2020 driving laws: What’s new in your state?

The start of a new year usually means new laws go into effect. Sometimes it’s easy to miss them; it seems like there’s no definitive way of getting notified. This year, there’s not all that much to know in Florida, Texas, Oregon, or Washington. But California has a few new ones…

Here are the new laws in the Golden State:

Distracted driving

You may have seen a message going around on social media about much stricter laws around using cell phones while driving. 

As completely credible and authoritative as that looks, it is actually not true. In fact, it circulated at the beginning of 2019, too—all over the US and Canada.

What is true is that California is cracking down on distracted driving (defined as using a “handheld electronic device” without hands-free) it won’t cost you your license for three years. In fact, it won’t do much of anything beyond a citation until July 1, 2021, which kind of seems like forever from now. As of then, it can add a point to your driving record if you’ve been cited for the same offense in the previous 36 months. Also true: straightforward, non-convoluted laws apparently have no place in California.

Passing a stopped garbage truck

Another new law that did go into effect January 1, 2020 is also a little less than clear. Under AB 2115, when a motorist approaches a stopped garbage truck, they must move to ”an available lane adjacent to the waste service vehicle and pass at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the waste service vehicle.” It’s slightly confusing, because it seems like that’s the only logical way to deal with a stopped garbage truck—to carefully go around it. 

But apparently this law is intended to increase safety for sanitation workers by adding them to the previously implemented law that protects EMS and law enforcement as well as Caltrans crews and tow truck drivers by requiring drivers to move to a lane that is not adjacent to the emergency vehicle. It seems like we’re far less likely to encounter a stopped garbage truck on a multi-lane highway, but hopefully this will create a safer environment for sanitation workers.

Not for sale: DMV appointments

We all know that DMV appointments can be hard to get… but how many of us have really tried selling one? They might save you a few minutes (or not) over just waiting in line, but… they’re not exactly Superbowl tickets. But it’s a moot point now, because as of January 1 it’s illegal to sell a DMV appointment time, or even to offer one for sale. So it’s time to come up with a different side hustle idea!

Drive a car? You can ride a Vespa

For California drivers who’ve considered a cute motorized scooter, there’s good news this year: you don’t need a motorcycle license anymore. Anyone with a Class C driver’s license can ride a scooter.

It’s still a really good idea to take a class like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course—it will teach you important techniques for riding in traffic, as well as the physics of scooter handling and emergency maneuvers that will make you a much safer rider. And completing that course or a similar one will usually get you a discount on insurance.

Meanwhile, in Florida…

We really mean it this time!

A law against texting and driving technically went into effect in July, but as of December 31, 2019, it will actually be enforced.

photo credit: yourmechanic.com

Before this law took effect, law enforcement couldn’t actually pull someone over for texting and driving; they could only cite them if they pulled them over for another offense (like speeding) and then happened to catch them texting. After that, they were allowed a grace period, in which they could pull drivers over for texting but could just give them a warning.

Now, texting drivers can be pulled over and will be ticketed. The first time, the driver will get a $30 fine plus court fees. For a second offense, the fine is $60 plus court fees and three points on the driver’s record.

In Oregon, the changes are minimal:

Changed your address? You don’t need a sticker

If you move, you still need to report it to the DMV within 30 days. But you’re no longer required to have a change of address sticker. (Nor will DMV issue them.) All the states are doing it, apparently; the only two holdouts still using stickers are Michigan and Connecticut.

More flexibility, savings when you drive a greener car

If your car’s electric, or you get more than 40 miles per gallon, you can either pay the full cost of registration or renewal, or you can opt to pay a lower fee and a per-mile charge each month.

That’s it for new 2020 driving laws in TRED territory. Happy new year, and drive safely!

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