New traffic safety laws take effect in 2017

The New Year brings a handful of new traffic safety laws for California. These changes to current law, or additional laws, were passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. As part of the continued mission of saving lives, the California Highway Patrol is seeking to educate the public on some of the new rules of the road taking effect at the beginning of next month.

Child safety seats (AB 53, Garcia)

Although this law was passed during the 2015 legislative session, it takes effect Jan. 1, 2017. Children under 2 years of age must ride rear facing in an appropriate child passenger safety seat. Children weighing 40 or more pounds, or standing 40 or more inches tall, are exempt. California law continues to require that all children under the age of 8 be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of a vehicle.

Vehicles: Use of Wireless Electronic Devices (AB 1785, Quirk)

Motorists are no longer permitted to hold a wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device while driving a motor vehicle. Rather than holding the device, it must be mounted in the 7-inch square in the lower comer of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a 5-inch square in the lower comer of the windshield nearest to the driver. Another option is to affix the device to the dashboard in a place that does not obstruct the driver’s clear view of the road and does not interfere with the deployment of an airbag.

The law does allow a driver to operate one of these devices with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the finger, but not while holding it.

Driving under the influence: Ignition Interlock Device (SB 1046, Hill)

This law requires a driving under the influence offender to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for a specified period of time in order to get a restricted driver license or to reinstate their license. The law also removes the required suspension time before a person can get a restricted license, provided that the offender installs an IID on their vehicle. The law extends the current four-county (Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare) DUI IID pilot program until Jan. 1,

2019, at which time all DUI offenders statewide will be required to install an IID to have their license reinstated.

Vehicle Motorcycles: Lane Splitting (AB 51, Quirk)

Current law does not change; lane splitting by a motorcyclist remains legal if done safely. This bill defines lane splitting as driving a motorcycle, which has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. The bill permits the CHP to develop lane splitting educational safety guidelines in consultation with other state traffic safety agencies and at least one organization focused on motorcycle safety.

School Bus Safety: Child Alert System (SB 1072, Mendoza)

This law requires all school buses, school pupil activity buses, youth buses, and childcare motor vehicles used to transport school-age children to be equipped with a “child safety alert system.” Every school is required to have a transportation safety plan with procedures to ensure that a pupil is not left unattended in a vehicle.

Charter Bus Safety Improvements (SB 247, Lara)

All buses manufactured after July 1.2020, will be required to have emergency lighting fixtures that will turn on in the event of an impact or collision. The law also requires a bus company to ensure the driver of the charter bus provides oral and written, or video instructions to all passengers on safety equipment and emergency exits on the bus prior to any trip.

Tour Buses: Safety Inspections (AB 1677, Ting)

This new law requires the CHP to develop protocols for entering into a memorandum of understanding with local governments to increase the number of inspections for tour buses operated within their jurisdiction.

For complete information on bills enacted in 2016, refer to the legislative counsel website at