Attn CA Drivers: New Year = New Traffic Laws

The California Highway Patrol is warning motorists to familiarize themselves with the laws going into effect on January 1, 2012. These new traffic laws were passed by the legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year.

“Our hope is by educating the public of these new traffic safety laws in advance, more lives will be saved in the New Year,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

The following are highlights of a few of the significant changes for the upcoming year:

Car seats up to age 8. A change to California’s Child Passenger Safety Seat law will now require children to ride in either a car seat or booster seat until the age of eight, or until they reach a height of 4 feet 9 inches. This law also requires children who do not meet the age or height requirement to ride in the rear seat of a vehicle, unless the vehicle has no back seats, the restraint system cannot be properly installed or the rear seats are already occupied by children under age eight. However, the law still maintains that a child may not ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger airbag if they are under one year of age, less than 20 pounds, or riding in a rear-facing child safety seat. (SB 929, Evans)

No more 30-day impound and DUI checkpoints. Drivers are required to stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint. However, peace officers will be prohibited from impounding a vehicle for 30 days out of a sobriety checkpoint if the only offense by the driver is failing to hold a valid driver license. The new law requires that the officer make a reasonable attempt to identify the registered owner in order to release the vehicle. (AB 353, Cedillo)

Reckless drivers catch a break. Anyone who is convicted of reckless driving under Section 23103.5 of the Vehicle Code can apply for a restricted driver’s license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension, provided they meet specified conditions, including the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle. (AB 520, Ammiano)

No passing on double white lines. Vehicles will be prohibited from crossing double parallel solid white lines except where permitted. (AB 1105, Gordon)

Electric Vehicles (EV) must now be plugged in for refueling when occupying an EVdesignated parking space, otherwise they may be towed. In addition, the law prohibits a person from obstructing, blocking, or otherwise barring access to an EV-designated parking space. (AB 475, Butler)

Local governments can now regulate advertising signs on any motor vehicle parked or left standing upon a public street, except for signs painted directly upon or permanently affixed to the vehicle for permanent decoration, identification, or display that do not extend beyond the overall length, width, or height of the vehicle. (AB 1298, Blumenfield)

A law dealing with repeat driving under the influence (DUI) offenders that was passed in 2010 also goes into effect on January 1. Section 23579 was added to the Vehicle Code, which authorizes courts to revoke a driver’s license for 10 years if a person is convicted of three or more DUIs.

Under this law enacted in 2010, a motorist may be allowed to apply for reinstatement of his or her driver’s license with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after five years, if the person installs an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in his or her vehicle. The law allows the DMV to terminate this restricted license if the IID requirements are not met. (AB 1601, Hil)

For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2011, refer to the Legislative Counsel website at