Vehicle Code 21651a VC - Crossing a Divided Highway

Have you recently received a citation in the mail for a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation? If so, you’ve probably got a few questions or concerns on what it is and what it means for your driving record. Below, we cover all of the basics. This includes:

What is Vehicle Code 21651a VC?

The best place to start is with the legal definition so that we can start from the official one and work our way out from there, right? So, according to the legislature: “Under Vehicle Code 21651 (a), whenever there is a divided roadway, it’s unlawful to do either of the following:
  • To drive any vehicle over, upon, or across the dividing section.
  • To make a left, semicircular, or U-turn, except through a plainly marked opening in the dividing section”.
What this means, translated to a more basic phrasing, is that you can’t drive your vehicle over that divided roadway line. There must be a break in the line in order for you to cross over the roadway to complete your turn.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 21651a VC?

This particular violation is relatively simple and self-explanatory, but it’s also an easy one to break! So, let’s put Reggie, our fictional California driver, into a few situations and see just what we can expect with a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation! In our first situation, Reggie is looking to make a left turn that is coming up. There is an upcoming car that he knows is going to be too close when he wants to complete the turn at the break in the lines. So, he pulls his car over the double parallel line early before the break. This both forces the other car to slow down and puts him closer to his turn. In this case, Reggie is guilty of a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation because he crossed over the double lines when he wasn’t supposed to. In another situation, Reggie realizes that he’s turned down the wrong way, and he needs to turn around. There are no spots for him to pull into a parking lot, and there’s no one around to get in the way. So, he swings his car to the left, over the division, and completes a U-turn. Completing a U-turn illegally isn’t the issue in this case (though it is a different violation), but rather, he’s crossed over the lines when there was no break indicating he could do so. In the third example, Reggie is feeling tired as he drives home from his friend’s home. Since he isn’t paying quite as much attention as normal, he doesn’t realize that his car has drifted over the division marker. Even though he pulls his car back over when he does realize, he’s technically still guilty of Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation since there was no break in the lines. There are a few exceptions to this particular offense that you’ll want to know about too! Let’s say that Reggie is driving and coming up to a break in the road to complete his turn. When he is almost there, an emergency vehicle comes up behind him with its lights on. He can’t get out of the way, so he crosses over the lines to allow the emergency vehicle to get into his spot and across the break in the road. In this case, he is innocent because he only crossed the lines to get out of the way of the emergency vehicle. Another exception would be if Reggie is coming is driving along the road, and the car ahead of him inexplicably puts his brakes on — hard. Reggie doesn’t have time to stop safely behind him, so he brakes and crosses over the yellow lines; after checking that the way is clear, to avoid colliding with the car ahead of him who braked too hard. This exception applies because Reggie had no other choice to avoid a collision with the car ahead of him. In the third exception, Reggie completes a turn at the break in the line as he is allowed to do. A peace officer pulls him over because he mistakenly believes that Reggie completed the turn before/after the line break. While Reggie will have to have proof of this, it does qualify as an exception to receiving a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation.

What can I do about this violation?

If you receive this violation, your citation will give you a court date that you must attend. Ignoring the court date can make the problem much worse since it is its own citation and carries a much heavier fine and punishment! Your citation should also let you know whether you’ll have the option of attending traffic school. We’ll talk about this more a little bit later to help you consider your options. In California, the fine for a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation is $238. There are also court fees added to that. This violation also adds one DMV point to your record. Suppose you know that you are guilty of this violation. Your best point of action is to plead guilty to the offense and pay the fine. If you believe you are innocent or you qualify for one of the exemptions above, however, you can certainly plead your case with the support of a traffic court attorney.

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

There are other connections for Vehicle Code violations that you should be aware of, too. These are codes that are similar enough to Vehicle Code 21651a VC that they could be added to offense in the court if the situation surrounding the original citation relates to those additional, similar citations as well. These will carry their own fines and penalties, so this is something to think about. The most common violations include:
  • Vehicle Code 23103 VC: This particular violation means that you were driving recklessly, meaning you weren’t paying attention to the directions or lines.
  • Vehicle Code 22100.5 VC: This citation is when you complete an illegal u-turn (crossing over the lines to do so).
  • Vehicle Code 21460: You can receive this violation when you simply cross over double lines. This applies to white or yellow lines.
  • Vehicle Code 21651b: This particular citation implies that you are driving on the wrong side of the road.
The peace officer who issues you the Vehicle Code 21651a VC citation is going to determine which of these can be added to your current citation. They may even decide that one or more of these works better than the pre-existing Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation. So, they’ll use them instead of it. The court will also weigh in on this if needed.

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

As mentioned above, your citation notice that you receive in the mail should tell you whether or not you have the option of attending traffic school. This is a voluntary option that you can consider if you have not attended traffic school in the past 18 months, have not committed the citation in a corporate vehicle, and/or have received a moving citation. A moving citation is a violation referring to your movement/use of your vehicle. You’ll be happy to learn that yes, a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation is eligible for traffic school, assuming the exceptions above don’t apply! Traffic school, as mentioned, is voluntary and you don’t have to attend it. However, it has a lot of benefits. Firstly, it masks the DMV point that would otherwise be added to your driving record. This record can hold points for up to 3 years, and it can impact your insurance premiums and more. Secondly, agreeing to attend traffic school can speed up the process of your ticket proceeding itself. You can simply agree to attend traffic school, pay your fine to the court, and get started. For those that just want to put that oversight behind them, this is a great advantage to think about seriously. Thirdly, attending a traffic school is fun! Yes, really. When you attend an accredited traffic school such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL, you’re going to learn in a way that is going to make the content so engaging and entertaining, and it won’t even feel like school! And that’s the whole point. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, and this all makes it much easier for you to recall the content that you learned. Fourthly, the content that you learn is going to be so memorable that you’ll be equipped as a stronger and more educated driver than you would have been otherwise. This is, of course, the entire point of traffic school, and we’re very proud and excited to be a part of your journey. If you have any questions or concerns on Vehicle Code 21651a VC and its connection to your driving, we want to help! Please contact us, and we’ll be happy to give you whatever information we can on your ticket and how our school can help. If you want a more personalized approach to your ticket, you can also reach out to the court that issued the citation.

How can I avoid a citation for a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation?

Avoiding tickets is a great goal when looking to be a responsible and safe driver in California! If you want to avoid receiving a Vehicle Code 21651a VC violation, you’ll find it relatively simple to do so. 

First and foremost, you’ll want to visualize the division as being a wall. You can’t just pass over it whenever you want to.  In most cases, a divided highway does have some sort of dividing marker, so this makes it easier to visualize. You need to wait until a doorway opens up in the “wall” to allow you to cross the highway. Even if you’re tempted to cross over early as Reggie did in the first example, resist it! The resulting ticket isn’t going to be worth that extra few seconds to wait, is it?

Secondly, don’t complete a turn if there is no break in the lines, assuming there is no barricade as the divider. Highways will have clearly marked breaks in them that tell you where you can complete a turn. If there is no break, drive on until you find one. 

Thirdly, don’t be tempted to pull a U-turn as Reggie did. It’s much easier to pull into the next spot that you find and turn around that way so that you aren’t breaking the law. Again, the extra few seconds to minutes that it adds isn’t going to be worth the hassle of the ticket, right? Please keep in mind: A Vehicle Code 21651a VC applies only when you intentionally cross over double parallel lines on a highway. If you have no choice but to cross over then, or you are crossing over the highway at a marked break, an offense wouldn’t apply!



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