California Vehicle Code 21809—Failure to Slow When Approaching or Passing Stationary Emergency Vehicle
CVC Section 21809 is the “Move Over” law that requires vehicles to attempt to move to another lane or to use caution when passing a stationary emergency vehicle with its amber lights flashing. The code section states:
“A person driving a vehicle on a freeway approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, a stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a stationary marked Department of Transportation vehicle that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, shall approach with due caution and, before passing in a lane immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle.
When approaching an emergency vehicle drivers should proceed to do one of the following:
Make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or (3) Department of Transportation vehicle, with due regard for safety, tow truck, or (3) Department of Transportation vehicle, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.
If the maneuver described in paragraph (1) would be unsafe or impracticable, slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road and vehicular or pedestrian traffic condition.
Specifically, if you are on the freeway and an emergency vehicle such as fire truck, EMT, a tow truck or other DOT vehicle has its amber lights flashing, you should first slow down and then attempt to move to a different lane that is not immediately next to or adjacent to the emergency vehicles if you are able to do so safely. If there is too much traffic, then stop if possible or slow considerably and wait so that you can change lanes.
Further, although your basic fine is $50, with the additional court fees the violation will cost you $238 and a point on your driving record.
CVC 21809 is Confusing
This law is confusing to many motorists. When motorists see an emergency vehicle on the shoulder, many continuing driving but slow down without changing lanes. If a police officer is monitoring traffic, he or she will likely pull over motorists who simply pass the vehicles even at the posted speed limit.
Your first reaction when seeing one of described vehicles with its lights flashing on the shoulder should be to immediately slow down and seek to get into a lane as far from the vehicle as possible. The code section states that if you are unable to do this with reasonable safety, then you may proceed to a “reasonable and prudent speed” based on the existing traffic conditions.
Whether you violated CVC 21809 is largely subjective and up to the judgment of the police officer who decided that you (1) failed to move into a different lane that was not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle, or (2) that you were traveling too fast for the current traffic conditions when you passed the stopped vehicle.
While you can argue that a reasonable and prudent speed when passing is at or just below the posted speed limit, few courts would agree with you. Also, you likely have to show that you attempted to move to a different lane but were unable to do so safely before passing.
Should You Challenge the Ticket Alone?
While it may seem easy to contest a traffic ticket, you can run into many obstacles. Simply hoping that the police officer who cited you does not show up is one trial strategy but if the officer does appear, are you prepared to cross-examine the officer? Do you even know how?
The burden of proof is on the prosecution so the officer will be the first and probably only prosecution witness to testify. If you are not legally trained, the officer could testify to anything without you objecting such as hearsay, which could be the officer reading from his notes or testifying to something that he or she did not observe. There may be other objections that only a trial attorney can spot and make at the appropriate times.
When your opportunity to testify arises, your explanation and argument needs to be on point. If you created a chart, the court may not allow it unless you can lay a foundation for its admissibility. Should you have witnesses on hand to support your version, you also must know how to question them and to prepare them for cross-examination.
Hire a Traffic Ticket Expert
Traffic court is still a court of law and the judge expects you, if representing yourself, to know the rules of evidence and how trials are conducted. For a very reasonable fee, you can have an experienced traffic ticket expert from Ticket Snipers handling your case. Our experts only handle traffic violations, we have the knowledge and skills your case needs to give you the best opportunity for a favorable outcome.
With a traffic ticket expert from Ticket Snipers, you get the following benefits:
- No need to make any court appearances
- No missing time from work waiting for hours in crowded courtrooms
- Legal fees that are often half of your fine and costs
If you win, then:
- No fines or costs
- No points on your record
- No increase in insurance
Over the years, experts from Ticket Snipers have handled thousands of traffic violation cases. Our record and success rate is why so many of our clients return to us and refer their friends and family members. Call Ticket Snipers for the defense assistance you need to prevail.