California Driving Rules
Note: This is a summary from the California Driver Handbook 2000. It is incomplete, and out of date. It will hopefully be helpful if you are taking the California written driving test, or to familiarize yourself rapidly with Californian road rules. Check out the California Department of Motor Vehicles for more information; sample written driving tests, with answers, are available at their web site.
Page numbers in the California Driver Handbook 2000 are listed in square brackets after the rule. There may be references elsewhere in the handbook that I have not listed.
- Animal injury: you must pull over to the road and stop. Try to find the owner, and if you can't call the nearest humane society, police of the CHP. Don't try to move an injured animal, and don't leave an injured animal to die. 
- Injury or fatality: The police must be informed within 24 hours, and you must make a written accident report. 
- Minor traffic collision with a parked vehicle or other property: if you can't find the owner, you must leave a note on the other car. Report the accident to the police, or CHP in unincorporated areas. Similarly, if you have a parked vehicle that rolls away and damages another vehicle. 
- Report an accident to the DMV if there is property damage in excess of $500 or if there are any injuries, and you must make a written accident report. [From the second sample test for Class C driver license.]
- Stop if you're involved in an accident - an injured person may require help - hit and run convictions are very harsh. Call the police or CHP if there is an injury. Provide your address and insurance details to the other driver. 
Alcohol and drugs:
- Blood alcohol level: it's illegal to operate a vehicle, or water vehicle or water skis, with a level of 0.08% or more. If it is a commercial vehicle, the level is 0.04%. For minors the limit is 0.01%. 
- Carrying beverages: The only alcohol within a vehicle must be full, sealed and unopened, otherwise it must be placed in the trunk or a place where passengers don't sit. This doesn't apply to bus, taxi, camper or motor home non-driving passengers. 
- Drugs: driving under the influence of drugs whether legal or illegal may affect your driving ability. Drugs taken at the same time as alcohol can have particularly strong effects on your driving ability. The California driving laws apply to drugs other than alcohol too. 
- Activity on the roadside: when there's lots of activity on the side of the road, it is likely that someone will cross or enter the road.  Drive more slowly in these areas. 
- Blind spot: the driver has a blind spot on the immediate left and right, see the diagram on page 31 of the handbook.  Don't drive in the blind spot of another driver, and avoid driving alongside other cars on roads with multiple lanes - move ahead or drop back. 
- Bus flashing red lights: you must stop until children are safely across the street and the bus lights stop flashing red. A bus flashing yellow lights indicates that you should prepare to stop, as the bus lights may start flashing red soon. 
- Class C driver license: you may drive any 2-axle vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lb or less, any 3-axle vehicle weighing 6,000 lb or less total, or any house car. 
- Clear windows and mirrors: It is illegal to have anything blocking your view of the road, such as hanging things on the front mirror.  There are special places where stickers are permitted on your car window (see the handbook for details). 
- Crosswalks: Do not pass a car from behind that has stopped at a crosswalk, as a pedestrian, that you can't see, may be crossing.  Every intersection where streets with sidewalks meet has a crosswalk for pedestrians to cross (where the sidewalk would be, if you extended it across the street would be), whether it is marked or not. 
- Cyclists must ride in the same direction as other traffic and should ride on the roadway, not the sidewalk. 
- Driving a bus, truck, or towing a vehicle: with four lanes in your direction, you may only drive in the two right-most lanes. 
- Emergency vehicles: You must yield the right-of-way to any emergency vehicle using a siren and red light, by pulling as close to the right edge of the road as possible and stop until the vehicle has passed (don't stop in an intersection, stop after it). It is illegal to follow within 300 feet of an emergency vehicle answering an emergency call. 
- Fire hoses: don't drive over unprotected fire hoses. 
- Following distance: A vehicle should be about 3 seconds ahead of you. Four seconds if the roads are slippery, following a motorcyclist, with a tailgater behind you, when the vehicle is heavily loaded, following large vehicles blocking your view, following buses or a vehicle carrying hazardous materials, when a driver wants to pass you, or when merging on a freeway. 
- Headlights must be turned on 30 minutes after sunset, and be left on until 30 minutes before sunrise. You must turn your lights on if you can't see at least 1000 feet ahead. Switch to low beams within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle, and within 300 feet of a vehicle you are following. 
- Intersections: With traffic lights, do not enter unless you can get all the way across before the light turns red.  Without stop or yield signs, slow down and be ready to stop giving right of way to vehicles in the intersection, to cars which arrive before you, or to the car on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you.  At an intersection, look left first, then right, then left again (cars coming from the left are closer to you as you enter the intersection).  It is illegal to enter an intersection unless there is space to
completely cross it. 
- Pedestrians have right of way at any crosswalk or pedestrian crossing, and you must stop for them to cross.  A pedestrian using a guide dog or white cane must always be given right of way. 
- Protruding loads: do not carry anything which protrudes beyond the fenders on the left side or more than six inches beyond the fenders on the right side, and a load extending more than four feet from the back of the vehicle must have a 12 inch red or orange square flag or two red lights at night. 
- Reacting and stopping: At 55 mph it takes about 400 feet to react to something and stop. At 35 mph, it takes about 210 feet. 
- Road reflectors will appear red if you're going in the wrong traffic direction. 
- Single light approaching: if a vehicle with one light is approaching drive as far to the right as possible, it may be a vehicle missing a headlight.
- Skidding: To get out of a skid from acceleration, stop accelerating and straighten the front wheels, do not brake. If you get into a skid and the wheels lock, stop breaking to unlock the wheels, then straighten the front wheels, slowing the vehicle until it is safe to continue. 
- Space to cross or enter traffic from a full stop: you need about half a block of space on city streets, and a full block on a highway. 
- Stuck gas pedal: shift to neutral and apply the breaks, keeping your eyes on the road. Look for a way off the road, warning other drivers by flashing your emergency lights. Turn off the ignition when you no longer need to change direction. 
- Stuck in mud or snow: Switch to a low gear, keeping the front wheels straight. Gently step on the gas pedal, but avoid spinning the wheels. Drive as far forward as possible, then do the same in reverse. Keep doing this until the car rolls free. Put boards or branches under the tires in deep mud or snow, but don't do this when the tires are still spinning. 
- Trolleys, also know as light rail vehicles: you should not turn in front of an approaching trolley.  Trolleys may prempt traffic signals. [From a DMV test.]
- Unpaved shoulder: you should never drive on the unpaved shoulder of a road. [From the sample test at the end of the handbook, page 81.]
- Left turn: driver's left arm out the window, straight and horizontal to your left. 
- Right turn: driver's left arm out the window, right-angle with forearm and hand vertically upwards to your left. Bicycle riders may right turn with their right arm straight out and horizontal to the right. 
- Slow or stop: driver's left arm out the window, right-angle with forearm and hand vertically downwards to your left. 
- Changing lanes: always turn your head and check your blind spot on the side you are turning to before changing lanes.  On highways with three or more lanes be careful that someone isn't trying to change into the same lane as you from two lanes across - this is especially easy to miss, from my experience. The handbook recommends that you signal for 5 seconds before changing lanes on a freeway.
- Motorcyclists may use the carpool lane, unless otherwise posted. 
- Passing: pass on the left of a vehicle or bicycle going in your direction. You can pass on the right if there are two or more lanes in
your direction, or if the other vehicle is making a left turn. 
- White lines indicate traffic in your direction. 
- Yellow lines make the center of a two-way road, and you may pass if the yellow center line is broken on your side of the center. 
- Blue curb: Only disabled may park here.
- Curb: when parking alongside a curb, your front and back wheels must be parallel (except on a hill) and within 18 inches of the curb.
- Downhill parking: turn your front wheels into the curb or toward the side of the road. 
- Green curb: You may park for a limited time.
- Highway parking: park completely off the pavement, where you car is visible in 200 feet in each direction, if you have to. If your vehicle is parked on a freeway for more than four hours it may be removed.
- Hill parking when there is no curb: turn your wheels towards the side of the road so the car will roll away from the road center if the brakes fail. 
- Prohibited parking: do not park where you will block traffic, on a crosswalk or sidewalk, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant of fire station driveway, within 3 feet of a sidewalk for the disabled, on a freeway except in an emergency or required to by a police officer, in front of a driveway, in the cross-hatched painted space next to a disabled parking space, within 7.5 feet of a railroad track, between a safety zone and curb, on the wrong side of the street, or in a tunnel or on a bridge except where permitted by signs.
- Red curb: No stopping, standing or parking.
- Uphill parking: turn your wheels away from the curb and let your vehicle roll back a few inches until the rear of a front wheel touches the curb. 
- White curb: You may stop only long enough to pick up or drop off passengers or mail. 
- Yellow curb: You may park only long enough to load or unload passengers or freight, drivers of non-commercial vehicles should stay within the vehicle. 
Road conditions and weather conditions:
- Ice: slow to a crawl.  You are very likely to slide when turning or changing direction, unless you do so very slowly, from personal experience.
- Fog: Put your headlights on low beam in fog, because high beams will reflect back and glare. 
- Hazards: You should be looking about 10 to 15 seconds ahead, which is a block in the city and about 0.25 miles on the highway. Check your rear view mirror every 2 to 5 seconds. 
- Hills and curves: slow down at hills and curves as there may be a car stalled just around the other side. On narrow mountain roads, drive as far to the right as possible and sound your horn if you cannot see at least 200 feet ahead.  When two vehicles meet on a steep road where neither can pass, the vehicle facing downhill must back up until the other vehicle can pass uphill (the downhill driver has more control backing up). 
- Rain and snow: roads are most slippery in the first rain after a dry spell. [From the second sample test for Class C driver license.] Use low beam headlights when it is raining. In heavy rain or snow, if you can't see more than 100 feet ahead it is not safe to drive faster than 30 mph. 
- Snow-packed row: cut your speed in half. 
- Visibility: you must be able to see ahead and to the sides. 
- Wet road: Go 5 to 10 miles slower on a wet road. 
- Where passing is unsafe, or driving on a two-lane highway, if there are five or more vehicles following you pull to the side of the road when it is safe to do so, and let the vehicles pass. 
- Children: Babies up to 20 lb should ride in a safety seat, facing the rear of the car, and must not be placed in the front passenger seat if there is a passenger-side air bag (they may suffocate when the air bag releases in an accident). Children under 40 lb or under four years of age must be put in a safety seat. 
- Wear a safety belt - you are required to by law. A lap belt doubles your chances of living through an accident, combine that with a shoulder belt and your chances are up to four times better. 
- Alley: the speed limit is 15 mph. 
- Blind intersection: you must approach a blind intersection, where you cannot see 100 feet in either direction within 100 feet before crossing, at 15 mph or less to be able to stop if needed. 
- Passing a streetcar, trolley or bus, if it is stopped and traffic is controlled by a police officer or traffic signal, your passing speed limit is 10 mph. 
- Business or residence districts: the speed limit is 25 mph, unless a posted sign says otherwise. 
- Railroad tracks and trolley crossings: When you cannot see 400 feet in either direction, within 100 feet of the railroad or trolley crossing, the speed limit is 15 mph unless the crossing is controlled by gates, a warning signal or a flag man.  Flashing red lights at a crossing means stop; also stop if a person or signal warns that a train or trolley is coming, or you see or hear that it is coming. 
- School: Around a school the speed limit is 25 mph when children are outside or crossing the street. 
- Two lane undivided highways: The maximum speed limit is 55 mph, unless posted otherwise. 
- Blackout: When there is a blackout, you must proceed as if there is a stop sign in all directions. 
- Flashing red traffic lights mean the same as a stop sign. Stop and proceed when safe, the other direction has right of way if traffic lights in their direction are flashing yellow. 
- Stop sign: You must come to a complete stop before entering a crosswalk or at the white limit line. 
- Yield sign means slow down and be ready to stop. 
- Bike lane: Do not drive in the bike lane unless making a right turn, and then only drive in the bike lane for at most 200 feet. 
- Left turn: On a one-way street, into a one-way street, you may turn left against a red light. When turning left, you may complete the turn in either lane of the cross street. When turning left, unless another lane is marked allowing a left turn, your should turn from the left most lane, but use the center left turn lane if there is one. 
- Left turn center lane: in the middle of a two-way street this lane is marked on both sides by an outer solid line and inner broken line. Use it to begin or end left turns and to start permitted U-turns. You may only drive for 200 feet in this lane. 
- Miss a turn: if your miss your turn, continue onward and work your way back, do not make last second changes that may cause an accident. 
- Right turn: stay in the right lane until you have finished your turn, do not swing wide into another lane of traffic.  You may make a right turn against a red light, after coming to a full stop, if there is no sign prohibiting you from doing so. 
- Sidewalk: never drive on a sidewalk unless entering or leaving a driveway or alley. A pedestrian has right of way when you are crossing the sidewalk, and you must stop for them.
- Signal 100 feet from the corner before turning, and start slowing down.  Indicate for about five seconds before exiting a freeway. 
- Two sets of double lines indicate a "solid wall" which you may not drive on or over, or make a left turn or U-turn across. 
- U-turns: Where legal to do so, signal and make the turn only from the far left lane, but use the center left turn lane if there is one. In a residential district you may make a U-turn if there is no vehicle approaching within 200 feet or protecting by a traffic sign or signal from nearby vehicles. You may not make a U-turn when you cannot see clearly 200 feet in either direction. You may not make a U-turn in front of a fire station. You may not make a U-turn in a business district except at intersections or through openings in a concrete divider - churches, apartments, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings, other than schools, are considered to be in a business district. 
Vehicle registration and driver license rules:
- Address change: you must notify the DMV of your new address within 10 days. Write you address on a piece of paper and sign it, then carry it with your driver license or ID card. 
- Job or living in California: within 10 days of living in California or getting a job, you must get a California driver license.
- Purchase a vehicle: when you purchase from a private party, you must transfer vehicle registration within 10 days. [i]
- Residency in California: within 20 days or establishing residency, you must register your vehicle in California. [i]
- Sell or transfer a vehicle: when you do so, you must inform the DMV within 5 days. [i]