New car laws drive into the books in 2014

Coast-to-coast changes aim to make roads and passengers safer

Published: December 27, 2013 09:00 AM

The start of the new year can typically bring with it a host of new highway safety and traffic laws added to the books. As you drive into 2014, be aware of changes in your state and surrounding areas and the impact it could make on how you drive.

Most laws go into effect on Jan. 1, unless otherwise stated.

Child safety

New Hampshire has improved their child passenger safety law to require children under 6 years old to use a child restraint until they are at least 57 inches tall (4 ft. 9 inches), instead of under 55 inches as the existing law states. Once they reach that height, children can move to an adult belt. Safety belts were designed to fit people of a certain stature, not age. Keep it simple and forget about age: We recommend children should ride in a belt-positioning booster until they are at least 4 ft. 9 inches, which typically occurs around 8 to 12 years old.

Distracted driving

A clarification of California’s distracted driving law has made it illegal for young drivers under 18 to use voice-activated texting, handheld, or hands-free calling. Any use of a cell phone is prohibited for these young drivers.

Illinois will be the 12th state to institute a ban on using a handheld cell phone while driving. The state is also increasing the penalties if the use of an electronic device while driving is the cause of an accident.

Vermont has instituted a handheld cell phone ban for drivers going through work zones.

Driver’s license renewal

Nevada is changing how often drivers must renew their driver’s license. Most original licenses and renewals for those who were born in an even-numbered year will be valid for eight years. Residents must renew in person at a DMV office. Renewals for those born in odd-numbered years will be valid for four years at the next renewal in 2014 to 2017, then eight years at the renewal in 2018 and beyond. But for drivers 65 and over, renewals will stay at a four-year cycle.

Drunk driving

In Colorado, the rules on drunk driving changed. Motorists who lose their driver’s license for one year or longer because of an alcohol-related driving offense may apply for an interlock-restricted license after 30 days without driving. But if the person refused to submit to a blood alcohol or breath test, he will have to wait two months before being allowed to request an interlock-restricted license. Anyone who lost her license for a year or more before Jan. 1, 2014, is eligible to apply for an interlock restricted license on Jan. 1. Regardless of the situation, the person has to keep the interlock on the vehicle for at least two years.

Bicycle safety

On Sept. 16, 2014, California will require drivers to stay at least three feet away when passing bicyclists.


Illinois will pass a new law to increase the speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on rural four-lane highways. But the new law also includes an additional safety provision that lowers the limit by 5 mph at which drivers may be charged with excessive speeding. Currently, the threshold for penalties is 31 mph over the limit, but the new law lowers that to 26 mph.

Car seat weight-limit law

In February, the new labeling identifying car-seat weight limits will go into effect all across the country to alert parents and caregivers that LATCH anchors have a maximum combined weight of the child and child seat of 65 lbs. The revised labeling requirements are intended to make it clearer that a child’s weight determines how long LATCH can be used and to make the limit readily identifiable for each seat. Parents will need to take into account the weight of the seat and the weight of their child and determine when they need to move out of LATCH and into the vehicle’s safety belts. Learn more about the rules and how they affect our testing.

The good news is that cars are getting safer with each passing year, and laws also help play a key role in vehicle safety. See our complete guide to car safety.

—Liza Barth

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