7 California Traffic Laws Drivers Commonly Ignore

Drivers often neglect important California traffic laws like rules about hands-free driving and following too closely.

California drivers are required to know and obey the state’s traffic laws. But even the most seasoned drivers sometimes ignore them.

We’ve identified seven of the most commonly violated traffic laws in California. Be sure to avoid making these mistakes while driving.

Find more information in these resources:

1. California Slower Traffic Keep Right Law: The “Move Over” Rule

In California, if you are driving slower than the normal speed of traffic, you must drive in the right lane.  If there is no right lane, you should drive as far right on the road as possible. You can leave the right lane to turn left or pass another vehicle.

If you need to travel slowly enough to impede traffic flow, you can use the right shoulder if it is safe to do so.

When the vehicle is necessarily traveling so slowly as to impede the normal movement of traffic, that portion of the highway adjacent to the right edge of the roadway may be utilized temporarily when in a condition permitting safe operation.

CA Veh. Code § 21650

Any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or when preparing for a left turn.

CA Veh. Code § 21654

2. California Flow of Traffic Law: The “Minimum Speed” Rule

California traffic law prohibits driving slowly enough to impede or block the normal and reasonable flow of traffic. It also says that you can’t stop your vehicle on the road if it will interfere with traffic flow. If slow speeds consistently delay traffic in an area, the Department of Transportation can declare a minimum speed limit.

However, you can drive slowly if necessary to safely operate your vehicle or comply with the law. So, you shouldn’t get pulled over for driving the speed limit, even if you’re slowing down traffic.

No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.

No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

CA Veh. Code § 22400

3. California Driving in Left Lane Law: The “Passing on the Left” Rule

If you want to pass another vehicle in California, you must pass to the left and keep a safe distance. To pass on a two-lane road, you must wait until the left lane is clear of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance.

If you are being passed, you must move to the right-hand side of the road if the passing driver sounds their horn or flashes their headlights. You also cannot speed up until after they finish passing you.

The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle.

CA Veh. Code § 21750

On a two-lane highway, no vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle unless the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.

CA Veh. Code § 21751

The driver of an overtaken vehicle shall safely move to the right-hand side of the highway in favor of the overtaking vehicle after an audible signal or a momentary flash of headlights by the overtaking vehicle, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

CA Veh. Code § 21753

4. California Rear-End Collision Law: The “Following Too Closely” Rule

In California, the traffic code forbids following another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.” The appropriate distance between vehicles is based on the speed they are traveling, the condition of the road, and traffic.

The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.

CA Veh. Code §21703

5. California Mobile Phone Driving Law: The “Hands-Free Driving” Rule

California prohibits drivers from holding and using a wireless telephone or another communication device. An exception exists for devices that can be operated hands-free.

A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the telephone or communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.

CA Veh. Code § 23123.5

6. California Four-Way Intersection Law: The “4-Way Stop” Rule

When two California drivers approach an intersection at the same time, the driver to the left must yield the right-of-way. This means that the driver on the right can go first. However, if one of the roads dead ends into the intersection, the driver on that road must yield the right-of-way.

When two vehicles enter an intersection from different highways at the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her immediate right, except that the driver of any vehicle on a terminating highway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle on the intersecting continuing highway.

When two vehicles enter an intersection from different highways at the same time and the intersection is controlled from all directions by stop signs, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her immediate right.

CA Veh. Code § 21800

7. California Left Turn Intersection Law: The “Right of Way” Rule

If you are making a left turn in California, you must wait until any approaching vehicles have passed through the intersection. You must wait until you can turn safely.

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn can be made with reasonable safety.

CA Veh. Code § 21801

Although we’ve highlighted some of the most commonly ignored traffic laws in California, this is not an exhaustive list. It’s important to be aware of all traffic laws and regulations when you’re behind the wheel – no matter where you are. This will help make our streets safer for everyone.

Amy Grover is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, then passing the bar exam in 2014, Amy began her diverse career as a practicing attorney. Amy has a range of experience in the legal field, including work with the Department... Read More >>