Every year, lawmakers in California work to maximize safety for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and all motorists by assessing existing traffic laws and proposing new ones. Here are the new laws that were proposed, passed, and will go into effect starting in 2023:
Laws Going Into Effect On January 1, 2023
AB-1909: Vehicles: bicycle omnibus bill: Current law requires drivers to give cyclists a minimum of three feet of space when passing them. Now, under this new law, drivers must pass cyclists on the road by moving into another available lane whenever it’s possible and safe to do.
This law also allows Class 3 electric bicyclists to ride on approved bike paths and trails, bikeways, and bike lanes. However, it’s worth noting that the bill is written to revoke the prohibition of Class 3 e-bikes on these facilities and instead authorize a local authority to prohibit their operation on equestrian, hiking, or recreational trails. It also authorizes the Department of Parks and Recreation to prohibit electric bicycle operation on any bicycle path or trail within its jurisdiction.
SB-1087 and AB-1740: Vehicles: catalytic converters: These two laws collectively tighten obligations for recyclers, requiring them to maintain careful records of the catalytic converters they receive as well as the parties that are allowed to sell used converters. The purpose of these laws is to tackle the growing issue of catalytic converter theft and enhance safety for Californians and their vehicles.
SB 1472: Vehicular manslaughter: speeding and reckless driving: This law broadens the definition of “gross negligence” in regards to the crime of vehicular manslaughter. If a driver engages in reckless behavior – such as participating in sideshows, speed exhibitions, or driving at excessive speeds over 100 mph – and causes a death, they may now be charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. By expanding the definition of a crime, the bill imposes a state-mandated local program.
AB-1946: Electric bicycles: safety and training program: Under this law, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is required to work with the California Office of Traffic Safety and other stakeholders to develop training programs for the operation of electric bicycles.
The training program will educate the public on how to safely ride electric bicycles, including information on the rules and laws that pertain to e-bikes and emergency maneuvering tips. The public can access the safety program on CHP’s website starting in September 2023.
AB-2147: Pedestrians: This law essentially prevents police and other authorized peace officers from stopping pedestrians for minor traffic infractions that pose no risk of immediate danger or collision.
Under current law, pedestrians who commit various traffic violations – like crossing the street outside of a crosswalk – have committed an infraction and may be stopped by a law enforcement officer and penalized. This new bill prohibits officers from stopping pedestrians for these minor violations, unless a reasonably careful person would recognize that the violation poses an immediate danger or risk of collision.
SB-1398: Vehicles: consumer notices: This bill requires automakers and dealers to provide accurate information about the capabilities and limitations of advanced driver-assistance systems, like automatic emergency braking and lane assist. Additionally, it prohibits car makers and dealers from giving semi-autonomous driving features misleading names or deceptively marketing them to consumers.
AB-2000: Motor vehicle speed contests and exhibitions of speed: offstreet parking facilities: This new law expands on an existing law that makes it a crime for anyone to participate in a speed contest or an exhibition of speed on a highway. Under this law, parking lots and off-street parking facilities are now also classified as areas where it’s illegal to participate in a speed contest, exhibition of speed, or any sideshow activity.
AB 1732: Emergency services: hit-and-run incidents: Yellow Alert: Currently, California law authorizes law enforcement agencies to use the Emergency Alert System to quickly inform the general public of emergencies. There are various color-coded alerts used for situations such as the abduction of a child age 17 or younger, an attack upon a law enforcement officer, or reports of a missing person over the age of 65.
This new bill authorizes law enforcement to activate a Yellow Alert if someone has been killed in a hit-and-run incident and the agency has information about the suspect or their vehicle that could help protect the public. It also requires CHP to keep track of the number of Yellow Alert requests it receives now through January 1, 2026, at which time this provision will be repealed.
Law Going Into Effect On January 1, 2024
AB 1909: Vehicles: bicycle omnibus bill: Most of this law went into effect on January 1, 2023. However, another portion of the law that permits bicyclists to cross an intersection when a ‘walk’ sign is on takes effect on January 1, 2024.
Existing law requires all cyclists to adhere to traffic control signals when stopping at and proceeding through interections. However, it permits pedestrians facing a red traffic light to enter and cross the intersection if they are given a ‘WALK’ or ‘walking person’ symbol light. The new law, AB-1909, would extend this permission to bicyclists, allowing them to enter and cross an intersection with a red traffic light if there is also a walking symbol present.