Vehicle Code 21461a VC - Obeying Traffic Signs and Signals

Feeling confused over receiving a recent Vehicle Code 21461a VC citation in the mail?  If so, consider this your go-to guide for the most common and basic components of this traffic violation.  Below, we’ll cover the essentials, including:

What is Vehicle Code 21461a VC?

This is one of those vehicle codes that is blissfully simple.  However, let’s start with the formal definition and work out from there.  The California legislation defines this citation as: “It is unlawful for a driver of a vehicle to fail to obey a sign or signal defined as regulatory in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or a Department of Transportation approved supplement to that manual of a regulatory nature erected or maintained to enhance traffic safety and operations or to indicate and carry out the provisions of this code or a local traffic ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to a local traffic ordinance, or to fail to obey a device erected or maintained by lawful authority of a public body or official.

It’s kind of wordy, right?  Simplified, this is a straightforward citation that means all licensed drivers have to follow official traffic signs and signals as directed by the manual.  This includes temporary devices used for the same effect (i.e., construction signs). This also includes any signs or signals added after the fact, as it is your responsibility to keep up to date on the traffic laws as they change.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 21461a VC?

Thankfully, this is amongst the simplest of vehicle codes, so it tends to be pretty easy to keep in mind.  However, being as generic as it is, there are also quite a few situations in which it can be applied, often becoming a bit concerning if you receive a citation seemingly out of nowhere.  Let’s put our imaginary California driver, Jack, into a few common and uncommon situations.

In our first common situation, Jack is in a rush to meet his girlfriend for a drink at a restaurant.  Coming up to a crosswalk, he continues driving even though the pedestrian is clearly starting out on the crosswalk.  Regardless of which side they are crossing from in relation to Jack, this is a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation because the pedestrian has the right of way on the marked crosswalk.

In a second common situation, Jack is driving home from his date and is in a good mood.  He’s so busy thinking about what a nice time he had, he didn’t realize he was speeding.  A peace officer pulls him over and says that he is guilty of a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation.  Even though Jack hadn’t put anyone at risk or was speeding knowingly, he still was speeding.  Now let’s take a look at a few uncommon situations in which this can be applied.

In our first uncommon situation, Jack is worried or stressed and gets in a hurry.  In his haste to beat traffic, he forgets to put his seatbelt on.  Wearing a seatbelt is required in the state of California, so this is a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation.  This one often confuses people since this isn’t something that’s on a sign…but it actually is!  In strategic spots around the state (such as near airports, for example), there are signs indicating the need for seatbelts.  It’s also in the driver’s manual, which you agree to obey when receiving your license.

In our second uncommon situation, Jack is annoyed by the driver in front of him, so he whips out in the left lane, signaling properly, and then re-enters his original lane ahead of the other driving, signaling appropriately as needed.  However, a peace officer could still give him a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation because, on top of signaling properly, he needs to pass safely.  If a peace officer or another officiant determined that Jack did not pass safely, the violation would stand.

To any variation and any situation in receiving this citation, there are two main exemptions.  The first is that you are allowed to “ignore” signage if an official tells you to do so.  For example, construction workers indicate you to stop or proceed even if traffic lights disagree with that.  Or emergency vehicles requiring you to pull out around an accident, etc.

The second exemption is that you are not obligated to follow a sign that you can’t see.  For example, a “No U-turn” sign is hidden behind a giant bush.  If you can’t reasonably see the sign, then completing the U-turn is exempted.  Or if the sign itself is missing (such as coming loose from its pole in a windstorm.

These are both technicalities and will require careful arguing in court but are very valid nonetheless.

What can I do about this violation?

A Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation is an infraction in most situations, though it can be upgraded to a misdemeanor if you have several offenses or the reason for citation is a bit more complex.

An infraction carries a small fine typically less than $200 and often will include an addition of 1 DMV point to your record.  On your court date notice, you’ll perhaps see a note bout the option of attending traffic school.  We’ll talk about this in detail a little later.

A misdemeanor will make for a larger fine (typically up to $1 000) and can carry more than 1 point for your DMV record as well as the potential 6-month stay in county jail.  This can be substituted for probation in many cases, though it’s dependent on the judge.

It’s important to note that this is considered a “minor” ticket meaning the punishment is very light.  This “small” ticket also leads many people to simply skip their court date since it’s “not a big deal.”  Skipping your court date carries an extra citation and also complicates the process of the court appointment itself.  No matter how “minor” it seems, it’s important to appear in court as scheduled—not doing so immediately complicated it into a serious offense!

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

As mentioned above, a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation is very broad, which means there are many other citations that can be added to it.  While not a complete list, some of the most common connections include:

  • Vehicle Code 21453 VC: This is a citation related to some sort of red light violation (there are several ways this can be applied).
  • Vehicle Code 21703 VC: This citation refers specifically to following a car too closely, more commonly known as tailgating.
  • Vehicle Code 21709 VC: This violation states that you can’t operate a vehicle in a safety zone (a striped area designated for pedestrians).
  • Vehicle Code 21800-21804 VC: This covers several offenses that are all about failing to yield as obligated in your manual.
  • Vehicle Code 21950 VC: Receiving this violation is about failing to yield specifically to a pedestrian who has the right of way.
  • Vehicle Code 22100 VC: This citation is all about legally (or illegally) completing right or left turns.
  • Vehicle Code 22350 VC: This violation focuses on the basics of speeding, referring to the posted speed limit.
  • Vehicle Code 22450 VC: This citation refers to specifically failing to stop, or even slow, at a stop sign.
  • Vehicle Code 23127 VC: Receiving this violation means that you are driving on a trail or path that is strictly only for walking or perhaps off-road vehicles.
  • Vehicle Code 24250 VC: This violation means that you are driving in the darkness with no headlights on (whether they’re turned off or burnt out).
  • Vehicle Code 38300 CVC: If you receive this citation, it means that you are disobeying a sign or a signal, regardless of what it actually is and what it is for.

This is not a complete list, as mentioned, but it gives you a true idea of just what kinds of specific violations are out there on top of a Vehicle Code 21461a VC citation.

Depending on the circumstances around receiving the violation, the police office or court may add any or all of these violations to the existing ones.  The more that you have, the more the fines and DMV points will add up.

The peace officer can also choose to use any of these to replace the Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation if they decide that another citation more accurately describes the situation specific to your write-up.

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

As mentioned above, the citation that you receive in the mail should let you know whether you have the option of attending traffic school or not for a violation.  California offers the option of traffic school to those who receive a moving citation if they aren’t in a commercial vehicle.  With those criteria in mind, a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation is eligible for traffic school.  In most cases, you can attend traffic school if you haven’t attended within the last 18 months or received a citation for which you are gaining 2 or more DMV points.  It’s important for you to attend an accredited traffic school, such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL since the accreditation is required for DMV authorization.

There are many advantages to consider attending a traffic school.  One is that you will be able to mask the point addition from your DMV record.  The second one is that you can often shorten the process of the citation notice itself by formally agreeing to attend traffic school and paying the court’s fees.  For those on a time crunch, this is crucial.

Another really important advantage is that attending traffic school will be fun!  This is a far cry from your classic lecture and droning picture that you have in your head from Charlie Brown.  Your teacher is interested, engaged, and dedicated to helping you understand the technical details in traffic school.  There are plenty of jokes, visual aids, and other little surprises to make this a truly fun experience — yes, really.

Lastly, another great reason to consider traffic school is that it will help you understand how to be a better driver.  The whole purpose of a traffic school is to adapt your driving technique, after all, and the best success ever is being able to get back on the road and feeling like you are a stronger, better driver for it.

Curious as to just what MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL can do for you, or for more information on your Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation? Please contact us, and we’ll be happy to give you more detail.  You can also contact the court that issued your ticket if you need a more personalized approach to your particular case too.

How can I avoid a citation for a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation?

Avoiding receiving a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation is always going to be your best approach, as it would be with any kind of traffic violation!  The great news is that since this particular citation is pretty simple, avoiding one is, too!  Here are some tips to help you out.

One of the most important things that you can do is have a proper understanding of what all of the different traffic signs and signals look like.  Understanding the difference between them all, where they’re often located, and more will help you to keep everything straight in your mind.  Feel like you need to brush up on a few of them?  There’s no shame in it; go right ahead! 

Another important detail to keep in mind is to make a conscious effort to see those signs as legal requirements.  While they don’t often seem this way, they are legally binding.  By operating a vehicle in California with a license, you are obligated to follow these signs.  They are not suggestions and should never be taken as such.

Lastly, you’ll want to resist the urge to get lazy about determining for yourself which signs you should follow or not.  This happens a lot as you get several years under your belt and start to realize that following certain signs “doesn’t matter.”  It does, in fact, matter and should always be seen that way.    Please remember: Receiving a Vehicle Code 21461a VC violation means that you are disobeying a specific sign or signal.  If there is no sign or signal posted, the violation is not valid!



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