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    California Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road Penalties

There are three laws regulating driving on the wrong side of the road:

  1. Reckless driving
  2. Felony reckless evading
  3. Driving on the wrong road (See also reckless driving, under California Vehicle Code 23103.)

Driving in the same direction on one-way streets in specific lanes or making an illegal u-turn can result in death, arrest, fines, penalties, or imprisonment pursuant to the California Vehicle Code and a violation of 21651 (a), (b), and (c). (A jail sentence is a risk you face.) Your insurance coverage going down while your insurance rates go up will be the least of your concerns after a car accident.

Whether driving into one-way traffic is caused by recklessness or simply missing your turn at the exit, driving in one direction on the wrong side of the road remains a criminal act in the U.S. It not only puts the negligent driver in harm’s way but also puts other drivers and oncoming traffic in danger.

 California Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road Penalties
California Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road Penalties

Penalties for Wrong Way Drivers Violating CA Vehicle Code (VC) 21651 (b)?

One-way streets mean being cautious or facing injury or death. Learn about California’s wrong way of driving laws. No one should cross the yellow line or violate VC 21651 (b). Stay safe traversing Los Angeles roads.

It is illegal for Californians to drive on the wrong side of the road, according to California Vehicle Code Section 21651(b). Let’s look at some tips you should follow to avoid collisions with wrong-way drivers before discussing the California Vehicle Code Section 21651(b) in detail.

Wrong Way Driver: Tips On Road Collision Avoidance

Here are some tips from the California Highway Patrol that you should follow to minimize the possibility of an accident with a wrong-way driver:

  • Upon seeing a wrong-way driver, move out of the way as soon as possible to avoid any collision. Once safe, call the local authorities and report the incident so that they can take action.
  • When driving in daylight, looking down the road (at the horizon line) for any hazards or wrong-way drivers is important. This way, you can identify any threat before it reaches your car.
  • When driving at night, keep your car on the right, as most wrong-way drivers drive on the right side of the road, which is your left side. This helps you steer clear of such negligent drivers.
  • Ensure your headlights are on during the night to inform incoming vehicles that they are going the wrong way.

Now that you’re aware of the tips to follow, what if you’re the wrong-way driver? What exactly does California Vehicle Code Section 21651(b) require of the driver?

What will the law enforcement officer do about it after seeing cars headed in the wrong direction, knowing a traffic law was breached? Let’s find out.

Essential Points in the California Vehicle Code 21651(B)

California Vehicle Code Section 21651 (B) shares some details about driving on the wrong side of the road, and some important takeaways from the clauses are as follows:

  • A person accused of driving on the wrong side of the road has the right to hire an attorney to represent them in court and fight the charges levied against them.
  • Going on the wrong side of the road can be a misdemeanor or a felony. It will depend on whether someone gets hurt or killed.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road will result in 4 points on your driving record, resulting in a negligent operator license suspension according to the number of points you accumulate over a certain period.

Vehicle Code 21651 (b) states that drivers must always drive on the right side of the intermittent barrier or divider, which in turn means that the drivers must always be on the right side of the road. Drivers driving the wrong way are those on the left side of the road, and driving on the left is unlawful in California.

Note: Vehicle Code Section 21651 (b) does not cover the offense of crossing a divided highway.

Official Traffic Control Devices Indicate the Direction of Travel

According to CA Vehicle Code 21657, the right side of the road is the one designated by official traffic control devices. The section states that the relevant authorities are responsible for deciding which way vehicular traffic should flow and to do that. They use these traffic control devices. Drivers must follow the direction designated by local authorities and look out for the plainly marked opening labeled “one-way street,” etc., or face jail and loss of driving privileges.

Besides such devices, signs and markings like a dividing section indicate the direction traffic lanes should flow. However, at times, local governments may not have the proper signs or markings, or these signs may not be visible to drivers, resulting in a violation of Vehicle Code Section 21651 (b).

When drivers violate Vehicle Code 21651 (b), they assert that the highway was not marked well, resulting in such a mistake. However, sticking with this legal defense would require you to prove the road’s terrible signs or missing markings that resulted in the violation of Vehicle Code 21651 (b).

If they are wanted by local police but jailed out of state, another defense can be raised to prevent or stall a prison transfer to California. California Penal Code Sections 1548 through 1558 codify extraditions of fugitives from justice back to California State.

Penal Code Section 1548.1 States:

“Subject to the provisions of this chapter, the Constitution of the United States, and the laws of the United States, the Governor of this State must have arrested and delivered to the authority of any other state any person charged in that state with treason, felony, or other crime, who has fled from justice and is found in California.”

In such situations, arrested or jailed drivers must present pictures of the highway that clearly show missing markings or the absence of signs as evidence of their actions and other evidence. Typically, a driver will get a traffic ticket to show up in court and represent themselves when fighting the charges levied under Vehicle Code Section 21651 (b), but having a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side can help with your case.

Ehline Law’s criminal defense attorneys and accident lawyers are experts in California law and can help add a lot of weight to your case. A defendant with an experienced and resourceful criminal defense attorney on their side often gets a better deal from the prosecutors since they have the right expertise and knowledge of the law and can reduce the charges levied.

Another great advantage of securing an attorney-client relationship for legal representation is that it exempts you from attending court, which could be an additional stress.

Ignoring a Traffic Ticket for Violating Vehicle Code 21651 (B)

After getting a traffic ticket from a police officer for driving your motor vehicle on the wrong side of the road, you are under a legal obligation to attend a court hearing for your violation. After getting a traffic ticket, many victims shrug the ticket away without thinking about the repercussions of failing to show up in court.

Willful violation of a traffic ticket for violation of Vehicle Code 21651 (b) will result in a violation of Vehicle Code 40508 (b), and penalties under that are as follows:

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • Up to $1,000 in fines.

Depending on your situation, including your driving record and violations, you may have to spend time in jail, pay fines, or both.

The Impact of Violating Vehicle Code Section 21651 (B) on a Personal Injury Case

If you are driving on the wrong side of the road and get into an accident with oncoming vehicular traffic, you will likely be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit.

California describes negligence as failing to ensure reasonable care to avoid harm to oneself and others around them. In regards to an auto accident, a negligent party is the one that is at fault. In a personal injury case, depending on your state, you may or may not receive compensation, especially if the wrong way driver flees.

California is a fault-based state, which means that compensation gets awarded according to the degree of fault. This means that even if the driver is negligent, there may be a chance of recovering some damages. A qualified personal injury attorney can increase your chances of getting compensation even if you’re at fault.

Schedule a Free Case Review With Los Angeles Vehicle Injury Lawyers Today

If you got caught driving on the wrong side of the road, contact us at (213) 596-9642 for legal advice from our personal injury attorneys. Whether doing down the asphalt the wrong way was an honest mistake or reckless driving, violation charges can severely impact an individual’s driving and personal record.

Our attorneys understand the opportunities a tainted history could affect and are here to stand with you through this tough time. For more information on how we can help, call us or visit any law offices we maintain across California to speak to our legal experts.


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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.