A List of New California Laws effective July 1-Mostly Fiction!

A List of New California or Texas Traffic Laws effective July 1, 2007-Mostly Fiction!  But New Cell Phone Laws Do Go Into Effect in California in July, 2008!

Summary of eRumor:

This email is an alert to California or Texas drivers of several new laws to be aware of that the email says go into effect on July 1, 2007.

The Truth:

Whoever put this email together was either intentionally ignoring the facts or summarizing some of the gossip about new California traffic laws.

Note:  New laws regarding the use of cell phones do go into effect in California in July, 2008.  Details about that are listed at the bottom of this article.

It didn’t take long for someone to start circulating it as applying to Texas and Georgia and more states will probably be added along the way.

Most of it is not true.

The Texas Department of Public Safety quickly issued a release saying that there were not any new laws scheduled to go into effect in July, 2007.

That left the California question to be dealt with.

We’ll go through each of the items one at a time, but first there are not statewide mandated penalties for traffic fines in California.  

There are guidelines from what is called the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule but local jurisdictions make their own decisions on fines for traffic citations.  You may have discovered that on your own if you’ve gotten a traffic ticket for the same violation in different California cities or counties.  You did not necessarily get the same fine.  

If you want to know what the typical fines are in your area, call your local traffic court.

1. Carpool lane – 1st time $1068.50 starting 7/1/07 (The $271 posted on the highway is old). Don’t do it again because 2nd time is going to be double. 3rd time triple, and 4th time license suspended-Fiction!
In 2007, the recommended fine for a first time car pool violation was $380.  Repeat offenders can expect to pay more, but nothing near the amounts represented in this email.

2. Incorrect lane change – $380. Don’t cross the lane on solid lines or intersections-Fiction!
The Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule said $134 for a typical infraction.  

3. Block intersection – $485-Fiction!
The Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule said $175.

4. Driving on the shoulder – $450-Fiction!
The Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule said $134.

5. Cell phone use in the construction zone. – Double fine as of 07/01/07.  Cell phone use must be “hands free” while driving-Fiction!
There was no law in California during 2007 restricting the use of cell phones in the car. There was such a law going into effect in July, 2008.   There was no “double fine” as of 7/1/07 because there was no law in effect regarding cell phones.  The new California law does not mention construction zones although penalties for traffic violations are higher if they occurred in a highway construction or maintenance area.

6. Passengers over 18 not in their seatbelts – both passengers and drivers get tickets-Truth!
The California Mandatory Seat Belt Law requires all passengers to use some kind of restraint.   Children under 6 and weighing less than 60 pounds are required to be in “specified child passenger restraint system,” typically a car seat. Everybody older than 6 must wear seat belts.  At this writing the fines range from less than $100 for a first offence to more than $300 when it’s kids who are not buckled in.  According to the California Highway Patrol any adults in a vehicle who are not wearing seatbelts are subject to citation, not just the driver.  The driver will be held accountable for any children not restrained.

7. Speeders can only drive 3 miles above the limit-Fiction!
The speed limit is the speed limit.  There is no legal definition allowing a driver to go 3 miles per hour above that.

8. DUI = JAIL (Stays on your driving record for 10 years!)-Truth!
At the time of this writing a first offense for driving under the influence in California results in anywhere between 96 hours and 4 months in jail. a fine, and a six-month suspension of the license.  Those are the court penalties.  There are separate penalties to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  As of January 1, 2007 a driving under the influence conviction will be on a person’s record for 10 years.

9. As of 07/01/07 cell phone use must be “hands free” while driving.  Ticket is $285. They will be looking for this like crazy – easy money for police department-Fiction!
By law all drivers in California must be using hands-free cell phones as of July 1, 2008.  The fine was $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.  The exceptions are for emergency use, drivers of emergency vehicles, and drivers of commercial vehicles can use the push-to-talk type wireless phones until July 1, 2011.

Here is a list of questions and answers from the California Highway Patrol regarding the new cell phone laws for July 1, 2008:

Wireless Telephone Laws FAQs

Two new laws dealing with the use of wireless telephones while driving go into effect July 1, 2008. Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions concerning these new laws.

Q: When do the new wireless telephone laws take effect?

A: The new laws take effect July 1, 2008

Q: What is the difference between the two laws?

A: The first prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle. (Vehicle Code (VC) §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device. Drivers under the age of 18 may NOT use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle(VC §23124).

Q: What if I need to use my telephone during an emergency, and I do not have a hands- free device?

A: The law allows a driver to use a wireless telepho
ne to make emergency calls to a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, the fire department, or other emergency services agency.

Q: What are the fines if I’m convicted?

A: The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. According to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule, with the addition of penalty assessments, a first offense is $76 and a second offense is $190.

Q: Will I receive a point on my drivers license if I’m convicted for a violation of the wireless telephone law?

A: NO. The violation is a reportable offense: however, DMV will not assign a violation point.

Q: Will the conviction appear on my driving record?

A: Yes, but the violation point will not be added.

Q: Will there be a grace period when motorists will only get a warning?

A: NO. The law becomes in effect on July 1, 2008. Whether a citation is issued is always at the discretion of the officer based upon his or her determination of the most appropriate remedy for the situation.

Q: Are passengers affected by this law?

A: No. This law only applies to the person driving a motor vehicle.

Q: Do these laws apply to out-of-state drivers whose home states do not have such laws?

A: Yes

Q: Can I be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for using my handheld wireless telephone?

A: YES. A law enforcement officer can pull you over just for this infraction.

Q: What if my phone has a push-to-talk feature, can I use that?

A: No. The law does provide an exception for those operating a commercial motor truck or truck tractor (excluding pickups), implements of husbandry, farm vehicle or tow truck, to use a two-way radio operated by a “push-to-talk” feature.

Q: What other exceptions are there?

A: Operators of an authorized emergency vehicle during the course of employment are exempt as are those motorists operating a vehicle on private property


Drivers 18 and over will be allowed to use a hands-free device to talk on their wireless telephone while driving. The following FAQs apply to those motorists 18 and over.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law prohibit you from dialing a wireless telephone while driving or just talking on it?

A: The new law does not prohibit dialing, but drivers are strongly urged not to dial while driving.

Q: Will it be legal to use a Blue Tooth or other earpiece?

A: Yes, however you cannot have BOTH ears covered.

Q: Does the new hands-free law allow you to use the speaker phone function of your wireless telephone while driving?

A: Yes.

Q: Does the new “hands-free” law allow drivers 18 and over to text page while driving?

A: The law does not specifically prohibit that, but an officer can pull over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer’s opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely. Text paging while driving is unsafe at any speed and is strongly discouraged.


Q: Am I allowed to use my wireless telephone hands free?

A: NO. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication or mobile services device to speak or text while driving in any manner, even hands free. EXCEPTION: Permitted in emergency situations to call police, fire or medical authorities. (VC §23124).

Q: Why is the law stricter for provisional drivers?

A: Statistics show that teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to be involved in crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks. Teen drivers are vulnerable to driving distractions such as talking with passengers, eating or drinking, and talking or texting on wireless phones, which increase the chance of getting involved in serious vehicle crashes.

Q: Can my parents give me permission to allow me to use my wireless telephone while driving?

A: NO. The only exception is an emergency situation that requires you to call a law enforcement agency, a health care provider, the fire department or other emergency agency entity.

Q: Does the law apply to me if I’m an emancipated minor?

A: Yes. The restriction applies to all licensed drivers who are under the age of 18.

Q: If I have my parent(s) or someone age 25 years or older in the car with me, may I use my wireless telephone while driving?

A: NO. You may only use your wireless telephone in an emergency situation.

Q: Will the restriction appear on my provisional license?

A: No

Q: May I use the hands-free feature while driving if my car has the feature built in?

A: NO. The law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using any type of wireless device while driving, except in an emergency situation.

Q: Can a law enforcement officer stop me for using my hands-free device while driving?

A: No. For drivers under the age of 18, this is considered a SECONDARY violation meaning that a law enforcement officer may cite you for using a hands-free wireless phone if you were pulled over for a
nother violation. However, the prohibition against using a handheld wireless telephone while driving is a PRIMARY violation for which a law enforcement officer can pull you over.

Updated 3/15/08