How Do California’s Traffic Safety Laws Compare to Other States?

by Staff | May 23rd, 2022

Safety on American roads is a critical issue in California and across the United States. Every state uses driving regulations to maintain traffic safety. A 2020 policy brief on state driving regulations reports an average of 135,000 of them per state. According to the brief, California has the most rules in the entire country, with 395,608 laws on the books.

Among these regulations are traffic safety laws that all drivers in California must follow. Residents of California should take comfort in knowing their state has been ranked one of the top five states in the nation for its road safety regulations. Let’s find out how California compares to the rest of the nation regarding traffic safety.

Alcohol and Drug-Impaired Driving Laws

There has been a gradual reduction in accident and fatality rates caused by drunk driving since the 1980s, but millions of people still drive intoxicated every year.

California’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws are among the toughest in the country, with penalties including probation, jail time, fines, and treatment. A first-time DUI conviction could result in a six-month jail term and fines of up to $1,000. You can also have your driving privileges suspended or revoked by the DMV.

The state of California also has an ignition interlock device (IID) pilot program for repeat DUI offenders, which may be required depending on how many prior DUI convictions they have.  

Using a Cellphone While Driving Laws

Twenty-four states, including California, ban all drivers from using their hand-held smartphones while driving. Hands-free mode or voice commands are the only way to use the smartphone. Using a cell phone for any reason while driving is illegal for any driver under 18.

Almost all states have fines for first-time convictions of using a cell phone while driving. When caught by law enforcement and found guilty for the first time, a first-time offender can be fined up to $162. As of 2021, if a driver is convicted of a second offense within 36 months of the first offense, they receive a point on their driving record.

Seat Belt Laws

In California, seat belt laws apply to all drivers and passengers aged 16 and over in all seats. All children aged 7 and under must be in a car seat or booster seat. California’s seat belt laws are primary, meaning if the drivers or passengers are not wearing seat belts, law enforcement can pull them over and issue a ticket.

Studies have shown that laws significantly increase the use of seat belts, especially with primary enforcement laws being more effective in urban and rural settings than secondary enforcement laws. Under secondary belt laws, police can only issue a citation if the driver had a previous infraction.

In 2019, 92% of front-seat occupants buckled up in states with primary enforcement laws, compared to 86.2% in states with secondary enforcement. As a testament to the widespread use of seatbelts in motor vehicles, 93% of Californian adults wear seatbelts, compared to 87% of the rest of the country.

Motorcycle Safety Laws

California is one of 18 states with universal helmet usage for all drivers and passengers. Helmets must be tested and approved under U.S. Department of Transportation compliance regulations. Helmets are required for motorcyclists and their passengers and those who drive motor-driven cycles and motorized bicycles.

California is the only state to allow motorcycle riders to drive between moving and parked vehicles, called lane splitting. This law lets motorcyclists drive between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including streets, highways, and roads. However, California issued safety tips for all drivers for lane-splitting, including drivers of passenger vehicles, to avoid blind spots and watch out for others on the road. 

Get Professional Help from an Attorney

If you suffered personal injuries in a car accident in California, you’ll need the help of skilled California car accident lawyers to seek compensation. The car accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers understand the impact of California driving regulations on drivers and car accident victims.

We can help you pursue a fair settlement from a negligent driver to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, or emotional distress resulting from your accident. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation.