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Safety Laws in California

To operate a motor vehicle in the state of California, drivers are required to adhere to certain safety standards and regulations. The intention of these laws is to increase safety for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on roadways.

Below are a few of the safety laws in California that you should be aware of.

Safety Belts

Because safety belts provide a level of protection from injury in motor vehicle collisions, California law requires the following:

  • Vehicles must contain properly functioning seat belts.
  • Any operator of a motor vehicle must wear a safety belt at all times.
  • All passengers 8 years old and older that are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall or taller, to wear a seat belt.
    • Children that are 8 years old and younger that are under 4 feet 9 inches tall must use a child safety seat.

Any driver and/or passenger who is found in violation of these rules is subject to a traffic ticket, should you be pulled over by an officer. If you are found to be driving with an un-belted passenger under the age of 16 years old, you (the driver) are at risk for a separate citation.

Child Safety Seats

Depending on your child's height and age, he or she may be required to use a child passenger restraint system that is federally approved.

In California, all children under 8 years old must:

  • Use a child safety seat or booster.
  • Ride in the back seat of the vehicle UNLESS:
    • The vehicle has no back seats.
    • Back seats are side-facing.
    • Back seats face to the rear of the vehicle.
    • A child safety seat cannot be installed safely in the back seat.

NOTE: Effective January 1, 2017, children under 2 years old must use a rear-facing child safety seat UNLESS:

  • They weigh at least 40 lbs.
  • They measure at least 40 inches tall.

Cell Phones & Driving

In recent years, California has adopted several laws pertaining to the operation of a motor vehicle while using wireless communication devices.

The Wireless Communications Device Law (effective January 2009) states NO DRIVER in California may write, send, or read text messages while behind the wheel.

The Handheld Wireless Telephone Laws (effective July 2008) state:

  • California drivers may NOT use a wireless telephone while driving at any time, unless to make an emergency call to 911, law enforcement, or similar services.
  • Drivers MAY utilize a “hands-free device" UNLESS they are under 18 years old.

If you are caught breaking these laws, you will be charged the following BASE FINES:

  • 1st offense: $20.
  • 2nd offense and subsequent convictions: $50.

In addition to these base fines, you can expect penalty assessments that can bring your overall cost to more than 3 times the amount of your base fine.

For more details, please visit the CA DMV's cell phone laws FAQ.

Window Tinting

The application of sun screening devices such as window tinting to passenger vehicles must meet certain requirements under California law.

In order to abide by these laws, you must:

  • Use transparent material that is green, gray, or neutral smoke in color.
  • Have a luminous transmittance—or, how much light is let through the window—of at least 35%.
  • Not reflect more than 35% on the inner or outer surfaces.

Unattended Children & Pets

To protect the well being of occupants inside a motor vehicle, you must comply with California law regarding unattended children and pets.

When you are not present in the vehicle, it is illegal to:

  • Leave a child up to 6 years old unattended, UNLESS they are supervised by someone at least 12 years old.
  • Leave children or pets in conditions that present a significant risk to their health and safety.
    • Children and pets confined to vehicles in rising temperatures can result in dehydration, stroke, or death.

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