CVC 21454 Lane Use Control Signals
How a driver should react to a traffic signal is one of the most basic laws when it comes to driving. Everyone knows there are three basic light colors and they each have a simple meaning. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow (or amber) means the light is in the process of changing from green to red, so a driver needs to quickly assess the situation to determine whether or not the light will turn red before passing through the intersection at the current rate of speed and then either continue through or stop, based on that determination.
California Vehicle Code § 21454 is the law which governs a driver’s actions when approaching a traffic signal, and violating sections (c) or (d) of the code can cost a driver nearly $500 in fines plus a point on the driver’s driving license and increases in insurance rates.
CVC 21454 (c)
Section (c) states, “A driver shall not enter or travel in any lane over which a red signal is shown.”
That seems pretty cut and dried, but the determination as to whether the light was actually red or not at the time a driver proceeds through an intersection can depend entirely on an observer’s point of view. A driver could easily determine that a traffic light is yellow and proceed through an intersection, while a police officer viewing the intersection from a different angle could believe the vehicle was still in the intersection when the light turned red, resulting in the driver being stopped for a traffic violation.
CVC 21454 (d)
Section (d) states, “A driver may use the lane only for the purpose of making a left turn to or from the highway.”
This also sounds indisputable, but just like most traffic laws, it’s not always as simple as it sounds.
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