to a fine. In previous years, correcting the issue could help motorists avoid the fine.
- License plates – When a new or used car is sold, auto dealers must attach temporary license plates if the vehicle doesn’t have a DMV-issued license plate. Vehicles are prohibited from driving away without such a plate.
- Gender identification – When applying for a state driver’s license or ID, a nonbinary gender designation is now available.