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New traffic safety-related laws are about to go into effect in California this upcoming Jan. 1, and CHP this week sought to alert the public about the changes for 2022.

The bills were signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom after being approved by state lawmakers in this latest legislative session, according to the California Highway Patrol. These new road rules cover a wide range of issues, from illegal sideshows to safety equipment for equestrian riders.

In addition, CHP’s news release on Wednesday also highlighted one law from this past July and another one that is still years away from being carried out.

New laws for Jan. 1, 2022

Sideshow Definition and Penalties (Assembly Bill 3):

This new law defines a “sideshow” event in California and strengthen penalties for violations tied to the illegal street takeovers.

Under AB 3, a sideshow will be defined as “an event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway, for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving, for spectators.”

While the legislation outlines a stricter punishment for such offenses, that part of the law won’t kick in until July 1, 2025. When it does, a person convicted of exhibition of speed during a sideshow could potentially have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days to 6 months.

However, the court would have to consider any family, medical or personal hardships that could require the defendant to have a license before determining whether to suspend it.

Equestrian Safety Gear (Assembly Bill 974):  

AB 974 stipulates that anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when riding a horse, mule or donkey on a paved highway. Additionally, riders of all ages or their equines will be required to wear a lamp or reflective gear on rides after dark.

Anyone violating the law could face a fine of up to $25.

The bill does include an exemption for those riding an equestrian animal during a parade or festival, or if they’re crossing from a paved to an unpaved highway.

Tribal Emergency Vehicles (Assembly Bill 798):  

The legislation removes restrictions on ambulances owned and operated by a fire department of one of the more than 100 federally-recognized Native American tribes in the state that had essentially treated them the same as privately operated ones.

Additionally, a vehicle owned or operated by a federally-recognized tribe would be considered an authorized emergency vehicle when responding to emergency calls, according to AB 798.

Already in effect

License Points for Distracted Driving (Assembly Bill 47): 

It was already illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving before AB 47 went into effect July 1, 2021. But now, as a result of the bill, anyone caught violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will see a point added to their driver’s record.

Violations include talking or texting while holding a smartphone, and any use of such devices by a driver under 18 years old.

Looking ahead

Class C Drivers Allowed to Tow Trailer (Senate Bill 287): 

CHP also spotlighted this bill, which was also approved by the California Legislature and signed by Newsom this year but won’t actually be implemented until Jan. 1, 2027.

The law would permit drivers with a class C license to tow a trailer of 10,001 to 15,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight using a fifth-wheel and kingpin or bed mounted gooseneck connection — but only for a prescribed set of circumstances.

First, the towing can’t be for compensation or commercial purposes. Second, the trailer has to be used only for recreational purposes and for the transportation of property or living space, or both. And finally, the driver must pass a specialized written examination and have an endorsement on their license.