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California Traffic Laws

California’s vast roadways are guided by the California Vehicle Code (CVC), which sets the standards for how drivers should behave on the road. Let’s dive deeper into some essential sections of the CVC to better understand California’s traffic laws.

1. Cell Phones and Distracted Driving

  • Hands-free Only: Per CVC §23123, drivers are prohibited from holding and using a cell phone unless it’s set up for hands-free use. This includes activities like texting and calling.
  • Exceptions: The only exceptions are in emergency situations to contact law enforcement or emergency services.

2. Seat Belts and Child Restraints

  • Mandatory for All: CVC §27315 mandates seat belts for all passengers in a vehicle.
  • Child Safety Seats: As stated in CVC §27360, children under 2 years old, under 40 pounds, or less than 3’9” tall must be in an appropriate rear-facing child safety seat.

3. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

  • Alcohol: The legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit for drivers 21 and over is 0.08% according to CVC §23152(b). For those under 21, it’s 0.01%.
  • Drugs: CVC §23152(e) states that driving under the influence of drugs, even if they’re prescription or over-the-counter, is illegal if they impair driving abilities.

4. Speed Limits

  • General Limits: CVC §22349 establishes the maximum speed limit on most California highways as 65 mph, with some allowing 70 mph. Urban and residential areas, especially near schools, will have lower limits defined by specific sections.
  • Trucks and Trailers: CVC §22406 sets a reduced speed limit of 55 mph for vehicles towing trailers or for certain larger vehicles on most highways.

5. Right-of-Way

  • Pedestrians: Drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked, as per CVC §21950.
  • Intersections: According to CVC §21800, at intersections without stop or yield signs, the vehicle arriving first or the vehicle to the right has the right-of-way.

6. Motorcycles

  • Lane Splitting: CVC §21658.1 allows for lane splitting, meaning motorcycles can travel between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, provided it’s done safely.

7. Parking

  • Red Curb: CVC §21458(a)(1) denotes that a red curb means no stopping, standing, or parking.
  • Blue Curb: Per CVC §21458(a)(4), blue curb areas are reserved for vehicles with a disabled person parking placard or license plate.
  • Green Curb: CVC §21458(a)(3) indicates that a green curb represents time-limited parking, often with the specific limit painted or posted nearby.

8. Stop Signs and Signal Lights

  • Full Stop Required: Per CVC §22450, drivers must come to a complete stop at any limit line, crosswalk, or intersection when faced with a stop sign.
  • Signal Light Colors: CVC §21453 mandates drivers to stop at a red signal light. Yellow indicates the signal will change to red soon, so drivers should stop unless it’s unsafe to do so. A green signal light allows passage, but drivers must yield to pedestrians and other vehicles lawfully in the intersection.

9. Turns

  • Right Turns on Red: After coming to a full stop and ensuring it’s safe, drivers are typically allowed to turn right on a red light, as per CVC §21453(b), unless a sign indicates otherwise.
  • Left Turns on Red: Under CVC §21453(b), a left turn from a one-way street onto another one-way street during a red light is permissible after a complete stop and ensuring safety.
  • Turn Signals: CVC §22107 requires drivers to use turn signals for 100 feet before making a turn or changing lanes.

10. U-Turns

  • Restrictions: CVC §22103 prohibits U-turns in business districts unless at an intersection or where openings are provided for turns. In residential districts, U-turns are allowed at intersections without traffic signals and where visibility is unobstructed.

11. Passing

  • Solid Lines: CVC §21460 dictates that double solid yellow lines mean neither side can cross to pass. If one side is broken, passing is allowed only on the side with the broken line and when safe to do so.
  • Bicycles: As per CVC §21760, motorists passing a bicyclist must maintain a distance of at least three feet between any part of the vehicle and the bicycle.

12. School Zones

  • Speed Limits: CVC §22358.4 allows local authorities to set speed limits of 15 or 25 mph in school zones, depending on road conditions, typically during school hours and when children are present.
  • School Buses: CVC §22454 prohibits drivers from passing a school bus with flashing red lights from either direction, unless on a divided or multilane highway with two or more lanes in each direction.

13. Unattended Children and Pets

  • Restrictions: Leaving children 6 years old or younger unattended in a vehicle without the supervision of someone 12 years or older is prohibited by CVC §15620. Similarly, leaving pets in a vehicle under harmful conditions is also punishable.

14. Headphones and Earbuds

  • Prohibition: CVC §27400 prohibits drivers from wearing headphones or earbuds in both ears while driving, to ensure they can hear surrounding sounds and emergency signals.

15. Emergency and Service Vehicles

  • Yielding: CVC §21806 requires all drivers to yield to emergency vehicles with sirens and/or flashing lights by moving to the right edge of the road and stopping until the vehicle has passed.

The California Vehicle Code aims to ensure safety for all road users. Familiarizing yourself with these provisions can make a significant difference in driving safely and responsibly. Remember, the CVC is comprehensive, and this overview only touches on some of its many regulations. It is often hard to determine who might be “at fault” for a traffic accident based upon a violation of one or more of these provisions.  Consulting with a traffic collision attorney familiar with California law is crucial to protecting your rights to compensation for negligent driving. Call our offices for a free evaluation of your legal rights and right to compensation – 866-966-5240

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