New Year, New Laws

Each year, the California legislature passes hundreds of new laws. Keep reading to learn about new laws that impact the California Vehicle Code and California drivers.

Points for Distracted Driving

Current vehicle code law prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone in a handheld manner and the offense is already punishable by a fine. Beginning July 1, 2021, a point will also be added to a driver’s record for each hands-free cell phone violation occurring within 36 months of a prior hands-free conviction.

Approaching Stationary Emergency Vehicles

The existing “Move Over, Slow Down” Law that requires drivers to move over or slow down for road maintenance crews and emergency personnel on freeways, will now be extended to include highways, local streets and roadways. This law essentially states that drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights, including tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles, must move to another lane when possible, or slow to a reasonable speed.

Unattended Children

Known as “Kaitlyn’s Law”, existing vehicle code states that you may not leave a child that is 6 years of age or under unattended in a motor vehicle if there are conditions that present a risk. Effective January 1st, 2021, this law has been updated to exempt a person from civil or criminal liability for trespassing or damaging a vehicle when rescuing a child who is 6 years old or younger and who is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or other dangerous circumstances.

Evacuation Siren

Effective September 29th, 2020, law enforcement agencies, upon obtaining a permit from the California Highway Patrol, may use a distinctive audible “Hi-Low” warning siren to be used to notify the public of an immediate need to evacuate an area in an emergency. This distinct warning sound has already been proven effective and will help save lives as California deals with the ongoing wildfire threat.

The state legislature must continually look at existing laws and make changes to continue advancing safe driving practices.  You, as a driver, must stay informed on new laws that have passed as well as evolving driving technology and defensive driving techniques to better equip yourself for the driving task.

Have a Happy and Safe New Year from all of us at TrafficSchool.com!!

The Eyes Have It

Scanning the Road

Sometimes we take driving for granted. With each uneventful drive we make, we begin to let our guard down. We start picking up bad habits like zoning out and staring at the bumper of the car in front of us. The problem with this is driving is always potentially dangerous and a routine drive can change in the blink of an eye.

A big part to driving defensively is using your eyes. A defensive driver actively scans the road ahead, checks to the left and right and glances in their mirrors regularly. Continuous eye movement will increase your awareness and give you more time to react in a hazardous situation. In addition to watching around your car, it is also good to look farther down the road. By spotting problems early, you will have time to make necessary adjustments in advance to avoid them.

Two-Way Street

Center Left-Turn Lane Use

If a street has a center left turn lane, you must use it to when making a left turn or U-turn. As the name would suggest, a center left turn lane is found in the middle of a two-way street. It has two yellow painted lines on either side, broken lines on the inside and solid lines on the outside, and is used by traffic traveling in both directions. The center left turn lane is not a passing lane and you may only drive for 200 feet in this lane.
To turn left from this lane, signal, look over your shoulder, and drive completely into the center lane (do not leave any part of your vehicle blocking the traffic lane). Also, watch for vehicles coming toward you in the same lane, preparing to start their left turn. Wait in the center lane until a gap in the traffic allows you to complete the left turn safely. If you are making a left turn onto a busy street, you may enter this lane to complete your turn before merging into traffic.

How Not to U-turn or: My $225 Lesson Learned

As a young driver, I was under the false impression that you could “whip a U-turn” whenever or wherever you wanted, as long as it seemed reasonably safe. Wrong. I found out the hard way when making a U-turn on a sharply-curved road. A cop pulled me over 5 seconds later and gave me a $225 education that I will never forget. The lesson learned? LEARN THE RULES OF THE ROAD!

Can't see clearly for 200ft?  Then U-turn elsewhere!

Click the image above to test your knowledge!

Next time you ‘need’ to make a U-turn, remember these helpful hints:

DO make U-turns here:

  • Anywhere on residential streets where you have a clear view for 200ft in both directions
  • On city streets (business districts), always go to an intersection to make your U-turn

DON’T make U-turn here:

  • In the middle of a city street
  • On any street that you can’t see clearly for 200ft in both directions
  • At an intersection with a “No U-turn” sign
  • In front of fire stations

Signals Crossed

Traffic Control Signals

Traffic lights help drivers navigate roadways in an orderly fashion. However, sometimes lights depart from the standard procedure and might leave you wondering what to do.

stop
If you see a Flashing Red signal light, treat it like a STOP sign. Stop completely and proceed when it is safe to do so. Don’t forget to follow the right-of-way rules.

 

 

yield
 

If you see a Flashing Yellow signal light, treat it like a YIELD sign. Slow down and be prepared to stop for cross traffic.

What’s Going on Back There?

Taking in the Big Picture

A big part of defensive driving is scanning the road. Not just looking for hazards ahead of you, but also being aware of what is going on to the sides and behind you as well. When scanning, your eyes are continuously moving from side to side, ahead and in your rear-view mirrors. Take short quick glances to take in the big picture and be aware of and regulate potentially hazardous situations before you find yourself in a predicament.

First off, you should make sure to properly adjust your seat and mirrors before you start driving. You want to make sure you have as wide a field of vision as possible to the back of your vehicle when looking into the rear-view and side-mirrors.

Second, remember these three instances where checking traffic behind you is of great importance.

  1. Backing: When backing it is best to back up as little as necessary as you are more likely to hit something because your visibility is limited. Before you back up check your mirrors and look over your shoulder as you reverse. Keep your speed as slow and safe as possible.
  2. Changing lanes: Before you begin your lane change, always look over your shoulder after checking your mirrors to confirm that there are no vehicles hiding in your blind spot. This is also good to remember as part of moving over to curbside park or preparing to make a right turn.
  3. Slowing down quickly: Stopping suddenly can put you at high risk of being rear ended by another motorist. Make sure to check your rear-view mirror when forced to brake harder than usual. This is a good reason to have a safe space cushion between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Get in the habit of utilizing your rear and side view mirrors more consistently. The greater your ability to comprehend what is going on around your car, the safer it will be for you to drive.