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California Driving Laws
If visiting California and planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway it's important to know California driving laws in case they differ from your own state.
Take Time to Read the California Driving Laws
It's important to know the California
driving laws if you're from out-of-state or from overseas and driving the
Pacific Coast Highway, so here's some advice on what to watch out for. Some
regulations are pretty common in most states, like drink-driving, but they are
This information is correct at the time of
writing and we will amend it if we hear of any changes in the law, but what
follows does not constitute legal advice. You must double-check the current
laws. Here's a link to the official California Drivers Handbook, which you can
download free of charge.
Or you can buy a California driving guide, if you prefer a physical book to refer to.
One new law that was introduced in
California in 2018:
It's illegal for drivers or passengers to
smoke or use other cannabis products.
This is the only way to get high driving the Pacific Coast Highway...
A very important point that particularly affects you on the Pacific Coast Highway is that California driving regulations require you to use a turn-out or to pull over wherever you safely can do, if you have five or more vehicles following you. The PCH is a very twisty road in places, and mostly just two lanes, so slow-moving vehicles can start to cause tailbacks.
Pulling over isn't merely being courteous, it's the law when you have that many other vehicles waiting to pass you. If a driver behind you seems to be getting impatient, it may be that he or she is local and knows the law better than you do. If you can pull over even a little to enable them to pass, you should do so without necessarily waiting till there are five cars queued up behind you.
More California Driving Laws
- Drivers cannot use any kind of hand-held
device while driving. You can use GPS if your phone is mounted either on the
dashboard or in one of two places on the windscreen (bottom left and bottom
right corners). You can only use one finger to tap or swipe the screen.
- Seatbelts are compulsory for everyone in a
- Children who are eight and under must use a
child safety seat. Children under the age of two must be in rear-facing seats
in the back of the car.
- Motorcyclists must wear a helmet.
- Throwing litter out of a vehicle can incur very
hefty fines. For a first conviction the fine can be from $100-$1000 and at
least eight hours of cleaning up litter. That's going to be pretty inconvenient
if you're from another state, so don't even think about littering. Even
throwing a cigarette butt out of a car on a highway counts as littering.
Drive Carefully on Misty Mornings
Don't drink and drive. A first offence can
get you from four days to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1000, losing
your licence for up to ten months, and some counties require you to fit an
Ignition Interlock Device to your car. That's a device that you have to blow
into like a breathalyzer before your car will start.
Drivers under the age of 18 may not drive
with any alcohol in their system at all.
Drivers under the age of 21 may not carry
unsealed alcohol in the car if driving alone, may not consume alcohol in a car
(including some cough syrups and prescription drugs), and must not drive with a
blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) of .01% or higher.
The blood alcohol limit for drivers 21 and
over is .08%. It's impossible to say what this equates to as there are so many
factors involved, like drinking with or without food, and your size, but
suffice it to say that if you have a couple of drinks without food, you're
probably going to be near the limit. If you're under 21 you will definitely be
over your lower limit.
Don't rely on being under the limit. If
your driving is impaired you can still be charged whether you're over the limit
In California if you refuse to take the
breathalyzer test it's an automatic suspension of your licence for one year.
Other Driving Pages
Review of the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips book from Lonely Planet, which includes a California Driving Guide, by the Pacific Coast Highway Travel website.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in five days, including the best places to stay over, and the best things to do and see.
One of the best guides to West Coast RV Parks, covering campgrounds in California, Oregon, and Washington, is West Coast RV Camping from Moon Guides.
Here are the basic facts if you plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, including which is the best direction and when is the best time to go driving.
Pacific Coast Highway driving tips for this great American road trip include finding cheap gas, watching the speed limits, and allowing plenty of travel time.
California coast charging stations are so numerous that the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best US road trips to drive in an electric vehicle or EV.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.
Here are links to the different ways you can go along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most popular drives in the world but you can also cycle it.
Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is made easier with Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen, a good handbook for the west coast drive.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in four days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.
Pacific Coast Highway stops include big city vacation destinations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and smaller places like Monterey.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's guide to Washington coast charging stations for electric vehicles along Highway 101 from Oregon and around the Olympic Peninsula.
Pacific Coast Highway travel offers advice on driving from LA to Hearst Castle, including distance, journey time, and route.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in three days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.
The Pacific Coast Highway in California book shows in historic photos the building of the Pacific Coast Highway from its earliest beginnings in 1911.
Historic Route 66 winds from Chicago to LA, going through Los Angeles, meeting the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California, at the Santa Monica Pier.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in two days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide book covering the drive from Vancouver to San Diego.
Pacific Coast Highway Travel's guide to Oregon coast charging stations for electric vehicles, from Brookings in the south to Astoria in the north.
Driving from San Francisco to San Diego has two main options, the fast way on I-5 or the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.
When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway depends on whether you want to drive in Oregon and Washington as well as California, and on the weather.
The best time to drive the Pacific Coast Highway is when you have the most time to spare, but late spring and fall is when you'll get the best weather.
Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.
Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free.
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