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What California Drivers Can Expect in 2013

The people of California have spoken and changes are underway. As of January 1, new California laws are active and drivers are expected to be mindful. While there haven’t been any changes to financial responsibility laws and driving obligations, the newly implemented changes are designed to make driving a tab bit easier.

Cell Phones

Arguably, the most mentionable of the law changes applies to cell phones. Texting is no longer completely illegal while driving. No, you can’t drive while holding your device and sending a text. However, you can use your hands-free device to send and receive texts using voice-command messaging software, like Google Voice Command or Siri.

Smartphone users can also carry one less paper in their vehicle. California’s Assembly Bill No. 1708, Chapter 236, now allows smartphone users to display proof of insurance electronically from their device. Handle your device carefully. This bill notes that you assume ‘all liability for any damage to the mobile electronic device’ when presenting your electronic proof to the peace officer (California Legislative Information, 2012).

Hybrid Cars

Hybrid car owners have another benefit for going green. Under the Choose Clean Cars Act of 2012, hybrid car owners can register their qualifying vehicle for free travel in the HOT lanes. To qualify, the vehicle must be year 2004 or newer, and average 45 miles or more per gallon. The vehicle must also meet the Federal Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle (ILEVs) qualification or California’s Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT PZEV) requirements (California Legislative Information, 2012). Qualified vehicles are approved by the California Environmental Protection Agency and receive a decal which must remain on the vehicle until expired. While there are unlimited ILEVs decals available for qualifying vehicles, California reserves only 40,000 decals for AT PZEV hybrids. All ILEV and AT PZEV decals are scheduled for expiration on January 1, 2015 (California Environmental Protection Agency, 2012)


Traffic offenders can also anticipate changes with California’s new 2013 laws. While some changes provide more leniency, others tighten restrictions. The “red camera law”, officially known as Senate Bill No 1303, Chapter 735, empowers drivers with more rights by establishing uniform guidelines and practices for the traffic camera industry. Along with mandates for required signage 200 feet before operating traffic cameras, the traffic camera industry must deliver notification to the fofender within 15 days of the violation and submit annual reports of issued violations, and incurred revenue, to the Judicial Council.

Drivers that are detained for being under the influence are now limited to blood and breath analysis only. The use of urinalysis to determine the level of intoxication is no longer available, unless the person is ‘afflicated with hemophilia, or a heart condition and is using an anticoagulant’ (California Legislative Information, 2012)