Man talking on the smartphone and driving a car

New California Driving Laws for 2021

Safely operating your vehicle should be the top priority for any driver every time they get behind the wheel. There are many unknowns with any given trip – road hazards, distracted drivers, weather conditions and more – that can cause a quick errand or daily commute to take a turn for the worse.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported more than 36,000 fatalities from motor vehicle traffic collisions in 2019, with about 10 percent of those occurring in California. There are more than 15 million registered vehicles in California, so to help keep drivers safe, the California Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles are always looking to improve existing traffic laws – or implement new ones.

“Part of being a safe driver, and protecting those in and around your vehicle, is knowing and abiding by the rules of the road, so it’s important to keep up-to-date on any changes to driving and traffic laws,” said Kevin Quinn, vice president of claims and customer experience at Mercury Insurance. “Staying safe on the roads will help keep your driving record clean, which could save you money on your insurance premium and might even qualify you for a discount.”

The following new 2021 California driving laws are now in effect or going into effect later this year:
  • Unattended Children in Motor Vehicles. An individual who trespasses or damages a vehicle while rescuing a child six years or under from a vehicle – due to heat, cold, a lack of ventilation or other dangers – will be exempt from civil or criminal liability, beginning January 1, 2021. Individuals must take certain required steps prior to forcing entry, including calling 911, ensuring that the vehicle is locked and forced entry is the only means of access, and believing that the child is in need of rescue due to imminent potential harm.
  • Emergency Vehicle Safety. Updates to California’s “Move Over, Slow Down” law will extend to local streets and roads, not just freeways, starting January 1, 2021. California drivers will now be required to slow down or change lanes while approaching stationary emergency vehicles flashing their lights, including first responder vehicles, tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles.
  • License Points for Distracted Driving. Beginning July 1, 2021, drivers found violating the law by using a handheld cell phone – texting, calling or other activities – while driving for the second time within 36 months will be fined and will also have a point added to their driving record.

Driving safely and abiding by traffic laws can prevent collisions from occurring, and being a safe driver can also save you money on your auto insurance. Talk to your insurance agent to see if you’re eligible for a Mercury Insurance Good Driver Discount.