an autonomous vehicle sitting in a california rural area

5 Unusual Laws That California Drivers Should Know

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

California is known for its unique blend of culture and lifestyle. There is always an influx of tourists and people who move to California for work or to pursue their dreams. This blend of different peoples and lifestyles has inevitably led to some of the strangest laws in the United States being passed in California. Here are some unusual California laws that drivers should be aware of.

  1. No Women’s High-Heel Shoes in Carmel: In the city of Carmel, there’s an unusual law from the 1920’s where women are not allowed to wear high-heeled shoes without a permit. This law was enacted to prevent lawsuits arising from tripping accidents caused by the irregular pavement in the city. This law is generally unenforced.
  2. No Vehicle Without a Driver May Exceed 60 Miles Per Hour: One of the most peculiar laws states that a vehicle cannot exceed 60 miles per hour if there is no one in the driver’s seat. Perhaps radio controlled stunt cars for television and films were an influence for the bizarre law to try to prevent accidents from a runaway vehicle. As artificial intelligence and self-driving cars become more the norm there will need to be adjustments to this law.
  3. No Shooting Animals from a Moving Vehicle: It is illegal in California to shoot at any game from a moving vehicle, except for whales. This law is a conservation effort, though the exception for whales is a curious one, given the state’s strong stance on environmental protection. Laws like this make you wonder how they got established in the first place.
  4. It’s Illegal to Jump from a Car at 65 Miles Per Hour: In Glendale, California, it’s illegal to jump from a car that is going 65 miles per hour or faster. This law is undoubtedly a safety measure, albeit an oddly specific one. The only guess as to why this came about must be from movie stunts or action sports.
  5. Headlights Must Be Used When Using Windshield Wipers: Even if it’s known and recommended that you should in California specifically, drivers are required to use their vehicle’s headlights when their windshield wipers are in continuous use due to rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture. This law aims to improve visibility and safety during adverse weather conditions.

These laws might seem odd, but they reflect California’s diverse and sometimes quirky legal history. While these laws may or may not be modern or even enforced, it’s always important for drivers to be aware of local laws to ensure safety and compliance.

How did the “No Women’s High-Heel Shoes” law in Carmel, California originate?

The law banning women’s high-heeled shoes in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, originated in the 1960s. This unusual ordinance was put in place primarily as a safety measure. The quaint town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its scenic beauty, including its tree-lined streets and historic, uneven pavements. The irregular and often cobblestoned surfaces posed a tripping hazard, particularly for those wearing high heels.

The law was designed to protect the city from potential lawsuits arising from tripping accidents. It stated that wearing shoes with heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch was prohibited without a permit. Interestingly, the city does issue free permits as a formality to those who wish to wear high heels.

This law is a very unique example of local legislation tailored to the characteristics of a community. Although it’s rarely enforced, it remains a charming anecdote about Carmel-by-the-Sea’s commitment to preserving its distinctive character and ensuring the safety of its residents and visitors. Interestingly enough many quaint cities all over the United States with the same old historic uneven pavements don’t have a law like this one put in place.

How did the “no vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 mph” law originate?

The law stating that a vehicle without a driver may not exceed 60 miles per hour in California is an interesting and somewhat humorous example of legislation that appears to address a seemingly unlikely scenario. This law likely originated from a combination of legal foresight and the evolution of vehicle technology.

  1. Anticipating Future Technologies: When the law was written, the concept of autonomous or self-driving vehicles might have seemed far-fetched. However, lawmakers often draft legislation with an eye to the future, anticipating technological advancements. This law could have been an early attempt to regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles, ensuring that even in the absence of a traditional driver, these vehicles would not pose a danger by traveling at excessive speeds.
  2. Legal Clarity and Liability Issues: Laws are often written to provide clarity and address potential liability issues. Even if driverless cars were not a reality at the time of the law’s inception, the statute might have been intended to cover any possible scenario where a vehicle could be in motion without a driver, whether due to mechanical issues, inadvertent movement, or early experiments in automation.
  3. Evolution of Technology and Law: As technology evolves, laws often lag behind and then are updated or created to reflect new realities. This particular law may have been updated or interpreted in the context of modern autonomous vehicle technology, setting a speed limit to ensure safety as these vehicles become more common.

In essence, while the law might seem peculiar or outdated, it represents a common legislative practice: attempting to foresee and regulate future technological advancements for public safety. With the rise of autonomous vehicles, such laws gain new relevance and are often revisited and revised to better align with current technology and safety standards.

How does the law originate of no shooting animals from a moving vehicle (except whales) in California?

The law in California that prohibits shooting animals from a moving vehicle, but makes an exception for whales, is a curious piece of legislation with a unique origin. Here are four points that will help you to understand this seemingly strange laws historical and legal background:

  1. General Prohibition of Shooting from Vehicles: The primary aspect of this law is the prohibition of shooting from a moving vehicle. This is a common regulation in many jurisdictions, aimed at promoting safety and responsible hunting practices. Shooting from a moving vehicle is generally considered dangerous, as it can lead to accidents and prevents hunters from ensuring a clear and humane shot.
  2. Whaling Exception: The specific exception for whales is what makes this law stand out. Historically, whaling was a significant industry in many coastal areas, including California. The exception for whales likely dates back to a time when whaling was more prevalent and was conducted from small, moving boats. Given the size and nature of whale hunting, it would have been impractical, if not impossible, to hunt whales without this allowance.
  3. Changing Attitudes and Practices: It’s important to note that while this law may still exist on the books, modern attitudes and legal practices around whaling have drastically changed. Commercial whaling has been largely banned or heavily restricted in most parts of the world, including in the United States. This change is due to both environmental concerns and the shifting ethical perspective on whaling.
  4. Legal Vestige: As such, the exception for whales in this law can be seen as a legal vestige – a remnant of past practices that have since been largely abandoned. Many laws remain in legal texts long after they have ceased to be relevant or actively enforced, often because the effort to remove or update them hasn’t been deemed a priority.

In summary, the law’s origin reflects historical practices and necessities that are no longer relevant today. It serves as an interesting example of how laws can remain as historical artifacts, even as societal norms and practices evolve. Most importantly this has to do with the misconstrued verbage used. It is ok for whaling to be used from a moving vehicle, specifically a boat.

At J&Y Law Firm, we recommend seeking professional legal advice when you have been unfairly cited or affected by one of these unusual laws in California. For further guidance or to discuss your specific case, contact J&Y Law Firm at 310-774-0778, and our team of experienced personal injury attorneys will be happy to assist you.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.