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New California Traffic Laws Taking Effect in 2022


Governor Gavin Newsom signed an astounding 770 new laws in 2021 and hundreds of new laws take effect in 2022. New traffic safety-related laws are about to go into effect in California this upcoming January 1, and CHP this week sought to alert the public about the changes for 2022. While we do not intend to go through every one of them, here is a highlight of some of the most important traffic laws taking effect this year.


New Traffic Laws for January 1, 2022

Sideshow Definition and Penalties (Assembly Bill 3):

This new law defines a “sideshow” event in California and strengthens penalties for violations tied to the illegal street takeovers. California Vehicle Code will define “sideshow” as an “event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving for spectators.

While the AB 3 legislation outlines a stricter punishment for such offenses, that part of the law will not take effect until July 1, 2025. When it does, a person convicted of exhibition of speed during a sideshow could potentially have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days to 6 months. However, the court would have to consider any family, medical or personal hardships that could require the defendant to have a license before determining whether to suspend it.


Equestrian Safety Gear (Assembly Bill 974):  

The new law, AB 974, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September requires anyone under 18 years old who rides an equestrian animal — horses, mules and donkeys — on a paved highway to “wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.” Additionally, riders of all ages or their equines will be required to wear a lamp or reflective gear on rides after dark. The legislation is intended to enforce the same requirements for youths who ride bikes, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, in-line and roller skates.

Anyone violating the law could face a fine of up to $25 for first-time violators. However, anyone using an equestrian animal in a parade or festival is exempt from the helmet and gear provisions, according to the legislation.


Tribal Emergency Vehicles (Assembly Bill 798):  

The AB 798 legislation removes restrictions on ambulances owned and operated by a fire department of one of the more than 100 federally-recognized Native American tribes in the state that had essentially treated them the same as privately operated ones. This bill was signed into law on September 24 and specifically permits all the tribes to acquire and deploy ambulances, as well as firefighting and other emergency vehicles, without the state requiring that the vehicles be inspected by the CHP, and without those individuals who may legally operate them having to go through the Department of Motor Vehicles for special licenses.

Previously, the state treated tribal emergency vehicles the same as privately operated ones, mandating rigorous inspection and licensing. However, the legislation recognized that the tribes are sovereign and self-governing, and that imposing a lengthy approval process was unjustified. The issue came to the fore in 2019 when the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians acquired a “state-of-the-art ambulance” but couldn’t use it for a year because of the protracted inspection process and licensing for all of the tribe’s 50 firefighters who might need to operate it.


Already in Effect

License Points for Distracted Driving (Assembly Bill 47): 

It was already illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving before AB 47 went into effect July 1, 2021. But now, as a result of the bill, anyone caught violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will see a point added to their driver’s record. Violations include talking or texting while holding a smartphone, and any use of such devices by a driver under 18 years old.


Future Laws

Class C Drivers Allowed to Tow Trailer (Senate Bill 287): 

CHP also spotlighted this bill, which was also approved by the California Legislature and signed by Newsom this year but will not actually be implemented until January 1, 2027.

SB 287 would permit drivers with a class C license to tow a trailer of 10,001 to 15,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight using a fifth-wheel and kingpin or bed mounted gooseneck connection — but only for a prescribed set of circumstances.


Should You Speak with an Attorney?

The New Year brings a whole host of new laws for Californians. They are likely to affect what your neighborhood looks like, how safe you feel, what recourse you have against discrimination — even how you take out your trash. If you have any questions about these new traffic laws and how they affect you, call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.


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