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The following changes to public safety and driving laws for California residents and drivers that you should know about:

Effective January 1, 2021:              

  1. Assembly Bill 2717, which goes into effect January 1, 2021, will exempt a person from civil or criminal liability for trespassing or damaging a vehicle when rescuing a child 6 years old or younger at risk of heat, cold, lack of ventilation or other potential dangers. Individuals are required to determine that the vehicle is locked, have a “good faith belief” that forcible entry is necessary, contact an emergency service, remain with the child in a safe location, use no more force than necessary to get the child out of the vehicle and immediately turn the child over to emergency responders. This new law was passed in order to encourage people to get involved in these scenarios without fear of civil or criminal liability when attempting to rescue a child.
  2. Assembly Bill 2285, known as the “Move Over” law that applied to freeways has now been expanded to apply to all local streets and highways. This law requires California drivers to move over to another lane if possible or to slow down to a reasonable speed when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying emergency lights. The law has also been expanded to include Caltrans vehicles and tow trucks, in addition to emergency vehicles such as law enforcement, fire personnel, ambulances and other authorized emergency vehicles. The penalty for breaking this law is a $50 fine.

Effective July 1, 2021:

  1. Assembly Bill 47, which goes into effect July 1, 2021, will add a point to the driving record of a driver who violates California’s hands-free law for a second time within a 36 month period or receives a prior conviction for the same offense. Citations are issued based on whether the driver is suspected of holding a phone up to their ear or texting while driving and penalties for a first offense include base fines of $20 and $50 for each subsequent offense, although they can be as much as $162 with administrative costs and court fees. Now, in addition to the fines, second time offenders will be assessed with a 1 point penalty on their driving record with the DMV.

Effective September 29, 2020:

  1. Assembly Bill 909, which went into effect as of September 29, 2020, is a law that allows emergency vehicles to us a “hi-lo” warning sound that will be used to notify the public of an immediate need to evacuate an area in an emergency. Although regulations standardizing the warning sound statewide are currently under development by the California Highway Patrol, many agencies have already implemented the new alarm. The new alarm goes back and forth between a high and low pitch and sounds that are distinct from the typical siren sounds of emergency vehicles. When people hear the “hi-lo” warning sirens from emergency vehicles in the area, they need to evacuate the area immediately.

Every resident of California should be made aware of these new public safety and driving law changes that will make our community a safer place for the year 2021.