California Motorist Info

The following information is updated periodically. However, laws and regulations can change between updates. State statutes and local ordinances are the ultimate authorities for these issues.

Points of Interest

  • Before entering California, a permit and registration must be obtained for 23 specified semi-automatic rifles, 7 specified semi-automatic pistols, 4 specified semi-automatic shotguns, and any other firearm which is declared by court “to be an assault weapon.” Please contact the California Department of Justice in Sacramento for additional information.
  • Fines and surcharges for speeding or failure to have proof of insurance can approach $1,400.
  • It is illegal to drive with only your parking lights on, any time of day or night. You have to have either full headlights on or no lights on.
  • California allows motorcycles in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes (driver only) even though it is not posted.
  • Under California’s “Speed Trap” law, police may not use electronic speed detection devices on a road which has not been subjected to a speed survey within the previous five years.
  • When making left-hand turns, yield to all traffic. A vehicle which has entered the intersection has the right of way even after light change.
  • For help with a traffic ticket in California, this site may be useful.
  • This article may be useful for dealing with red-light cameras:
    California: Appellate Decision Strikes Down Red Light Camera Evidence

Speed Limits

Rural Interstates: Cars 70, Trucks 55
Urban Interstates: Cars 65, Trucks 55
Other Limited Access Roads: Cars 70, Trucks 55

These speed limits apply unless a different limit is posted.

Absolute (Exceeding the speed limit is illegal per se–regardless of whether it was safe under the specific conditions): 65-70 State highway limit and 55 limit on 2-lane undivided highways
(Driving faster than the speed limit is only evidence of unreasonable speed–you can still argue that your speed was safe under the specific conditions): All other limits

Speed Limits Enforcement Techniques
Enforced through use of:
Pacing: Yes
Radar: Yes
Vascar: No
Automated Speed Enforcement: No, as of 5/10
Aircraft: Yes
Laser: Yes

Aggressive Driver Actions Defined by Statute
None defined. California has amended reckless driving law to include causing bodily injuries to people other than driver. This specifically cites drivers engaged in speed contests.

DUI / DWI Regulations
Click here for detailed information

Ticket Payment Methods
Consult your ticket or clerk of courts

Trial By Declaration Allowed
Yes. (Search California Vehicle Code, section 40902.)

Penal Code Section 1054-1054.10 (Discovery)
Self-Help (Discovery)

Jury Trial Allowed
Speeding: No
Parking: No
Equipment: No
DWI: Yes

Member of Nonresident Compact

Member of Driver License Compact

When and Where to File Accident Reports
Accidents involving death or personal injury must be reported within 24 hours to the local authorities and if the accident results in death, personal injury, or property damage exceeding $750, the accident must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days.

Resident Insurance Requirements
Liability insurance is required (although some states allow posting a cash bond or such as an alternative)
Minimum Coverage Required:
Injury to one person: $15,000
All injuries: $30,000
Property Damage: $5,000

Phone/Texting Restrictions
Hand-Held Ban: All drivers
All Cell Phone Ban: School and transit bus drivers and drivers younger than 18
Texting Ban: All drivers
Enforcement: Primary: hand-held and texting for all drivers/Secondary: all cell phone use by young drivers

Other Regulations

  • Open intoxicants are permitted in the living quarters of a motor home or camper.
  • Firearems must be unloaded and cased in trunk or vehicle storage compartment or locked in a gun case unless one has a California permit to carry concealed.
  • Studded tires are permitted from November 1 to April 1, and can be extended by commission if deemed a bad weather season.
  • Tire chains are required when posted.
  • California has a seat belt law with primary enforcement for all passengers.
  • California has a mandatory child restraint law for passengers under 17 years of age. Children children up to 6-years old, and weighing less than 60 pounds must use approved car safety seats.
  • California has a mandatory motorcycle helmet law for all riders.
  • Registration and insurance card must be carried in the vehicle.

General Information (CA Courts Self-Help Center)
Emergency Cellular Phone Number: 911