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New driving laws for 2021: What you need to know

Posted at 4:57 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 23:30:32-05

There are some new California driving laws you need to know about for the New Year.

Several of the traffic safety laws for 2021 are enhancing laws already on the books.

"It's just basically meant to bolster these rules and laws that are already out there to hopefully get people to pay more attention to them," said Officer Mike Poelking of the San Luis Obispo office of the California Highway Patrol.

Years ago, it became illegal to leave a child unattended in a car. But starting January 1, a Good Samaritan will be off the hook for any civil or criminal liability for rescuing a child under 6 years old from a car that's too hot, too cold or lacking ventilation.

"Therefore, they're not going to necessarily be charged with any crime. Breaking, breaking and entering into the vehicle, trespassing, things of that nature," Officer Poelking explained.

Another new law for the new year has to do with using your cellphone while driving.

"Distracted driving is really at an epidemic rate," Officer Poelking said.

So starting this July, using a cellphone while driving for the second time within 36 months will add a point to a driver's record.

"Historically, that's probably one of our higher number of violations that occur annually in the city," said Lt. John Villanti of the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

SLOPD says in 2019, officers issued 965 cellphone citations. In 2018, that number was more than 1,100.

CHP adds that its San Luis Obispo officers issued more than 250 cellphone citations last year.

Besides a hefty fine...

"It could potentially raise your rates for your insurance policy," Officer Poelking said.

Finally, when you're driving on the highway and there are emergency lights on the side of the road, the current law is either to move over or slow down for those first responders, Caltrans workers or tow truck drivers.

Often times, neither happens.

"There have been times actually where I've been assisting an officer on a stop and that stop is kind of starting to wind down and they'll fly right by with our emergency lights activated," Officer Poelking said.

The new law, which goes into effect on the first of the year, is expanding to include moving over or slowing down on county roads and city streets.

"This is just another layer to help keep our streets department and our emergency workers out there safe," Lt. Villanti said.

But whether new or old laws, the first of the year should serve as a reminder to be safe on our roads.