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Can I run a red light if it won’t change? Flash my high beams? Know these California laws

California has a list of rules on how to properly and safely operate a vehicle, some more widely known than others.

Whether you’ve been driving for 50 years or you just secured your license, there might be some laws you don’t know.

Here are five California laws you may or may not already know and remember — there’s no shame in a refresher. The other motorists on the road will be grateful.

Can I flash my high beams?

You cannot flash your high beams while approaching a vehicle within 500 feet or within 300 feet of following behind it, according to Vehicle Code 24409.

Officer Tom Olsen with California Highway Patrol said it’s illegal to use high beams to signal other drivers that their headlights aren’t on.

“We understand people’s intentions: Warning people to turn lights on, change lanes, etc.,” he said.

However, he explained, “Any flashing within that amount of time is illegal.”

High beams should be used when you can’t see 1,000 feet away from you, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Low beams should be used during inclement weather or within the limits of other drivers.

READ MORE: Is it legal to flash your high beams at drivers with lights off? What California law says

Can I run a red light if it won’t turn?

Simply put: You cannot run a red light if it’s taking too long to turn green.

If you do, you risk being cited by law enforcement, according to California Vehicle Code 21453.

“The only exemption for running a red light is when directed by a law enforcement officer or authorized traffic director,” Officer Cody Tapley with the Sacramento Police Department wrote in an email.

If a traffic signal is not working, motorists can try rolling back over the sensor. If that doesn’t work, report the light and make a legal right turn if possible.

READ MORE: What should you do if a red light won’t change? Can you run it? What California law says

Can a dog ride in your lap?

It’s tricky.

While state law doesn’t specifically address driving with an animal on your lap, spokesman Officer Ricardo Ortiz with California Highway Patrol said it “can be a hazard.”

California Vehicle Code 22350 states a person must drive at a reasonable speed with a clear view.

“It could be articulated that the safe speed of operating a motor vehicle with an animal in your lap is in fact zero miles per hour,” he said. “Ultimately making a case for the driver of that vehicle to be in violation of the basic speed law.”

If caught, you could be cited.

READ MORE: Is it legal to drive with a dog in your lap? Here’s what California law says

What’s considered distracted driving?

Eating food. Applying makeup. Using your cellphone with your hands. Rubbernecking. Driving with your pup on your lap.

These scenarios are all considered distracted driving. Get caught, you could be ticketed.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, distracted driving is an umbrella term for diverting your eyes or mind off the road or your hands off the steering wheel.

First-time violators face a minimum fine of $162, according to California Highway Patrol. Other types of distractions can be ticketed under reckless driving or a speed violation, the California Office of Traffic Safety states.

READ MORE: Eating in the car? Changing the radio? What California law considers distracted driving

Can you turn left onto a one-way if the light is red?

Whether or not you can turn left at a red light on a one-way depends on the traffic signal, not necessarily the color of the light.

Drivers can legally turn left at a red light if they’re on a one-way street turning onto another one-way street — but only if they’re turning against a circular red light, not an arrow.

You should never turn on a red arrow or when there is a “no turn on red” sign, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

READ MORE: Is it legal to turn left on a one-way road if the light is red? Here are California’s rules

More rules of the road

The Sacramento and Modesto Bee’s Hanh Truong, Dominique Williams and Angela Rodriguez contributed to this story.

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