Drivers Need to Heed These New Traffic Laws Starting Jan. 1

AB 2717 exempts a good Samaritan who rescues an endangered child from a locked vehicle from civil and criminal liability.

Traffic in Los Angeles.

Beginning Jan. 1, several new laws will go into effect, including safe space for emergency vehicles and rescuing children from hot cars, that residents will need to heed, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday.

AB 2285: Changing Lanes for Emergency Vehicles, Others

Assembly Bill 2285,, which the governor signed into law in September, establishes potential fines for motorists who do not slow down and, whenever possible, change lanes when encountering a Caltrans vehicle, tow truck, or any emergency vehicle with lights flashing on a highway.

Previously, penalties were only imposed when violators failed to take precautions and make a safe space for fire and law enforcement vehicles. The new law clarifies that Caltrans equipment and tow trucks conducting operations on a highway be given the same courtesy.

However, AB 2285 does not specify that motorists must move over if there might be conflicts with other drivers, or conditions don't allow for it. But they must slow down. Otherwise, CHP officers could write them a $50 ticket.

AB 2717: Children in Unattended Vehicles

Also starting with the New Year, AB 2717, signed into law by the governor at the end of September, amends existing law concerning leaving children under the age of 6 unattended in vehicles.


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Currently, state law mandates criminal penalties, including potential felony charges, for leaving children unsupervised.

It also exempts good Samaritans from civil and criminal liability if they forcibly enter a vehicle to rescue a stranded animal suffering from extreme heat or cold. However, there haven't been exemptions for breaking into a vehicle to save a child.

AB 2717 changes that, specifically exempting a good Samaritan who rescues an endangered child from a locked vehicle from civil and criminal liability, "if the property damage or trespass occurs while the person is rescuing a child 6 years of age or younger," according to the legislation.

AB 47: Phone Use Penalty

A third new law, AB 47, which was signed into law in 2019 and doesn't take effect until July 1, allows the California Department of Motor Vehicles to add a penalty point to a motorist's driving record if he or she receives two tickets in a 36-month span for talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free device.

Texting while driving also applies under the statute.

SB 909: Hi-Lo Warning Sounds (In Effect)

This law allows emergency vehicles to use a hi-lo warning sound instead of a less distinctive siren to warn residents about evacuations. The CHP is creating regulations to standardize the hi-lo sound statewide. The law went into effect in Sept. 29.

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