When passing a bicyclist on a shoulder, drivers in the adjacent lane will have to slide left a lane if available or slow down. Military veterans with specialized license plates will get a perk — they won’t have to pay tolls on roadways and bridges in the Golden State.
And police will be armed with another tool to try and stop the groundswell of street racing, doughnuts and other dangerous driving maneuvers — as these practices become illegal in parking lots.
California legislators passed a raft of new laws affecting motorists that take effect no later than in 2023:
Street racing, doughnuts and sideshows
A pair of laws target street racers and others who drive dangerously.
One expands the definition of “gross negligence” when it comes to a vehicular manslaughter charge to include “when a person has participated in a sideshow or has sped over 100 miles per hour.” A sideshow can include burnouts and doughnuts, sometimes while taking over an intersection and blocking traffic. They are often performed in front of a crowd of onlookers just feet away.
Known as “Ryan’s Law,” named after Ryan Koeppel, a Tarzana teenager killed in 2020 when a speeding car smashed into his vehicle, it allows prosecutors to seek longer sentences.
The other new law will make such events illegal in an “off-street parking facility” — parking lots and parking structures, in other words, giving officers an addition law to slap on offenders.
“Those are generally private property,” Officer Mitch Smith, a California Highway Patrol spokesman based in Westminster, said of the parking areas. “All speed contests are against the law — this just extends the law into that private-property area. Especially in Orange County, we have a lot of issues with street racing.”
Catalytic converter thefts
Thefts of catalytic converters, which reduce emissions, have been on the rise in recent years, because their internal components include rare metals that can be recycled or sold. From July 2021 to June 2022, State Farm said claims for catalytic-converter theft jumped 109% across the country over the previous year.
Metal recyclers and junk dealers buying catalytic converters will have to take a photo of the seller and obtain a written statement saying where the part was obtained. The data must be kept for at least two years and made available to law enforcement upon request. Also, only authorized parties will be allowed to sell catalytic converters.
“You take away the market for stolen goods, you can help cut down on stealing,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said when discussing the bills that became laws.
Protections for bicyclists
Drivers will have to safely merge to a left lane if available or if not slow down when passing a cyclist on the street.
This follows the lead of an already established law for motorists passing such vehicles as an emergency one stopped to the side with flashing lights on.
“I think in general this law absolutely make it a little more safe for cyclists,” said Smith, the CHP officer.
Also, local governments can no longer require cyclists to get licenses to ride their bikes in those jurisdictions.
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Non-citizens can become CHP officers
Non-citizens now can serve as officers in the California Highway Patrol.
Previously, California law expressly banned non-citizens from joining the CHP as officers.
Applicants must have permits to legally work in the U.S.
The CHP, like other police agencies, has struggled to recruit new officers in recent years. In 2022, CHP officials said they were looking to fill 1,000 open officer positions.
The jaywalking law loosens up
Law enforcement will no longer be able to ticket pedestrians for jaywalking unless they are in immediate danger of getting hit by a vehicle.
Previously, officers could stop pedestrians and issue citations in some instances if they were crossing streets outside of a crosswalk or disobeying posted traffic signs, symbols and markings.
Some law enforcement officials have said they believe the new law will put pedestrians more at risk.
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Law enforcement officials will be able to ask the CHP to send out a Yellow Alert when trying to find the suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash, with descriptions of the vehicle and perhaps the suspect or license-plate number. Residents in certain areas could be sent the alerts via cellphones, and they could be displayed as well on electronic freeway message signs. The media would be encouraged to spread the word as well.
The Feather Alert is new, too. Similar to an Amber Alert for missing children or a Silver Alert for missing at-risk elderly adults, this one is to help find missing indigenous people. The law aims to reduce violent crimes against Native Americans.
Veterans on toll roads
Veterans, with certain license plates on their vehicles that prove their service to the country, will no longer have to pay tolls for roads, bridges and highways and in some other circumstances.
“The exemption applies only to vehicles with license plates that are issued to a disabled veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor, prisoner of war, or to veterans who have received distinctions such as the Purple Heart or the Congressional Medal of Honor,” the DMV said in a news release.
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But be careful, vets. Sometimes other steps need to be taken.
For example, on the south Orange County toll roads, veterans will need an active FasTrak account, said Eugene Fields, a spokesman for the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which runs the 73, the 241 and related toll roads.
Those with an active FasTrak account who qualify should submit an image of the license plate, a copy of the vehicle’s valid registration and an image of the number on their transponder. Those requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.