California

Highway safety laws differ from state to state. The summary information here can be used to compare laws in specific categories. We monitor legislative changes and update this information as needed.

DUI/DWI
BAC defined as illegal per se 0.08
Administrative license suspension 1st offense? 4 months
Restore driving privileges during suspension? after 30 days1
RESTRICTIONS ON CELLPHONE USE AND TEXTING
Hand-held ban all drivers
Young drivers all cellphone ban drivers younger than 18
Texting ban all drivers2
Enforcement primary: hand-held and texting by drivers 18 and older; secondary: drivers younger than 183
MAXIMUM POSTED SPEED LIMITS
Rural interstates (mph) 70;
Urban interstates (mph) 65
Other limited access roads (mph) 70
Other roads (mph) 65
MAXIMUM POSTED SPEED LIMITS FOR TRUCKS
Rural interstates (mph) 55
Urban interstates (mph) 55
Other limited access roads (mph) 55
Other roads (mph) 55
YOUNG DRIVER LICENSING SYSTEMS
To get a learners license you must:
Have a minimum age of 15, 6 months4
YOUNG DRIVER LICENSING SYSTEMS
Before getting a license or restricted license you must:
Have a mandatory holding period of 6 months
Have a minimum supervised driving time of 50 hours, 10 of which must be at night
Have a minimum age of 164
YOUNG DRIVER LICENSING SYSTEMS
Restrictions during intermediate or restricted license stage:
Nighttime restrictions 11 p.m.-5 a.m.; duration: 12 months secondary enforcement
Passenger restrictions

(family members excepted unless otherwise noted)
no passengers younger than 20 (limited exception for immediate family) duration: 12 months secondary enforcement
YOUNG DRIVER LICENSING SYSTEMS
Minimum age at which restrictions may be lifted:
Nighttime restrictions 17
Passenger restrictions 17
REGULAR LICENSING RENEWAL CYCLE
Length of regular renewal cycle 5 years
OLDER DRIVER SPECIAL LICENSING PROVISIONS
Accelerated renewal none
Other provisions at age 70, mail renewal is prohibited; no more than two sequential mail renewals are permitted, regardless of age
CHILD RESTRAINTS
Must be in child restraint 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches5
Adult safety belt permissible 8 through 15 years or at least 57 inches
Maximum fine 1st offense $1006
Seating preference children 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat5
Children not covered all children covered
SAFETY BELT USE
Initial effective date 01/01/86
Standard enforcement? yes; effective 01/01/93
Who is covered? In what seats? 16+ years in all seats
Maximum fine 1st offense $20
Can nonuse decrease monetary awards for injuries in lawsuits? yes
MOTORCYCLE HELMET USE
Motorcyclists covered all riders
BICYCLE HELMET USE
Covered by state law 17 and younger
PICKUP TRUCKS: RESTRICTIONS ON RIDING IN CARGO AREAS
Restrictions on riding in cargo areas yes
Gaps in coverage if the person is restrained by a federally approved restraint system; farmer owned vehicle used exclusively within farming land or 1 mile of highway between 1 part to another; parade if not more than 8 miles per hour; emergency situations
LOW-SPEED VEHICLES
On which roads are low-speed vehicles permitted? roads with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less
What is the top speed permissible for low-speed vehicles? 25 mph
MINITRUCKS
Initial effective date 01/01/07
Where permitted located on a natural island with an area in excess of 20,000 acres and that is within a county having a population in excess of 4,000,000
Speed restrictions no
Vehicle classification under state law autoette
AUTOMATED ENFORCEMENT: RED LIGHT CAMERAS
Statewide or only specified locations? statewide
Violations red light
Citations issued to whom? registered owner
Who is liable? driver
What image is taken? tag and driver
Traditional enforcement penalty $100 base fine/1 point
Auto enforcement penalties/record same as for traditional citation
AUTOMATED ENFORCEMENT: RAIL CROSSINGS
Statewide or only specified locations? statewide
Violations rail crossing
Citations issued to whom? registered owner
Who is liable? driver
What image is taken? tag and driver
Traditional enforcement penalty $100 fine/1 point
Auto enforcement penalties/record same as for traditional citation

1Drivers usually must demonstrate special hardship to justify restoring privileges during suspension, and then privileges often are restricted.

2California drivers who are 18 and older may dictate, send or listen to text-based messages if they're using voice-activated, hands-free devices.

3The laws in Arkansas and California prohibit police from stopping a vehicle to determine if a driver is in compliance with the law. Clearly, that language prohibits the use of checkpoints to enforce the law, but it has been interpreted as the functional equivalent of secondary provisions that typically state the officer may not stop someone suspected of a violation unless there is other, independent, cause for a stop.

4In California, students enrolled in driver education may drive while supervised by an instructor. License applicants who do not take driver education must wait until age 18 for a license. They are not required to go through an intermediate license stage.

5In California, children weighing more than 40 pounds may be belted without a booster seat if they are seated in the rear seat of a vehicle with only lap belts. The California rear seat requirement does not apply if there is no rear seat; the rear seats are side-facing jump seats; the rear seats are rear-facing seats; the child passenger restraint system cannot be installed properly in the rear seat; all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12; or medical reasons necessitate that the child not ride in the rear seat. A child may not ride in the front seat of a motor vehicle with an active passenger airbag if the child is riding in a rear-facing child restraint system.

6This state assesses points for violations.