As we head into the New Year, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is educating the public on traffic safety laws that were passed during this year’s legislative season and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. The laws take effect Jan. 1, 2022, unless otherwise noted.
Sideshow Definition and Penalties (Assembly Bill (AB) 3, Fong)
This new law strengthens penalties for those convicted of exhibition of speed if the violation occurred as part of a sideshow.
Beginning July 1, 2025, a court will be permitted to suspend a person’s driver’s license between 90 days and six months if the person is convicted of exhibition of speed and if the violation occurred as part of a “sideshow.” Section 23109(c) of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) (exhibition of speed) will define sideshow as an event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving for spectators.
The courts will be required to consider a defendant’s medical, personal, or family hardship that requires a person to have a driver’s license before determining whether to suspend a person’s driver’s license.
Equestrian Safety Gear (AB 974, L. Rivas)
Requires a person under the age of 18 to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet when riding an equestrian animal, such as a horse, mule, or donkey on a paved highway. This bill also requires all riders or their equines to wear reflective gear or a lamp when riding after sundown.
A person riding an equestrian animal in a parade or festival, or crossing a paved highway from an unpaved highway, is exempt from all helmet, lighting, or reflective gear requirements.
Tribal Emergency Vehicles (AB 798, Ramos)
This bill provides that any vehicle owned or operated by a federally recognized Indian tribe is considered an authorized emergency vehicle as defined by Section 165 CVC when responding to an emergency, fire, ambulance, or lifesaving calls.
Class C Drivers Allowed to Tow Trailer (Senate Bill 287, Grove)
Effective Jan. 1, 2027, drivers with a class C driver’s license may operate a vehicle towing a trailer between 10,001 pounds and 15,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating, or gross vehicle weight with a fifth-wheel and kingpin or bed mounted gooseneck connection, provided that the trailer is used exclusively for recreational purposes for the transportation of property, living space, or both.
The driver will be required to pass a specialized written examination demonstrating the knowledge of the CVC and other safety aspects relating to the towing of recreational vehicles on the highway and possess an endorsement on their class C driver’s license.
Currently, this exemption is in place for drivers towing a fifth-wheel travel trailer provided the driver passes a specialized written exam and obtains a recreational trailer endorsement.
As a reminder, the following law took effect on July 1, 2021:
License Points for Distracted Driving (AB 47, Daly; 2019)
Using a handheld cell phone while driving is currently punishable by a fine. As of July 1, 2021, violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use) and to any use of these devices while driving by a person under 18 years of age.