What You Need to Know About 2017's New Traffic Laws

It's your responsibility as a citizen and a driver to know the law. Ignorance is no excuse, even if the cop stopping you knows less about the latest traffic laws than you do.

To help you navigate California's already complicated streets and highways, here's a cheat sheet for traffic-related laws that take effect in 2017. Take notes, then plead ignorance.

Hands-off. In 2017 California is taking hands-free telecommunication to another level with implementation of AB 1785, which says drivers have keep their hands off their phones. A driver can only touch his or her device if it's mounted legally and only if "the driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger," according to the bill's language. How does a cop distinguish between texting, which you can't do, and activating or deactivating a feature or function, which you can? Judges will love this law. It takes effect Saturday.

Reporting collisions. If you're in a crash that causes injury or that results in $1,000 or more in damage, you're required to report it to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days. The law states that if you don't, "Your driving privilege will be suspended for up to four years."

Child safety seats. Children younger than 2 must travel in a rear-facing seat. The new law (AB 53) ups the age from 1. Kids weighing more than 40 pounds or measuring taller than 40 inches are exempt "because some rear-facing car seats cannot accommodate children exceeding these criteria," according to the Auto Club of Southern California. Front-facing child-safety seats are sufficient for them. Children 8 or younger generally need to be in a child-safety or booster seat.

Lane splitting. New law directs the California Highway Patrol to create motorcycle lane splitting "educational safety guidelines," according to the CHP. However, it makes clear that lane splitting by motorcyclists who cruise between freeway lanes is perfectly legal.


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