California "Rules of the Road"
California Motor Vehicle Code - Car Accident Laws
Stopping at the Scene of an Accident
According to Motor Vehicle Code 20001, if a driver causes or is involved in an accident, he must immediately stop at the scene. Driving away from an accident, especially one where occupants of other vehicles may be injured, is not only irresponsible but against laws discussed in vehicle codes 20001, 20003, and 20004.
Riding an Animal
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21050, if you ride an animal on a highway, you have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties as may apply to the driver of a vehicle…except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
A physician responding to an emergency
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21058, if a physician's car displays an insignia indicating that the vehicle is owned by a licensed physician and is driving to an emergency call, the driver is exempt from basic speed law.
Obedience to person controlling traffic
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21100.3, a driver must obey the directions of an authorized traffic control officer.
Rights and duties of bicycle riders
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21200, if you ride a bicycle on a highway you have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties as may apply to the driver of a vehicle, including riding under the influence…except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
Operating bicycle on roadway
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21202, when moving at a speed less than normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction, bicycle rider must ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except to pass or preparing to turn left or to avoid unsafe conditions.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21208, when established by a local authority, bicycles must use the bicycle lane and cannot leave that lane unless it is safe to do so.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21221, driver of motorize scooters have the same rights and are subject to the same duties as that of a driver of a vehicle.
Motorized scooters exempt from some vehicle provisions
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21224, the rider of a motorized scooter is exempt from financial responsibility laws, registration, and vehicle licensing requirements -- not a motor vehicle for that purpose.
Motorized scooters rules of the road
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21228, like a bicycle -- must use bicycle lane if one exists, otherwise must stay to right-hand curb or edge of the road except where unsafe.
Motorized scooters operation restrictions
When operating a motorized scooter you cannot use on a street with speed limit in excess of 25 mph unless there is a bike lane; cannot ride on sidewalk; cannot carry passengers.
Application of provisions applicable to motor vehicles; exemptions for low-speed vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21251, if you operate a low-speed vehicle you have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties as may apply to the driver of a vehicle, including driving under the influence…except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
Low-speed vehicles modified to exceed 25 mph
A Modified or altered low-speed vehicle must meet passenger vehicle federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards instead of relaxed standards.
Maximum Speed; crossing of intersections for low-speed vehicles
Low-speed vehicles cannot be operated on any roadway with a speed limit over 35 mph, unless crossing to and from a highway with a speed limit below 35 mph.
Local laws about low-speed vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21266, be aware of and obey all local laws and restrictions for low-speed vehicles.
Speeding; safe operation of electric personal assistive mobility devices
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21281, you must give right of way to all pedestrians when riding on any sidewalk, road or path, and operate at a safe speed for the conditions.
Drivers facing a green light may enter an intersection to perform legally permitted turns or proceed straight through. Green arrows allow protected turns, including U turns when not specifically prohibited. Pedestrians facing a green light may begin to cross an intersection unless a pedestrian control signal shows otherwise.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21452 a yellow light warns drivers that the red light will appear soon, prohibiting drivers from entering an intersection. Pedestrians do not have sufficient time to cross an intersection if they start crossing on a yellow light.
Steady red lights and arrows
Drivers facing a solid red light signal or arrow must stop before entering crosswalks or intersections. Right turns are permitted on solid red signals (NOT arrows) after stopping, if no sign prohibits it, and if no hazards are present.
Walk, wait, or don't walk
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21456 No pedestrian shall start to cross a road way when facing the Don't Walk, Wait, or upraised hand sign.
Illuminated flashing red or yellow lights used in traffic signal or with traffic sign
Flashing red light is to be treated as a stop sign. Drivers facing a flashing yellow light may proceed through an intersection exercising greater caution.
Cross double parallel lines only if turning left into a private road or driveway, making a legal U-turn, or crossing a broken line to overtake another car.
Interference with traffic devices
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21464, no person shall deface or alter an official traffic sign or device. Mobile infrared transmitters and other devices that could alter traffic signals are illegal to own, install, or sell.
Bicycles; direction on roadways
According to California Motor Vehicle Code 21650.1, bicycles should always ride in the same direction as traffic.
Driving on Divided Highways
According to California Motor Vehicle Code 21651, when roads have multiple lanes and two-way traffic, drivers are required to be on the right side of the road.
Slow moving vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21654, you should stay as close as possible to the right side of the road when traveling in the same direction as traffic but at slower speeds.
Lanes for high occupancy vehicles (car pool lanes)
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21655, do not enter the car pool lane, not even to pass a vehicle, if your car is not transporting the minimum number of passengers required by law. Do not cross double yellow lines to enter the car pool lane.
Turning out of slow moving vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21656, on a two lane road, where passing on the left is unsafe, a vehicle with five other vehicles behind it in a line must turn out at a designated turnout and let them all pass.
When driving within laned roadways drive completely in one lane when there are multiple lanes in the same direction, switching lanes only when it is safe to do so. Obey signs that reserve lanes for specific purposes.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21660, pass each other on the right, and give each other at least half of the road whenever possible.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21661, the person driving downhill gives the right of way to the ascending car, and will turn off the road to make room for safe passing if necessary.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21662, stay in control of your vehicle at all times. Drive as far to the right on the road as possible. Use your horn to warn other drivers you are approaching within 200 feet of a curve on a narrow road with an obstructed view.
Driving on sidewalk
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21663, do not drive on sidewalks unless unless it is expressly allowed or when entering or exiting adjacent property.
Obstruction to driving
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21700, do not drive if your vehicle is so loaded that it interferes with your vision and control of the vehicle.
Interference with driver or mechanism
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21701, do not interfere with the driver of a vehicle or the mechanism thereof in a way that affects the driver's control.
Limitation on driving hours
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21702, no person may drive a bus or other vehicle for transporting people for compensation more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period unless they have had 8 consecutive hours of rest. No commercial driver may drive 12 consecutive hours or 12 hours spread over 15 hours.
Following too closely
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21703, leave a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you considering the speeds, road conditions, traffic, and general regard for safety.
Following emergency vehicle
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21706, vehicles should not follow within 300 feet of an emergency vehicle.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21710, traveling downhill in neutral is illegal.
Unlawful riding and towing
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21712, no passenger may sit in any part of a vehicle that is not intended for passengers, nor shall anybody tow a motorcycle, trailer or coach containing a passenger.
Motorcyclists or motorized bicyclists; operation of vehicle; prohibited area
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21714, it is illegal to ride on, or immediately adjacent to, markers designating lanes or between two or more vehicles traveling in adjacent lanes.
Golf carts, operation
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21716, golf carts are only to be operated where the speed limit is 25 mph or less.
Parking or leaving a vehicle on a freeway
Drivers may stop on the freeway to avoid injury, told to do so by an officer, when engaging in maintenance, or where specifically permitted.
Overtake and pass to left
If it is safe to overtake a vehicle or bicycle in front of you traveling in the same direction, do so on the left and allow them enough space to operate normally.
Passing without sufficient clearance
Pass only when you can clearly see it is safe to do so with sufficent clearance necessary for save overtaking. This includes instances on 2 lane roads.
When driving on left prohibited
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21752, no driving is allowed on the left side of the roadway when approaching a curve or crest where the other driver's view is obstructed, or within 100 feet of a bridge tunnel, railroad grade, or intersection.
Yielding when passing
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21753, do not speed up when being passed -- slow and allow safe passing.
Passing standing streetcar, trolley coach, or bus
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21756, you must stop behind a vehicle discharging passengers, unless there is a specially designed safety zone.
Caution in passing animals
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21759, you should slow down and obey any signals by any person in charge of the animals to ensure safe passing.
Intersections without functioning traffic control signs, or with all-directional stop signs
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21800, when entering an intersection at the same time, yield right of way to the driver on your right. In case of a broken traffic control device, stop at an intersection and proceed when safe to do so.
Left or U turn right of way
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22100, Unless you have a protective green arrow, always yield right of way to oncoming traffic.
The Laws of Stop Signs
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21802, if approaching a stop sign, the driver should begin to slow his vehicle and continue to make a complete stop at the intersection.
Yield when there is an indication of a yield sign that says to do so, when merging onto a road, or when a vehicle is crossing ahead of you.
Entering Onto a Highway
Motor Vehicle Code 21804 states that if the driver intends to enter onto a highway from a space of public or private property or an alley, the driver must yield the right-of-way to all closely approaching traffic already present on the highway.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21805, horseback riders may cross roads at officially designated crossing points, but should always use caution. Vehicles must yield to horses crossing.
Right of way at crosswalks
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21950, pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. Drivers should exercise the right of care when pedestrians are crossing roads illegally.
Right-of-way on sidewalk
Always give the right-of-way to pedestrians if you are driving over or upon a sidewalk for any reason.
Pedestrians outside crosswalks
Yield right-of-way to all vehicles. However, vehicles must exercise due care for the safety of pedestrians outside of crosswalks.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 21957, standing in a road to solicit a ride is illegal.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22100, only make U turns at intersections that allow it. No U turns near fire station driveways, on streets with obstructed views, in residence districts when another vehicle is approaching.
Stopping behind school bus
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22112, stop behind and do not pass a school bus that is loading/unloading children and has flashing red lights and a stop sign.
Basic Speed Law
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22350, always drive at a speed that is appropriate for the given road and weather conditions. Remember it is illegal to exceed the stated speed limit.
Motor Vehicle Code 22352 requires the following prima facie speed limits unless otherwise posted. 15 mph: obstructed view railway crossing and intersections, in alleys; 25 mph: residential zones, school zones, near senior facilities, near park playgrounds.
Minimum speed law
With regards to the mininum speed law, you should not drive so slowly that you interfere or impede normal traffic, thus becoming a safety hazard.
Maximum speed limit for certain vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22406, The following may not be driven at speeds over 55 mph: vehicle with 3 or more axles, vehicle towing another vehicle, school bus transporting any pupil, farm labor vehicle, vehicle transporting explosives, trailer bus.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 22451, stop no less than 15 from rails and proceed when safe. Never pass through, around, or under the protective gates.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23103, driving on a highway or in a parking lot showing wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.
Speed contests and exhibitions of speed
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23109, racing, assisting in a race, or clocking high speeds is punishable with jail time and fines.
Throwing substance at vehicles
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23110, do not throw anything at cars. Doing so will be treated as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the damage.
Throwing substances on highways or adjoining areas
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23111, throwing anything, including cigarettes lit or unlit, garbage, etc. is illegal.
No throwing, depositing, or dumping matter on a highway
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23112, no one - driver, passenger or pedestrian- shall throw or deposit anything on the highway.
Pickup of flatbed trucks; transportation in back; section application
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23116, do not transport unrestrained passengers in the back of a truck unless you are on a farm, in an emergency, or in a law enforcement supervised parade.
Transportation of animals; enclosure or restraint requirements
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23117, do not transport animals in the back of a vehicle unless the space for it is enclosed, has side and tail racks 46 inches high, has means to prevent the animal from escaping, being thrown, or falling out of the vehicle. This does not apply to transporting cattle or traveling with dogs for farming reasons.
Driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23123, it is not allowed unless the phone is specifically designed and configured to be used hands-free. Making emergency phone calls to police or medical personnel is allowed.
Minor using wireless telephone while driving
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23124, drivers under 18 cannot drive while using a wireless phone -- not even hands free.
Driving a motor vehicle while writing, sending or reading text-based communication
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23123.5, do not read, write, or send text based communication while driving.
Trails and paths
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23127, do not operate a motor vehicle on a bike path, hiking trail, or horse trail where signs prohibit it, unless you have written permission from the owner of the trail. Bike paths that are adjacent and contiguous to a roadway are an exception.
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23128, do not hunt or harass animals while on a snowmobile. Do not operate a snowmobile on a highway or in a way that is dangerous to somebody or their property.
Blood alcohol concentration of .01 or greater for someone under 21
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23136, a person under 21 cannot drive with a BAC of .01 or greater.
Driving under influence; blood alcohol percentage, presumptions
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23152, do not drive under the influence of foreign substances. No person is allowed to drive if they are addicted to a drug, unless they are in rehab. Operating a vehicle with BAC of .08 or greater results in a DUI. Commercial vehicles cannot be operated with a BAC of .04 or greater.
Drinking while driving of any vehicle
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23220, no drinking alcoholic beverages while driving or as a passenger in a vehicle on a highway.
Possession of open container containing alcoholic beverage or marijuana while driving
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23222, open containers in the car are illegal, as is a container with marijuana of more than one avoirdupois ounce.
Possession of opened container in a motor vehicle
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23223, drivers or passengers may not have open containers in a motor vehicle on a highway.
Possession of alcoholic beverage in vehicle; persons under 21
According to Motor Vehicle Code 23224, drivers or passengers under 21 years old cannot possess alcoholic beverages in their car, unless accompanied by a parent or responsible adult relative designated by the parents.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Motor Vehicle CodesIs there a Motor Vehicle Code against "Failing to Avoid an Accident?"
There isn't anything in the VC concerning "failing to avoid an accident". However, any time you change lanes, turn, or enter a roadway, you need to make sure that the maneuver can be performed without endangering another driver or pedestrian unless you have the right of way which has been yielded to you. The entry of the roadway section is 21804, which says "The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a highway... shall yield the right of way to all traffic... until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety." The "unsafe speed for the conditions" (22350) and "reckless driving" (23103) behaviors are the arguments against the speeding driver who did nothing reasonable to avoid a collision that was obviously waiting to happen.
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NOTICE: This is not legal advice. It is created for your reference and interest, only. It is not an exhaustive statement of the content of the "Rules of the Road" from the California Vehicle Code or any section of the code. It is offered to you to help guide you to statutory provisions that you might want to read more completely. It does not give you an analysis of the application of a particular code section to the facts of any specific incident, ticket, or accident. To receive legal advice you need to discuss the particular facts of interest to you with a licensed California attorney.