New California Traffic Laws 2023   

Published on 02/06/2023 by Monica Burneikis

New traffic and road laws, signed into effect by Gov. Newsom, took effect on January 1, 2023. While drivers should always exercise defensive driving techniques, these laws make it more important than ever to remain aware.

2023 California Traffic Laws Honor Cyclists & Pedestrians

We recommend visiting the DMV Highlights page for a complete description of 2023 traffic law changes. In the meantime, here is a general synopsis of seven new changes to pay attention to when using public roads and other travel ways. Understanding the ins-and-outs of these laws can help you avoid being the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit.

Jaywalking is no longer illegal

Informed drivers know that “pedestrians have the right of way.” That has been a standard rule in California for years. However, up until now, there was one exception - pedestrians jaywalking in the presence of a nearby crosswalk. This year, Californians witness the implementation of the “Freedom to Walk” act. In response to increased occurrences of car vs. pedestrian collisions, especially those resulting in traumatic injury or fatality, lawmakers now consider all pedestrians to have the right of way, regardless of whether they are crossing in a marked or unmarked pedestrian crosswalk. 

Unfortunately, the Bay Area has some of the largest fatal or near-fatal pedestrian accidents, particularly at busy intersections. Here are some tips to help you avoid being a defendant in a lawsuit arising out of a car vs. pedestrian accident:

Be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times

Always keep an eye out for pedestrians and drive as if a person could step into the roadway at any time, especially when driving in cities and near busy intersections.

Honor the speed limit

Drivers should always obey the speed limit to protect the safety of themselves and others. Travel speed certainly impacts the severity of injuries suffered if you strike a pedestrian in your car or on a motorcycle. If a reckless pedestrian steps into the roadway when your car is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, the ability to prove you were in compliance with all traffic safety laws is one of your best defenses. Any sign or evidence that you were speeding, not using turn signals, not paying attention to a flashing crosswalk signal, etc., will put you at risk for harsher penalties.

Unsafe pedestrians are still held accountable (but the law is on their side)

Yes, a reckless pedestrian is still held accountable for their actions. Even though the new laws are highly favorable to pedestrians, a pedestrian can be cited for engaging in action that is deemed to create an immediate risk of collision. However, the responsibility of proof remains on the driver. You may still be found guilty if there are no witnesses or CCTV footage to prove your side of the story.

Use crosswalks whenever possible and always look both ways

If you are a pedestrian, always honor the rules of Pedestrian Safety 101. Even the law is now on the side of the pedestrian, it remains in your best interest to use crosswalks whenever possible and to look both ways. While you do have more rights as a personal injury lawsuit victim, risking getting hit by a vehicle is not worth the severe injury or fatality that could result. Remember, in the car vs. pedestrian challenge, the car almost always wins.

Drivers must give cyclists one lane of space when traveling the same direction

In 2023, a new law went into effect that requires drivers to move over to the left and leave a full lane of space between the driver and the cyclist(s) whenever possible when you are driving in the same direction. As with pedestrians, cyclists generally have the “right of way” in the eyes of the law due to their vulnerability.

If it is impossible to leave an entire lane of space, or safely yield a minimum of three feet between you and a cyclist, slow down and follow behind the cyclist until there is room to pass safely. If you live and work in an area where cycling is popular and oncoming traffic makes it difficult to pass safely, add additional travel time to accommodate cycling speeds as necessary.

California traffic laws pertaining to electric bikes are legal in bike lanes and trails

Several areas retained laws prohibiting electric bikes from using bike lanes, paths, and trails. The recent passing of SB 1909 makes it legal for Class 3 electric bikes to use these bike-specific travel ways.

Harsher penalties for street racing (and racing in off-street parking facilities)

There is already a statewide ban on street racing. Now, new laws impose harsher penalties for anyone who violates street racing restrictions, including participating in street racing or sideshows. AB2000 also makes racing illegal in off-street parking facilities. Among other things, if caught, drivers engaging in these activities will now risk facing felony criminal charges.

Harsher penalties for excessive speed (100+ mph) resulting in death

The California legislature also established harsher penalties for drivers involved in fatal accidents while driving at excessive speeds. Excessive speeds have been defined as going 100+ mph. If a fatal injury is associated with street racing or excessive speed, and a driver is under the influence, they may also face being charged with murder (rather than manslaughter).

Drivers responsible for understanding advanced driver assistance systems

While advanced driver assistance systems supposedly keep drivers safer, they do have limitations. If you own a vehicle with so-called advanced driver assistance systems, know their limitations. As with “automated” or “self-driving” cars, manufacturers are clear: you must keep your eyes on the road. Drivers are ultimately responsible for their cars’ actions regardless of whether an advanced driver assistance system was in use.

Have You Sustained A Personal Injury Due To The Violation Of The New  California Traffic Laws?

Paying attention to the laws, and practicing safe, defensive driving, biking or walking is the best way to avoid an unnecessary accident.

Have you been involved in a personal injury accident due to a driver or others’ negligence or failure to uphold new or existing traffic laws? Contact Burneikis Law and schedule a free, 30-minute consultation. We will inform you of your rights and let you know if our support can help you navigate a smoother, faster and more positive outcome.

Monica Burneikis - Oakland Personal Injury Attorney
Monica Burneikis has been an accident and personal injury lawyer for over 15 years. She knows what it takes to fight with insurance companies in order to obtain maximum compensation for injury victims and their families.
Contact Burneikis Law