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California Traffic Laws

California roads come in all different shapes and sizes. You might drive through dense cities, coastal highways, and rugged backroads. Wherever you venture, you'll need to know the driving laws.

Discover how California's state laws regulate driving and vehicles. Motorists must stay informed to avoid car accidents and traffic tickets. Read on to learn about California traffic laws.

Check the California Vehicle Code

See the legal statutes for state traffic laws in the table below. You can also find many basic driving rules and tips in the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver's handbook.

Drinking & Driving Violations Offenses Involving Alcohol or Drugs (California Vehicle Code § 23152 - 23229.1)
Driving Without a License / With a Suspended License Violation of License Provisions (California Vehicle Code § 14600 - 14611)
Driving Without Insurance / With Insufficient Insurance Division 7 - Financial Responsibility Laws (California Vehicle Code)
Driving Without Registration / With Expired Registration Division 3 - Registration of Vehicles and Certificates of Title (California Vehicle Code)
Illegal U-Turn Turning and Stopping and Turning Signals (California Vehicle Code § 22100 - 22113)
Leaving the Scene of an Accident / Hit & Run Accidents and Accident Reports (California Vehicle Code § 20000 - 20018)
Mechanical Violations Division 12 - Equipment of Vehicles (California Vehicle Code)
Reckless Driving Reckless Driving (California Vehicle Code § 23103)Reckless Driving: Bodily Injury (California Vehicle Code § 23104)
Running a Red Light / Stop Sign Offenses Relating to Traffic Devices (California Vehicle Code § 21450 - 21468)
Seat Belt / Child Restraint Violations Safety Belts and Inflatable Restraint Systems (California Vehicle Code § 27302 - 27317)Child Safety Belt and Passenger Restraint Requirements (California Vehicle Code § 27360 - 27368)
Speeding Speed Laws, Generally (California Vehicle Code § 22348 - 22366)Other Speed Laws (California Vehicle Code §22400 - 22413)
Unlawful Vehicle Modifications Division 12 - Equipment of Vehicles (California Vehicle Code)

Traffic Violation Penalties in California

Most traffic infractions have a set base fine, but California counties also add extra penalty fees. These fees go toward the local traffic safety fund. That's why a ticket can be much more expensive than the minimum amount. For example, a ticket with a $35 base fine can ultimately cost over $200.

Examples of common traffic offense penalties include:

  • Speeding: A speeding ticket base fine is between $35 and $100. The total amount depends on how fast you drove over the speed limit.
  • Racing and exhibitions of speed: Driving at least 100 mph over the limit has much steeper penalties than a regular speeding ticket, such as a $500 base fine and a 30-day license suspension for the first offense.
  • Running a red light: The base fine is $100, and the extra fees typically lead to a total fine of around $500.
  • Cell phone use: A first offense has a $20 base fine. A second offense rises to $50.
  • Parking tickets: Drivers usually get a fine of around $65 to over $800, depending on the specific location and type of improper parking. You might also pay for towing fees if law enforcement removes your car.

Serious criminal traffic charges lead to high penalties. For example, a first conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) in California involves a minimum six-month license suspension, among other consequences.

Driving in California Cities

California is home to some of the largest U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Navigating these areas can be difficult.

The density of vehicles on the road can pose traffic safety risks. You may share the road with more bicyclists and pedestrians. Light rails like the Muni Metro mean stopping at more railroad crossings. A lack of parking lots can mean circling several blocks under stress before your trip ends.

Tips for Safe City Driving

California drivers and visitors should consider the following tips:

  • Get used to using your cell phone hands-free, such as through voice control
  • Watch for unique road signs, such as a no U-turn sign below a traffic light
  • Always check your blind spot and mirrors for cyclists before changing lanes and turning
  • Slow down when approaching a crosswalk and yield to pedestrians who are about to enter the road

Stay aware of new laws and local ordinances that change the rules of the road, sometimes only in one specific area. These rules often respond to local concerns. For example, laws have aimed to reduce catalytic converter theft and address the increase in electric vehicles.

Speak with a California Attorney

Some traffic violations might have a big impact on your daily life. If a California highway patrol officer gave you a ticket, pause before deciding what to do next.

Get legal advice from someone who understands the details of state laws. A traffic law attorney could help you with tickets, vehicle issues, and driver's license matters.

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Contact a qualified traffic ticket attorney to help you get the best result possible.

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Protect Your Rights During and After a Traffic Stop

  • Certain traffic violations carry significant penalties under California law
  • An attorney can help you protect your rights during and after a traffic stop

Want on-demand legal guidance when you are pulled over? The award-winning TurnSignl app has launched in California!


If you face a traffic violation and need an attorney, find one right now

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