New California Traffic Laws Signal Sobering Alert


California motorists are confronted with numerous traffic and pedestrian-safety laws taking effect as the calendar turns a corner into the new year of 2018.

Senate Bill 65 makes it unlawful to smoke marijuana or consume edible marijuana products or alcohol while driving or riding in a vehicle. The bill broadens existing law that prohibited alcohol specifically in its text. The new law takes effect January 1, same as Proposition 64, the Marijuana Adult Use Act passed by voters in November 2016that permits sale and use of recreational marijuana.

SB 65 is one the California HighwayPatrol highlighted prior to the New Year in a press release. Offenders could be fined $70.

A related law, SB 94, makes it illegal to have an open container of cannabis or cannabis edible (open alcohol already banned) in a vehicle for drivers or passengers whenever in operation. Open container is defined as any receptacle that has been previously opened, with a broken seal or having loose cannabis flowers in a container.

It is acceptable to have an open container placed in the trunk.  Medical marijuana patients get an exemption. They can drive with a closed container that was previously opened. Yet medical patients are still prohibited from consuming marijuana, either smoking or an edible, while driving.

 A new law for pedestrians, Assembly Bill 390, now permits them to cross an intersection when a traffic signal shows a flashing “Don’t Walk,” or an upraised hand if the signal shows a countdown timer, and if a pedestrian can safely cross before the flashing orange signal becomes steady.

For drivers and riders on tour buses, SB20 requires all wear seat belts if they are provided on the vehicle. The driver must also make certain safety devices are properly working and inform passengers of the legal requirement to wear seat belts. This law does not go into effect until July 1.

 Also starting in July, it will be unlawful for any for hire driver, Uber, Lyft, etc., to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04percent or more when a passenger is aboard the vehicle at the time of the offense.  

Applicants for disabled-parking placards and license plates will be required to provide proof of true full name and birth date. Meanwhile, there is a new procedure regarding parking violations for registration or driver license renewal that allows qualified low-income drivers with outstanding violations to repay fines prior to the violation being reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV is also accepting a certificate of satisfactory completion of any motorcyclist-training program approved by the CHP in lieu of the required motorcycle skills test. But applicants under 21 will continue to be required to complete a motorcyclist-training program.

And SB 1, the transportation funding package, part of which went into effect on November 1 and increased gas taxes aimed to help improve roads, bridges and fund public transit, adds another component in January. This provision increases vehicle registration fees depending on the value of the vehicle.  

Vehicles valued under $5,000 pay an extra $25; those worth $5000-$24,999 pay another $50;$25,0000-$34,999, $100; $35,000-$59,999, $150; and those valued at more than $60,000, $175.

Jumping ahead, beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the High-Occupancy-Vehicle lane program implements a new decal program to allow low-emission vehicles to drive in HOV lanes regardless of vehicle occupancy level for a four-year term.