California: The Driver's Guide

March 07, 2018

California Road
It’s sunny, everyone’s happy, the traffic is terrible: you must be in California! Welcome to the Sunshine State, the West coast of the USA and the home of the original Disneyland.

There are a bunch of things about California that make it a great place to drive around and see the sights. But, there are also a bunch of rules and regulations that you need to pay attention to. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a Dummy’s guide to driving around and staying legal on those beautiful roads.

California Driver’s License

To obtain a California driver’s license you’ll have to show your ID, proof-of-residence and pay a fee. Most importantly, you’ll need to take the dreaded driver’s test. There’s a written and practical portion to the test, same as pretty much every other state in the US.

California residents who are under 17 and a half must show that they’ve completed a driver education course, pass a traffic laws and signs test, pay an application fee, and get a parental signature. That’s when you achieve a true right of passage: the Provisional License. Once they’ve held the resulting provisional license for at least six months, the applicant can take the driving test and get a full license.

Beyond the standard driver’s license, California also offers commercial, hazardous materials, and motorcycle licenses. You can also obtain a Restricted Local License, which limits drivers to a small geographic area – such as the grocery store, bank, and post office only. If you only keep your mileage low or local, it’s worth considering a device-based insurer. That way, you won’t have to pay sky-high prices if you only drive short distances.

California Driving Laws

California laws are unique to that state; every state legislature sets its own rules regarding traffic safety.  Below are some relevant California laws; be sure to check the local statutes if you plan to be driving in California.

California imposes primary liability for not wearing a seatbelt, so an officer can stop you for that reason alone.  All passengers over 16 are required to wear a belt, and the driver is responsible for ensuring that passengers are buckled up.  If you’re a driver in California and your thirty year old buddy isn’t wearing his seat belt, you can get a ticket for that.  First offense will cost you upwards of $80 because of the way California structures its traffic ticket fees; second and subsequent offense can run nearly $200.

San Francisco Street

California legislators have taken a hard stance against distracted driving.  All hand-held use and texting use is banned on California roadways. This is a primary liability offense for everyone, and carries a fine of $159 for a first offense and up to $279 for every subsequent offense.

California Driver Safety Facts

The California Office of Traffic Safety releases Traffic Safety Score Card, which summarizes the state’s rate of highway accidents, citations, and fatalities. Although a little older, the most recent report offers some eye-opening insights into why having comprehensive car insurance is so important:

  • In 2014, 29% of all traffic fatalities were as a result of a drunk driver
  • 32% of drivers killed on the roads in 2013 tested positive for drugs
  • In 2014, 77% of all teen road collision fatalities are male

There are some funky things about California’s insurance and driving laws. If you’re still confused about the California mandatory insurance requirements, then check out our California Insurance Guide.

Whether you’re stopping by on vacation, making the big move across the US or are a California native, it’s important to get good insurance. What’s the best way to get insured? Compare prices and packages with and make sure you’re getting the best deal.

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