Every new year, there are a few new traffic laws California drivers should be aware of, or else risk a traffic stop. Even if some of these traffic violations seem minor, it is important to remember that any traffic violation can give the police a reason to pull you over. Once the police make a valid traffic stop, they may end up looking for other violations, including driving under the influence.
Move Over and Slow Down for Caltrans
Most drivers should be aware of California's “move over, slow down” laws when there are emergency vehicles or police officers on the side of the road. This new law, going into effect on January 1, 2021, will clarify that the law also applies to tow trucks, Caltrans vehicles, and any other emergency vehicles with flashing lights on the highway. If drivers don't move over or don't slow down if they can't move over, they could be pulled over and hit with a $50 ticket.
New Texting and Driving Penalties for California Drivers
Drivers who have 2 or more violations for using a cell phone while driving within a 36-month period will soon have a point added to their driving record. This new law does not go into place until July 1, 2021. However, a second violation now will still involve a fine.
Driving while texting or looking at your phone increases the risk of an accident. This can be more of a problem when a driver is distracted by their phone but also has had a couple of drinks. Even if the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit, they can still be charged with a DUI if the driver was considered “impaired.”
Don't Give the Police a Reason to Pull You Over
When the police make a traffic stop, they cannot base their decision on a hunch or generalized suspicion. To temporarily stop the car requires that the police have a “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has violated a traffic law, is driving under the influence, or has committed a criminal offense.
Even if you think you're a “good driver,” most drivers commit minor traffic violations all the time. Fortunately, most of the time a minor violation will not lead to getting pulled over. However, texting while driving, not signaling a lane change, or not giving a cyclist enough room to pass can all be reasons to make a traffic stop.
The police often look for certain “minor” traffic violations as a way to stop a driver and investigate the driver to see if he or she may be driving under the influence. Once a traffic stop is initiated, the police may look for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. This includes:
- Smell of alcohol
- Smell of marijuana
- Open containers
- Drug paraphernalia
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Contradictions in a saying where the driver came from or where the driver was
If You Do End Up Under Arrest in 2021
If you do end up getting pulled over for a minor traffic violation and are charged with a DUI in the East Bay, don't let a criminal conviction be how you start off the new year. Call an experienced Alameda County and Contra Costa County DUI lawyer for help.
With over 37 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a DUI conviction can affect your future, possibly your job, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a DUI, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.