There are A LOT of driving laws in California.
And here, we’re going to focus on the 3 main ones:
- CA driver’s license
- CA driving laws
- CA road rules
With this, you’ll know everything from getting your CA driver’s license to understanding the CA road signs.
We have something for everyone here.
So let’s dive right in!
California Driving Laws by Category
Here are the topics we’ll be discussing by category.
- How to Get a Driver’s License in California
- California Driver’s License Renewal
- California CDL Requirements
- California Driver’s License Classifications
- How to Get Your California Driving Record
- California Vehicle Registration
- California Distracted Driving Laws
- California Parking Laws
- California Car Seat Laws
- California DUI Laws
Now, let’s get into the details.
California Driver’s License
When it comes to driving, it always begins with your license.
So this is where we’ll start, too.
How to Get a Driver’s License in California
In California, someone as young as 15½ can begin working towards their driver’s license. This is all thanks to the GDL program.
The GDL program lets you go through 3 license stages, namely:
- Instruction permit
- Provisional license
- Full license
Here are the steps to getting an instruction permit:
- Complete 30 hours of driver’s ed
- Complete the California Driver’s License or Identification (DL/ID) Card Application form (click here to do it online)
- Schedule an appointment for the written exam (click here to do it online)
- Submit all necessary documents (proof of identity, date of birth, SS number, legal presence, California residency, driver’s ed completion certificate)
- Give your thumbprint and have your photo taken
- Pass a vision test
- Pass the written exam
- Pay the fee of $39
And here’s how to get your provisional license:
- Be at least 16 years old and hold your instruction permit for 6 months
- Complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 10 hours should be done at night
- Drive 6 hours with a certified instructor
- Schedule a driving test (click here to do it online)
- Submit all necessary documents (proof of identity and legal presence, insurance document for the vehicle you’ll use, proof of completion for the 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, and your instruction permit)
- Pass the driving test
Finally, here are the steps to getting your full driver’s license:
- Be at least 18 years old OR hold your provisional license for 12 months
- Change your provisional license to a full driver’s license
If you get your first license at 18, you simply need to:
- Get an instruction permit
- Pass a driving test
California Driver’s License Renewal
After every 5 years, you’ll need to renew your California driver’s license.
When that time comes, you can renew it either online, in person, or through the mail.
Let’s look at the steps for each one.
- Go to the DMV website
- Log in or create a DMV account
- Review the information in your profile
- Pay the renewal fee of $39
- Wait for your new license to be mailed to you
- Complete the DL or ID Card Application OR bring the renewal notice sent to you by the DMV
- For personal information changes (surname, address, etc.), bring proof documents
- Scan your thumbprint
- Pass a vision test
- Take a photo
- Pay the renewal fee of $39
- If required by the DMV, pass a knowledge exam
- Wait for your new license to be mailed to you
- Complete the California Driver’s License Renewal By Mail Eligibility Information OR submit the renewal notice sent by the DMV
- Pay the $39 renewal fee
- Send these in an envelope to ATTN: Renewal By Mail Unit, PO Box 942890, Sacramento, CA 94290-0001
California CDL Requirements
Want to get a commercial driver’s license in California?
Then here are the steps:
- Choose your CDL class
- Check if you’re eligible for a CDL
- Get a commercial license permit (CLP)
- Complete an ELDT program
- If getting a Class A or B CDL, complete 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 10 should be done at night
- Apply for a CDL (click here to do it online)
- Go to a DMV office and submit the required documents (ELDT certificate, behind-the-wheel training certification, Medical Examination Report form, Medical Examiner’s Certificate, and proof of SSN, identity, and residency)
- Pay the $85 fee for Class A/B CDL or $50 for Class C CDL
- Have your thumbprint scanned
- Pass a vision test
- Take your photo
- Pass the knowledge test
- Get a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Hold your CLP for 14 days
- Schedule a skills test (click here to do it online)
- Bring a vehicle for your intended license class
- Pass the skills test
With that, you can now drive professionally in the state!
California Driver’s License Classifications
California probably has one of the most confusing license classes in the country. This is mainly because the commercial and non-commercial classes have the same letters.
So let’s take a close look at the classes to fully understand them.
- Class A CDL – can operate a combination vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds and more. The towed vehicle should be 10,000 pounds or more.
- Class B CDL – can operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds. If towing a vehicle, it should not exceed 10,000 pounds.
- Class C CDL – can operate vehicles that transport hazardous materials and carry 16 passengers. This should have an endorsement.
- Class A non-CDL – can operate a vehicle with a GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds. The towed vehicle should weigh 10,000 pounds.
- Class B non-CDL – can operate a vehicle that weighs less than 26,000 pounds, while the towed vehicle should weigh less than 10,000 pounds.
- Class C non-CDL – can operate private sedans, SUVs, trucks, or any vehicle weighing less than 26,000 pounds. This is your regular driver’s license.
- Class M – can operate any two-wheeled vehicle
- Class M2 – can operate motorized bicycles, mopeds, or any vehicle that cannot exceed 30mph.
How to Get Your California Driving Record
There are some instances when you’ll need to get hold of your driving record.
Luckily, it’s so easy to obtain it.
- Go to the CA DMV website
- Log in or create an account
- Fill up the online form
- Pay a fee of $2
- Print your driving record
- Fill up the INF 1125 form
- Visit your local DMV office
- Present your ID, the INF 1125 form, and a $5 fee
- Fill up the INF 1125 form
- Issue a check for $5
- Mail these to Department of Motor Vehicles, Public Operations – MS G199, P.O. Box 944247, Sacramento, CA 94244–2470
- Get your driving record via mail
California Driving Laws
Now that you know all about the California driver’s license, let’s move on.
This time, we’re going to talk about the actual driving laws.
California Vehicle Registration
Just like you can’t drive without a license, you can’t use a vehicle that isn’t registered.
If you’re caught driving an unregistered vehicle, you’ll have to pay BIG fines.
No one wants that.
So here are the steps to registering your vehicle in California:
- Go to your local DMV office
- Fill out the Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 277)
- Submit the certificate of title with the seller’s signature
- Submit a smog certification (if the vehicle is at least 4 years old)
- Submit an odometer mileage statement
- Submit a bill of sale
- Pay the fee (price depends on your vehicle)
- Present a valid ID, VIN verification, and proof of insurance
If you need to renew your vehicle registration, here are some ways you can do it:
- Go to an official CA DMV kiosk, scan the renewal notice barcode that the DMV sent you, and pay the renewal fee.
- Go to the CA DMV website, provide the last 5 digits of your VIN, show proof of auto insurance, and pay the renewal fee.
California Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous forms of driving.
This is why California implements strict cellphone laws.
For adults, they are NOT allowed to use their phones while driving. That includes texting, browsing, or calling.
They can use hands-free systems but only for necessary cellphone use.
Those younger than 18 years old are NOT even allowed to use hands-free systems. This is because teens are often more inexperienced and irresponsible.
If you are caught breaking this law, you will have to pay a fine of around $170, plus any additional charges.
And, since distracted driving is a primary law, a law enforcer can ticket you if they see you driving with your phone.
Also, even though the law only focuses on cellphones, it’s best to avoid all kinds of distractions, such as cognitive, manual, or visual distractions.
California Parking Laws
California uses color-coded curbs to tell you whether or not you can park there.
This is what each color means:
- White – You can only stop to pick up or drop off passengers. The driver should always remain inside the vehicle.
- Green – You’re allowed to park in green curbs. There is usually a parking time limit sign.
- Yellow – Loading and unloading of passengers or freights are allowed. There is also a time limit for stopped vehicles.
- Red – Parking, stopping, or standing is not allowed here.
- Blue – Parking is allowed for vehicles that carry a disabled person. The vehicle should have a license plate or placard for a disabled person.
What if there are no colors?
Here is a list of some illegal parking in California:
- In a “NO PARKING” area
- In front of a driveway
- On a sidewalk
- Blocking a sideway
- On a marked or unmarked crosswalk
- Near a side ramp or curb for disabled persons
- Opposite another parked vehicle
- Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or station driveway
- In a disabled parking slot (if you don’t have a disabled license plate or placard)
- On a freeway
- On the wrong side of the street
As for penalties, here are the fines you’ll have to pay for breaking certain parking laws in California.
|Parking on Bike Lane||$50|
|Parking Posted Fire Lane||$100|
|Parking or Blocking Crosswalk||$50|
|Parking in Special Spaces||$35|
|Parking or Blocking a Driveway||$50|
|Parking within 15 feet of a Fire Station Driveway||$35|
|Parking or Stopping in Tunnel||$35|
|Parking or Blocking Sidewalk for Wheelchair Access||$445|
|Vehicle Parked or Stopped in Opposite Direction of Traffic||$35|
|Parallel Parking on Left on One-Way Street||$35|
|Block Access to Disabled Space||$445|
|Blue Zone Disabled Parking Only||$445|
|Parking within 15 feet of Fire Hydrants||$100|
|Parking Near Railroad Track||$50|
|Private Property Posting||$52|
|Exceeding Posted Time Limit||$57|
|Leaving Person Locked Inside Vehicle||$53|
California Car Seat Laws
For adults, the law is simple – WEAR YOUR SEATBELT.
Whether you’re the driver, in the passenger seat, or even at the back, you’re required to buckle up.
If not, a traffic enforcer can stop you on the spot and give you a ticket.
Car seat laws are more specific. This is because children are in the most danger if a collision or accident happens.
But how can you adhere to the California car seat laws if you don’t know them?
Well, here they are:
- Rear-facing car seats – for children under 2 years old that weigh no more than 40lbs and are shorter than 3ft’4in. This car seat should be placed in the backseat.
- Front-facing car seats – for children 3 years old and exceed the weight and height limits of the rear-facing car seat
- Booster seat – for children that exceed the weight and height limits of the front-facing car seat (check your front-facing car seat for these numbers as it will depend on the manufacturer)
- Safety belt – for children 8 years old or older and are taller than 4ft’9in.
If you break the seatbelt law, you’ll have to pay a fine of $162.
But if you break the car seat law, the fine shoots up. You’ll have to pay a fine of $490!
California DUI Laws
In California, there is an “implied consent” law that requires you to submit to a breath or blood test if suspected of DUI.
If you refuse, that will incur penalties, including license suspension.
Now, these tests will show the percentage of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in you. It is illegal if:
- You are an adult driving with a BAC level of 0.08%
- You hold a commercial driver’s license and have a BAC level of 0.04%
- You are under 21 years old and have a BAC level of 0.01%
As you might expect, the penalties for DUI are very harsh.
You could face license suspensions, large fines, and even jail time.
Here is a table showing you the DUI penalties:
|License Suspension:||Fine:||Jail Time:|
|First offense||6 months (can get a restricted license)||$390 to $5,000 (depends on damage)||48 hours to 6 months (can get probation through DUI school)|
|Second offense||2 years (can get restricted license for short period)||$390 to $5,000 (depends on damage)||96 hours to 1 year|
|Third offense||3 years||$390 to $5,000 (depends on damage)||120 days to 1 year|
If you cause injury or death due to DUI, you need to spend 16 months to 16 years in State Prison.
As you can see, California does not take DUI lightly.
So it’s best to avoid it if you don’t want to face these penalties…
Or more importantly, if you want to keep yourself, your passengers, and everyone around you safe.
California Road Rules
Finally, let’s look at the California road rules.
California Road Signs
There are a lot of signals, signs, and markings that help us navigate California roads.
Let’s look at some of the most basic ones here.
Traffic signals are your regular red – stop, yellow – slow down, and green – go lights. If the red or yellow lights are flashing, then that means you have to stop, look around, and then proceed if it is safe.
There are also signals for pedestrians.
This means you cannot cross that area.
Then there are the signs.
Here are the most common road signs you’ll see along the California roads.
This means to slow down as there are children crossing.
This is a sign that indicates railroad crossings
Then we have the lane makings.
- A single solid yellow line – separates the two-way traffic
- A double solid yellow line – you must not pass over or drive to the left of these lines
- A broken yellow line – you can pass with caution
- A single solid white line – separates lanes going in the same direction
- A double solid white line – you should not pass when you see these lines
- A broken white line – you can switch lanes with caution
California Road Conditions
As the seasons change, your driving should change, too.
Yes, you have to match your driving to the road conditions.
Here are just some safety tips to keep in mind for the different road conditions in California:
- Driving at night – never forget to turn on your headlights, avoid driving when you’re feeling drowsy, keep your eyes open since it will be harder to see your surroundings.
- Driving with a sun glare – wear polarized shades, use your car visor, make sure your windshield and mirrors are clean so they won’t reflect, try to avoid driving when sun glare is prominent.
- Driving on slippery roads – slow down, keep your windshield wipers on, don’t panic if you start hydroplaning.
- Driving on flooded roads – find a different route, watch out for obstacles, slow down.
- Driving with high winds – hold the steering wheel firmly, always be alert for any falling debris/trees/objects, don’t use cruise control, be proactive
- Driving through fog or smoke – use a fog light, use a low beam, increase your following distance, avoid passing traffic or crossing lanes as much as possible, stop if you really can’t see anything.
- Driving in hills and curves – slow down, always be on the alert.
- Driving in traffic congestion – don’t get distracted with your phone, don’t tailgate, make sure your fuel is full.
Okay, that was a LOT.
But now you know all the California driving laws that everyone should know.
So whether you’re looking for requirements related to your driver’s license or just want to know how to drive in different California road conditions, you can find them here.
Treat this as your complete 2023 guide to California driving laws.
So pick the category you want to learn about and read more on it!
We hope this article has been a great help!