New Year, new traffic laws in California

Emily Parkin

The start of 2022 will feature several new laws going into effect aimed at improving public safety throughout the Inland Empire and elsewhere, according to the California Highway Patrol.

One of the laws highlighted by the agency is Assembly Bill 974, which was signed by the governor on Sept. 16 and requires anyone under 18 years old who rides an equestrian animal — horses, mules and donkeys — on a paved highway to “wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.”

The legislation is intended to enforce the same requirements for youths who ride bikes, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, in-line and roller skates.

Additionally, the new law requires a person of any age to wear reflective gear or a lamp while riding equestrian animals after dark on paved highways.

Fines for first-time violators are $25 per infraction. However, anyone using an equestrian animal in a parade or festival is exempt from the helmet and gear provisions, according to the legislation.

The CHP also spotlighted AB 798, which was signed into law on Sept. 24 and removes restrictions previously imposed on federally recognized Native American tribes operating emergency vehicles on their reservations. There are 109 designated tribes statewide, 11 of which are in Riverside County.

The bill specifically permits all the tribes to acquire and deploy ambulances, as well as firefighting and other emergency vehicles, without the state requiring that the vehicles be inspected by the CHP, and without those individuals who may legally operate them having to go through the Department of Motor Vehicles for special licenses.

Previously, the state treated tribal emergency vehicles the same as privately operated ones, mandating rigorous inspection and licensing. However, the legislation recognized that the tribes are sovereign and self-governing, and that imposing a lengthy approval process was unjustified.   

The issue came to the fore in 2019 when the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians acquired a “state-of-the-art ambulance” but couldn’t use it for a year because of the protracted inspection process and licensing for all of the tribe’s 50 firefighters who might need to operate it.  

Lastly, the CHP issued a reminder about a law that took effect over the summer under a measure approved in the 2019-20 legislative session — Assembly Bill 47. As of July 1, a motorist convicted of using a mobile phone without a hands-free device for a second time within a 36-month period will have a point added to his or her license.

New Year, new traffic laws in California

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