The roads may look the same and your daily commute may be as congested as ever, but the new year did bring some important changes. California traffic laws may have been affected by the legalization of marijuana, but they cover much more than this issue. Knowledge of these laws is very important because whether you know the law or not, if you violate one or more of them, you will be held responsible. The consequences for breaking those laws may come in the form of warnings, fines, a suspended or revoked license, or time spent behind bars.

Driving and the Use of Marijuana and Alcohol

One of the most talked-about changes in 2018 was the legalization of marijuana. While it may be legal in some circumstances, however, it is still illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. It’s also against the law to smoke or ingest marijuana or products while driving or riding in a vehicle.

Another law about driving while under the influence will be on the books in July. This law targets employees of ridesharing services. Anyone involved in ridesharing services, including Uber and Lyft, cannot drive with a passenger in the vehicle if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more.

Vehicle Registration Tax and Smog Exemptions

A couple of laws regarding the ownership and condition of vehicles also went into effect in 2018. Prepare to pay more when you register your vehicle this year. Vehicle owners will pay an extra $25 to $175, depending on the value of the vehicle. The additional tax will be used for state road improvements and repair. However, there is a vehicle license fee that may be deductible on your taxes; check it out at the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles site under Vehicle Registration and Title Information.

The second legal change in this area has to do with smog checks, or an exemption from smog checks, to be more precise. For the first six years of ownership, vehicle owners are exempt from smog checks and can pay an annual fee of $20 instead. If you’re interested, this exemption can be extended to eight years, but plan on paying a little bit more for the convenience.

Parking Meter and Disable Parking Placards

Expect some changes to some parking laws as well. If you’ve had the misfortune of paying fines because of a broken parking meter, you’ll be happy to know that drivers will no longer be cited. Be aware that some jurisdictions may limit parking to just four hours, but this must be posted on a sign for it to be effective. Some very low-income individuals may see their parking citation debt reduced or paid over a period of time.

If you have a disabled parking placard, be careful to keep it current. The DMV will be performing random audits of placards and will make changes in how many replacement placards are issued. Those people who are permanent placard holders will need to renew them every six years.

The Safety of Passengers and Pedestrians

Drivers aren’t the only people who will be affected by the changing laws. In July, passengers on buses will have to use seat belts when the belts are available. If you’re a regular bus user, be on the lookout for belts, so you don’t get fined for breaking this new law.

Finally, pedestrians are free to enter a crosswalk even when the signal is flashing a “Don’t Walk” or upraised hand as long as a countdown is present and there’s enough time left for the pedestrian to get safely across the road. This final change isn’t so much a new law as it is clarification to an existing law.

Be sure to keep these new laws in mind as you hit the road this year for safer travels and to avoid any expensive tickets. If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly, contact a car accident lawyer in California, for advice.