Ultimate Guide to Understanding General Rules for Driving California Roadways. California is the land of Route 66 and road trips. California traffic laws are a duty for every responsible driver to follow.
Drivers are expected to know the law and obey the speed limits as the inertia and momentum of a car crash is quite deadly. And they need to know it to pass their driver’s and permit tests. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) shows the legislative enactments codified. So a citizen or law enforcement officer can have them at their fingertips.
The Ehline Law Firm’s specialty is dealing with vehicle accident injuries, especially when the speed limits are ignored by at-fault drivers. Hence, these Los Angeles car accident lawyers have provided consumers with the most relevant code sections in this helpful article below.
The person that caused the injuries could be sued. A suit could be under the tort theory of negligence per se if the Vehicle Code were violated and led to a catastrophic injury.
Also, this can include cars, trucks, and large commercial vehicles, including semi-trucks dropping loads in Los Angeles.
California is the land of Route 66 and road trips. California traffic laws are a duty for every responsible driver to follow. Drivers are expected to know the law and obey the speed limits. And they need to know it to pass their driver’s and permit test. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) shows the legislative enactments codified. So a citizen or law enforcement officer can have them at their fingertips. The Ehline Law Firm’s specialty is dealing with vehicle accident injuries, especially when the speed limits are ignored by at fault drivers.
With over 50,000 miles of roads, many in a state of disrepair, good-quality highways and freeways are a thing of the past in the Golden State. Even the secondary routes leading to cool places like the San Benardino Mountains are covered with potholes and tore up roads. Obeying the posted sped limits is not always possible with such negligent maintenance by Caltrans and others. Pacific Coast Highway, especially near the Port of Long Beach is a traffic accident nightmare. The redwoods along Highway 101 Avenue of the Giants are breathtaking, but crashes are common along this path. Some supply chain workhorses like Interstates 5 or I 80 are filled with huge, diesel truck, bellowing stinky diesel exhaust along the highway, typical under the speed limits of 55 mph. So although the destinations are gorgeous, accidents happen along the way.
You must be trained in and understand the basic rules for navigating our roads here, especially the speed limits. Below, California car accident attorney, Michael Ehline has provided you with a list of important road laws and basic speed law at railroad crossings, along with a Vehicle Code quick reference guide.
Mandatory Safety Measures
California law requires all passengers i a vehicle to wear a seatbelt, and motorcycle riders must wear a DOT approved helmet. Obviously, never drive drunk or high on marijuana or cocaine.
Obey All Speed Limits
- Speed limits are posted as miles per hour (mph).
- Most multilane freeways in California allow 65 mph max for smaller cars, but some districts allow up to 70 mph.
- Most two-lane highways max out at 55 mph.
- Most city street speed limits max at 35 mph, though school zones and residential district areas will max out at 25 mph, especially when children are present within 500 feet of a school, so don’t driver faster.
How Does California Enforce Speed Limits?
Some California speed limits are enforced by aircraft using the pace method or using radar technology. Once targeted, a ground based police cruise is radioed to pull you over and conduct an investigative stop. Some areas have cameras that detect speed limits violations along the roadside. You are smart to obey speed limit.
Inattentive, distracted driving is a no no in California. You shall not text, or read SMS messages when operation a vehicle in CA. You must us a hands-free device t o communicate over a mobile device.
HOV carpool or diamond painted “diamond lanes” are found all along CA freeway surfaces along the left lanes typically. Black-and-white signs let you know where you can enter and exit these lanes legally. Fines for violating these laws for lane sharing, or not having at least two people inside are hefty.
TIP: Some areas like San Francisco Bay Area have three-person minimum car pool lanes at peak congestion, so do your research before heading out.
Snow Travel Regulations
Believe it or not, some Northern Cal and mountainous areas have lots of snow. Commercial trucks and cars without snow tires will usually have to attach snow chains to their tires. Here are some restrictions and closure links to help you plan ahead.
Get a Copy of the DMV Drivers Handbook
Here is a copy of California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Driver Handbook, . For most non lawyers, this should explain everything about the state’s road rules.
Obtaining Emergency Help
You can report a crime like road rage or hit and run by calling 911 from your smart phone. Below are the more specific California Vehicle Code Sections you should know to stay safe while driving.
Car Accident Law—California Motor Vehicle Code.
20001—Stopping at the Scene of a Roadway Accident
By Ehline Law Firm. California Vehicle Code 20001 says drivers in accidents must immediately stop at the scene. If a driver leaves the scene by driving away, it is a crime. Especially true is in the event the occupants of the other vehicles may have gotten injured. These rules get outlined in-vehicle codes 20001, 20003, and 20004.
21050—Riding Animals on Roadways
Vehicle Code 21050 states if you drive a vehicle with animal on the highway, the rider has the same rights as those drivers of motor vehicles. This also means having the same duties of care. Exceptions apply when the nature of animals comes into play. Then it cannot be applicable.
21058—Physicians Responding to Emergencies
This section applies when physician’s vehicles display the insignia that indicates they are a licensed medical professional. This comes in when they are drive a vehicle to a medical emergency call. Then the driver is exempt from speed laws, even through a red light and even if the speed limit is 55 mph.
21100.3—Obeying Traffic Control Officers
Motor Vehicle Code 21100.3 outlines how drivers are required to obey the directions of authorized traffic control officers.
21200—Bicycle Riders Rights and Duties
Section 21200 applies to bicycle riders on roadways. It gives them the same rights as motor vehicle drivers and is also subject to drivers’ duties. This includes issues like riding under the influence. Although some provisions may not apply to bicycles, the way they are to drivers.
21202—Bicycle Operation on the Roadway
Motor Vehicle Code 21202 details when bicycles are moving faster than the average speed of traffic, which moves within the same direction. The bicycle rider must ride as near to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as possible, except for passing, turning left, or avoiding unsafe roadway conditions and remaining within speed limits.
21208—Designated Bicycle Lanes
Motor Vehicle Code 21208, when enforced by local authorities, designates bicycle riders must use bicycle lanes and are not permitted to leave that lane unless it is safe.
Motor Vehicle Code 21221 outlines the driving of motor scooters having the same rights, and the operator is subject to the same duties as drivers of motor vehicles.
21224—Motor Scooter Exemptions from Vehicle Provisions
Motor Vehicle Code 21224 outlines exemptions for a motorized scooter operator exempt from financial responsibility laws, including registration and vehicle licensing requirements since it is not a motor vehicle.
21228—Rules for Motorized Scooters
Motorized Scooter rules for roadways treat them on the same level as a bicycle, stating if a bicycle lane is available, the operator must stay in this lane. When a bicycle lane is not open, the operator must remain on the right-hand curb or edge of the road, except for unsafe.
21235—Restrictions of Operation of Motorized Scooters
Motor Vehicle Code 21235 outlines the restrictions of motorized scooters’ operation on the street traveling over 25 mph not permitted unless there is a bike lane. It would be best if you did not operate a motorized scooter on sidewalks, and the operator cannot carry passengers.
21251—Exemptions for Low-Speed Vehicles, Application of Provisions
California Motor Vehicle Code 21251, the operator of a low-speed vehicle, has all the rights as other motorists and is subject to the same duties as vehicle drivers. This includes driving under the influence; however, some provisions may be exempt by their nature that are not applicable.
21254—Modifications of Low-Speed Vehicles above 25 mph
Motor Vehicle Code 21254 states that if a low-speed vehicle is modified, the car must meet passenger vehicle federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards rather than non-modified motorized scooters’ relaxed standards.
21260—Low-Speed Vehicle Maximum Speed Crossing Intersections
Motor Vehicle Code 21260 details the modification of low-speed vehicles, stating they may not be operated on any roadway above 35 mph unless they are crossing a highway and must have a speed below 35 mph at that time.
21266—Low-Speed Vehicle Local Laws
Motor Vehicle Code 21266 states that a low-speed motorized vehicle operator must obey all local laws and restrictions.
21281.5—Safe Operation of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices and Speeding
Motorized Vehicle Code 2128 states that the operator of this type of vehicle must yield to all pedestrians’ right-of-way when operating the vehicle on sidewalks, roads, or paths. It also states that the mobility device operator must operate the car safely for the conditions they are traveling.
21451—Green Traffic Lights
Motor Vehicle Code 21452 states that drivers with a green light may enter an intersection and perform legally permitted turns or travel through the intersection. When the green light has a green arrow, this enables protected turns, and when not prohibited, it allows U-turns to be performed. If there are no pedestrian control signals, pedestrians may begin to cross an intersection during the green light.
21452—Yellow Traffic Lights
So this details yellow light warnings to drivers. The yellow light warns drivers that the light will soon turn red. Next, this prohibits drivers from entering an intersection. Also, it is a warning to pedestrians. Examples are when they cross without the assistance of pedestrian dedicated control lights. So pedestrians will have insufficient time to cross when the light is yellow safely.
21453—Steady Red Lights and Red Arrows
Motor Vehicle Code 21453 states when a driver comes to a steady red light or red arrow, they must come to a complete stop before entering intersections or crosswalks. When not prohibited, right turns are permitted on solid red lights, but no arrows, but only after coming to a complete stop to ensure no hazards are present.
21456—Walk, Don’t Walk, Wait
Motor Vehicle Code 21456 states that pedestrians will not begin crossing the roadway when the crosswalk signal has “Don’t Walk” or “Wait.” This includes an upraised hand sign.
21457—Illuminated Traffic Signals or Signs Flashing Yellow or Red
CVC Section 21457 states that a flashing yellow traffic signal permits proceeding through an intersection. But only using extreme caution. Flashing red lights should be treated by motorists as a stop sign. So drivers must come to a complete stop before proceeding.
21460—Roadway Double Lines
This outlines double parallel lines on roadways. And crossing them is only permitted when turning left into a private road or driveway. Making a legal U-turn or passing another vehicle must be done on broken lines.
21464—Interfering with Traffic Devices
Motor Vehicle Code 21464 states that any individual’s official traffic signs or devices shall not be altered or defaced. It is illegal to sell, install or own mobile infrared transmitters and other devices that may alter traffic signals.
21650.1—Traveling Directions of Bicycles on Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21650.1 states that bicyclists should ride in the same direction as traffic.
21651—Operating a Motor Vehicle on Divided Highways
Motor Vehicle Code 21651 states that roadways with multiple lanes with two-way traffic require drivers to be on the right side of the road.
21654—Slow Moving Vehicles
Motor Vehicle Code 21654 says the vehicle operator should stay at the right side of the roadway when traveling in the same direction as traffic but at a slower speed.
21655—Specified Lanes/Car Pool Lanes for High Occupancy Vehicles
Motor Vehicle Code 21655 states that vehicles should not enter carpool lanes, even when attempting to pass another vehicle unless the vehicle is transporting the minimum required amount of passengers required by law. Vehicle operators should not cross double yellow lines to enter the carpool lane.
21656—Slow Moving Vehicles Allowing Traffic To Pass
Motor Vehicle Code 21656 states that when passing on the left side is unsafe on two-lane roadways, the slow traveling vehicle, with five vehicles behind it, must turn into a designated turnaround to let the other vehicles pass by.
21658—Roadways with Lanes
Motor Vehicle Code 21658 states that when operating a vehicle on roadways with lanes, the driver must be completed in one lane when there are multiple lanes in the same direction. Switching lanes is only permitted when it is safe to do so, and the vehicle operator must obey all signs for lanes that have specific purposes.
21660—Approaching Vehicles on Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21660 specifies that motor vehicle operators must pass each other on the right and provide at least half of the roadway when possible.
21661—Vehicle Operation on Narrow Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21661 states on narrow roadways, the driver traveling downhill is to give right-of-way to the vehicle traveling uphill and that they will turn off the roadway to make room for safe passing, when necessary.
21662—Driving on Mountainous Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21662 states that operators of motor vehicles must be in control at all times and drive as close to the right of the roadway when possible. Horns should warn other drivers when approaching if within 200 feet of a curve on a narrow roadway with an obstructed view.
21663—Driving on Sidewalks
Motor Vehicle Code 21663 states that driving on sidewalks is not permitted unless entering or exiting a property or it is expressly permitted.
21700—Driving with Obstructions
Motor Vehicle Code 21700 specifies drivers are not permitted to load a vehicle in a way that obstructs or interferes with the driver’s vision or control of the vehicle.
21701—Interfering with Drivers or Mechanisms
Motor Vehicle Code 21700 states that it is not permitted to interfere with the driver of a vehicle or the mechanisms in any way that may affect the control of the vehicle operator.
21702—Driving Hour Limitations
Motor Vehicle Code 21702 states that the operators of buses or other vehicles transporting passengers for compensation are not permitted to drive more than 10 hours in 24 hours unless they have had 8 hours of consecutive rest. It is not allowed for any commercial driver to go more than 12 straight hours or 12 hours spread over 15 hours.
21703—Following at an Unsafe Distance
Motor Vehicle Code 21703 states that vehicle drivers must leave a safe distance between their vehicle and the one traveling in front of them. They must also consider speed, traffic, road conditions, and a general duty to safety.
21706—Following Emergency Vehicles on Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21706 states that drivers of motor vehicles should not follow emergency vehicles within 300 feet.
21710—Coasting in Neutral
Motor Vehicle Code 21710 says that no driver shall coast in neutral when traveling downhill, and doing so, is illegal.
21712—Illegal Towing and Riding
Motor Vehicle Code 21712 says that it is illegal to have passengers sit in any part of a vehicle that is not made for passengers to sit or to tow a trailer, coach or motorcycle, while it contains passengers.
21714—Prohibited Areas for Motorcycles and Motorized Bicycles/Scooters to Travel
Motor Vehicle Code 21714 states that it is illegal for motorcycles or motorized bicycles/ scooters to travel between two or more vehicles traveling in adjacent lanes or immediately adjacent to markers designating lanes.
21716—Legal Operation of Golf Carts
Motor Vehicle Code 21716 states that golf carts may legally be operated only on roadways where the speed limit is 25 mph or less.
21718—Leaving or Parking Vehicles on Highways or Freeways
Motor Vehicle Code 21718 says drivers are permitted to stop on freeways or highways if told to do so by a police officer to avoid injury, where expressly permitted, or doing emergency maintenance.
21750—Passing or Overtaking Vehicles
Motor Vehicle Code 21750 says when it is safe to overtake or pass a vehicle or bicycle traveling in front of your car and traveling in the same direction, it should be done on the left. The driver passing or overtaking another should allow them enough space on the roadway to operate the vehicle or bicycle normally and safely.
21751—Insufficient Clearance When Passing
Motor Vehicle Code 21751 states that a vehicle can only pass when the driver can see that it is safe and have sufficient clearance to overtake the vehicle in front of four and two-lane roadways.
21752—Left Lane Driving Prohibited
Motor Vehicle Code 21752 states that no vehicle drivers will travel on the road’s left side when approaching a curve or crest, where drivers of other vehicles view are obstructed. This is also illegal to do within 100 feet of an intersection, railroad grade, bridge, or tunnel.
21753—Yielding While Passing
Motor Vehicle Code 21753 states it is not permitted to speed up when being passed by another vehicle; the driver should slow down and allow the passing vehicle to do so safely.
21756—Passing Stopped Buses, Streetcars, and Trolley’s
California Motor Vehicle Code 21756 says the driver of a vehicle must stop when a vehicle in front of them is discharging or picking up passengers unless there is a specifically designed safety zone to do so.
Motor Vehicle Code 21759 says that drivers should slow their speed and obey any traffic signals by a person in charge of animals to pass safely.
21800—Intersections with All-Direction Stop Signs or Non-Functioning Traffic Control Signs
Motor Vehicle Code 21800 states that when entering an intersection, with all-direction stop signs, when entering the intersection at the same time, the driver on you should yield right of way to the driver on your right. When there is a broken traffic-control device, the driver should stop at the intersection and proceed when it is safe.
21801—Right-of-Way for Left or U-Turns
Motor Vehicle Code 211801 states the driver making a left or U-turn, driver’s should always yield to the right-of-way to oncoming traffic when there is not a green arrow that provides them the right-of-way.
21802—Stop Sign Laws
Motor Vehicle Code 21802 states that approaching stop signs, the vehicle driver should slow their speed and come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs.
21803—Yielding to the Right-of-Way
Motor Vehicle Code 21803 states the driver must yield a yield sign or indication of one. This will include merging onto roadways or in the event of a vehicle crossing in front of yours.
21804—Entering Highway Traffic
Motor Vehicle Code 21804 says that when a driver is entering a highway from private or public property or an alley, the driver has to yield to the right-of-way to close approaching traffic already traveling on the highway.
21805—Equestrian Crossings on Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21805 states horseback riders are permitted to cross roadways at officially designated crossing areas but should use caution. The driver of a motor vehicle must yield to the right-of-way to horses at designated crossing points.
Motor Vehicle Code 21950 states pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks, and drivers have the duty to exercise care when pedestrians are crossing the roadway legally. When pedestrians are crossing the road illegally, driver’s still should use care in driving.
The California Motor Vehicle Code 21952 states, pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks if a driver is driving up on the sidewalk for any reason, including entering or exiting driveways.
21954—Pedestrians Not in Crosswalks
Motor Vehicle Code 21954 states that pedestrians outside of crosswalks should yield to the right-of-way to vehicles. The drivers of vehicles have to drive with care to ensure pedestrians’ safety outside of crosswalks.
21957—Hitchhiking on California Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 21957 states that hitchhiking or standing on the roadway to solicit a ride is illegal in California.
22100—Turning on Roadways
Motor Vehicle Code 22100 says that making U-turns at intersections may only be done when permitted at the intersection. U-turns are not allowed to be made near fire station driveways, in residential districts if another vehicle is approaching, or on streets that have obstructed views.
22112—Stopping when Following a School Bus
Motor Vehicle Code 22112 says that vehicles following school buses must stop behind the bus and are not permitted to pass when the school bus is loading or unloading and has flashing red lights and a stop sign.
Motor Vehicle Code 22350 states that drivers must travel at an appropriate speed for the roadway and weather conditions. It is illegal in California to exceed the marked speed limit on a roadway.
22352—State Roadway Speed Limits
Motor Vehicle Code 22352 states that drivers must follow the required speed limit unless it is otherwise posted. At railway crossings and intersections with obstructed views, the speed limit is 15 mph and in alleys. In residential areas, school zones, playgrounds, and senior citizen facilities, the speed limit is 25 mph. During traffic jams it probably doesn’t matter, but still, you must obey speed laws in business districts, schools and other areas pedestrians tend to frequent.
22400—Minimum Speed Limit Laws
Motor Vehicle Code 22400 states drivers should not drive at a decreased speed limit that interferes or impedes regular traffic, and the vehicle becomes a safety hazard on the roadway. Speed limits keep people safer.
22406—Maximum Speed Limits for Specific Motor Vehicles
Motor Vehicle Code 22406 states that vehicles with more than three axles, school buses transporting any passengers, vehicles towing other vehicles, farm labor vehicles, trailer buses, and vehicles transporting explosives are not permitted to travel over 55 mph speed limits.
22451—Train Crossing Signals
This state’s vehicles must stop no less than 15 feet from train rails. And they can only proceed when it is safe to cross. When train crossings have protective gates, drivers are never permitted to pass through, around, or under them.
23103—Reckless Driving on Roadways
This says that drivers on highways, freeways, residential areas, and parking lots can be considered driving recklessly. But they must show a willful disregard for the safety of property or persons.
23109—Exhibitions of Speed and Speed Contests
Says that clocking high speeds, racing, or assisting in a race is illegal. So violating the maximum speed limit is punishable by fines and jail time. Unless otherwise posted and you don’t know the speed limit, drive under 55 mph till you find out the speed law.
23110—Throwing Items at Vehicles
23110 states that no one should throw anything at vehicles. And doing so will result in misdemeanor or felony charges. But this is always depending on the damages caused by the action.
23111—Throwing Items on Highways
Section 23111 says it is illegal to throw items on highways. So you cannot toss garbage, or cigarettes whether lit or unlit. Also, you are prohibited from littering with any other entities or substances in adjoining areas.
23112—Throwing, dumping, or depositing Items or Substances on Highways
Here the law states that it is illegal for the driver, passenger, or pedestrian to throw, leave or deposit any items or substances on highways.
23116—Flatbeds and Pickup Trucks Transporting in Back Section Application
This states it is not permitted to transport unrestrained passengers in the back of a pickup truck or flatbed truck. But it is allowed if the vehicle is on a farm. Also, this section does not apply in a law enforcement-approved and supervised parade or during an emergency.
23117—Enclosure or Restraint Requirements when Transporting Animals
Motor Vehicle Code 23117 states that it is not legal to transport animals in the back of vehicles. But you can if you have the space enclosed. However, the vehicle must have side and tail racks at least 46 inches high. And this to prevent animals from falling, escaping, or getting thrown from the vehicle. But this regulation does not apply when traveling with a dog for farming reasons or transporting cattle.
23123—Use of a Wireless Telephone While Driving a Motor Vehicle
This section states that it is not permitted by law to use a wireless telephone. Not unless it has been designed and configured to be used in a hands-free manner. But the use of the phone to call the police or medical personnel is permitted.
23124—Use of Wireless Telephones by Minors While Driving
Section 23124 states drivers under the age of 18 are not permitted to use a wireless telephone. True even if it is designed and configured to be hands-free.
23123.5—Sending or Reading of Text-Based Communication While Driving a Motor Vehicle
Vehicle Code 23123.5 states it is not permitted to write or read text-based communications while driving.
23127—Use of Paths and Trails
The law says operators of motor vehicles are not to operate a vehicle on a hiking trail, bike path, or horse trail where signs prohibit this. At least, not unless the driver has written permission from the owner of the trail. But bike paths, which are adjacent and bordering roadways, are an exception.
23128—Use of Snowmobiles
This states that it is not permissible to hunt or harass animals while on a snowmobile. Also, it is not permissible to operate the snowmobile in a dangerous way to persons or property. Snowmobiles are not permitted on highways.
23136—Blood Alcohol Level of .01 or Greater in Persons Under 21
This states driver under 21 with a blood alcohol concentration of .01 or greater is not legally permitted to drive.
23152—Blood Alcohol Percentages, Presumptions, and Driving Under the Influence
California Vehicle Code 23152 says drivers are not permitted to drive while under the influence of foreign substances. And no person addicted to a drug is permitted to drive unless they are in rehab.
Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or greater will be charged with a DUI. Operators of commercial vehicles are not legally permitted to drive with a blood alcohol concentration level of .04 or greater.
23220—Driving of Any Vehicle While Driving
Vehicle Code 23220 states that it is not permissible to drink alcoholic beverages while driving or as a passenger in any vehicle on the highway.
23222—Open Containers Containing Alcoholic Beverages or Possession of Marijuana While Driving
CVC Section 23222 states that it is illegal to possess more than one avoirdupois ounce of marijuana.
23223—Possession of an Open Container in a Vehicle
Motor Vehicle Code 23223 says it’s illegal for drivers or passengers to possess open containers in a motor vehicle. If it’s on a roadway or highway, there is a violation.
23224—Persons Under 21 Possession of Alcoholic Beverages in Motor Vehicles
CVC Section 23224 states it is illegal for drivers or passengers under 21 to possess alcoholic beverages in vehicles. If it is present in the car, they must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult relative. And this is someone designated by the parents.
Schedule a Free Consultation To Learn General California Driving Regulations from a Superior Car Accident Attorney
If you have questions, have gotten cited for violating speed limits under California’s basic speed law, or were arrested along any of California’s two lane undivided highways, call us. The same goes if you were the victim of an accident violating one of the codes or local rules of the road. Go ahead and contact the million dollar, award winning Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642.
Legal Notice: “Know the California Rules for Roadways” is for reference and interest only. So this is not meant to be any form of legal advice.
This is not an all-inclusive document of California Vehicle Code laws. This is not designed to apply a particular code to any ticket, incident, or accident. If you require legal advice, you need to consult a licensed California attorney. Then you will be to get legal guidance under California law to protect your rights from San Diego, to Santa Monica, to San Francisco, CA.
Sources and Citations:
Here are some additional answers to frequently asked questions: