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Changes to California’s Traffic Laws in 2021


With the New year comes new traffic rules for California drivers. California recently put new traffic laws into effect on January 1, 2021 by California Highway Patrol related to cell phone usage, emergency vehicle safety, and distracted driving. Today, we go over what these new traffic laws are and what you need to know about them before getting on the road in the new year.

Emergency vehicle safety

Drivers will now be required to slow down or switch lanes when getting close to stationary emergency vehicles on the road with emergency lights, including Caltrans vehicles, construction vehicles, police cars, ambulances, and tow trucks. Until now, this was only required on freeways.

This law was put in place to protect law enforcement officials, first responders, and city workers who may be outside of their vehicles responding to emergencies.

Unattended children

As of January 2021, bystanders will not face civil or criminal liability for any damages sustained to a vehicle while trying to remove an unattended child under the age of 6 from immediate danger. This danger may include hot weather, cold, lack of ventilation, and other dangerous circumstances that could prove detrimental to the child’s wellbeing. This law protects good Samaritans trying to help save children from dangerous situations such as being in a hot car for too long.

License plates for veterans

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced that disabled veterans can now petition for a special license plate or a disabled person parking placard if they present certification from the California Department of Veterans Affairs or a county veteran’s services officer.

The California DMV will also waive the driving test for a commercial driver’s license if the individual is or was a current/former member of the United States Armed Forces that is licensed to drive commercial trucks.

Emergency vehicle alerts

Authorized emergency vehicles can use a “hi-lo” warning sound to notify the public of an immediate need to evacuate an area for an emergency.

Distracted driving

Starting July 1, 2021, driving while use a cell phone in a handheld manner will result in a point added to your driving record. This penalty happens if the violation happens a second time within 36 months of being convicted of the same offense. Once you get over 4 points in 1 year, you could have your license suspended.

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