Vehicle Code 21801 CVC - Failure to Yield When Making a Left Turn or U-Turn

If you’ve opened the mail recently to discover a traffic citation sitting and waiting for you, you might be feeling confused. Did you receive a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation? Here’s what you should know about it so that you can address it as best applies to you and your situation! Below, we’ll cover the essential details, including:

What is Vehicle Code 21801 CVC?

There is no better place to start than with the actual California legislation itself, right? So, let’s take a look at that and go from there. A Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation, according to that legislation, applies when: “the driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction…and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”

Unlike some of the more complicated vehicle codes, this one is pretty straightforward and very logical. However, it is a common ticket violation nonetheless! It means that you must yield to oncoming traffic if you are completing a left turn that will take you across the oncoming traffic lane. It sounds simple, and it is.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 21801 CVC?

If it seems so simple, then why is it so often violated? It comes down to a different definition of what “yielding” means from the law versus the driver. Let’s put our fictional California driver, Lars, into a few situations to demonstrate that for us!

Let’s say that Lars is in his driveway and wants to turn left to the grocery store. He pulls to the curb and then turns directly onto the street, crossing over the oncoming lane of traffic in order to do so. He doesn’t check the oncoming traffic lane and cuts someone off rather than giving them the right of way. In this case, he’d be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation because he didn’t yield to oncoming traffic before turning left.

In another situation, Lars is at an intersection and wants to turn left into his work’s parking lot. He nears the left turn and then veers left into the parking lot without waiting for the oncoming traffic to proceed past him first. Since Lars is in the left lane, he’s supposed to yield to them. He’d be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation even if he knew that he had enough time to complete the turn, technically, since the law is still to yield.

In another situation, Lars reaches a left turn to pull into his driveway after returning home from the grocery store and comes up on a car that is going to drive past him before he can complete the turn. He yields to them, as he should, but then decides to dart into his driveway quickly when he realizes that there is a small gap between that car and another one behind him. Lars would still be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation because he is supposed to yield to all oncoming traffic before completing his left turn, not just the closest car!

Lastly, Lars is on his way to his friend’s house when he realizes that he’s forgotten his smartphone at home. He comes up to an intersection controlled by a stop sign and decides to pull a U-turn. Another car is already stopped and is starting to come through the intersection towards Lars. He whips out quickly and pulls a sharp u-turn so that he won’t end up behind this other driver on his way back to his home. Since he doesn’t yield to the other driver before completing his legal u-turn, Lars would be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation!

There are a few exceptions to this violation citation, as you’d expect! The first one is that the peace officer who issued the Vehicle Code 21801 CVC citation misunderstood the situation, and Lars actually did yield to oncoming traffic. For example, Lars yields to oncoming traffic in a left-turning lane, and a break comes up in the oncoming traffic. Lars starts to complete his turn when an oncoming car unexpectedly speeds up (presumably) to give Lars a scare as he completes his turn. In this case, Lars was in the right since he couldn’t have possibly accounted for the other driver’s intention!

In another exception, Lars doesn’t need to yield to a vehicle that pulls over in the oncoming lane. If a city bus pulls over to let off people, Lars wouldn’t need to wait until it passes to complete his turn. He wouldn’t be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation if he did this. He would be, however, if the bus was not pulled over and was oncoming instead!

Finally, Lars would be innocent of a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation if the reason for failing to yield to oncoming traffic was an emergency or out of his control. For example, someone in the car forces him to take the turn against his will, or he is trying to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle that is behind him and trying to get past.

What can I do about this violation?

If you receive a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation citation, you’ll get a court date on your letter. On this date, you’ll need to appear in court to enter your pleas of guilty or innocent of the violation. You also may notice that you have the option of attending traffic school, which we’ll get into later.

If you plead guilty, you’ll need to pay a $238 fine and court fees and accept your punishment of 1 DMV point added to your driving record. If you plead innocent, you’ll need to argue how you are innocent of it. This is best done with the support of an experienced traffic court attorney that can help you pick the right defense with proof to back it up. A traffic court attorney can also go to court on your behalf, offering you a lot of comforts.

If you are innocent, it’s not wise to plead guilty. And even more so, vice versa. A traffic citation and court date are as serious as any other kind of court date and offense. Make sure that you take it seriously and attend the court date scheduled!

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

There are often tickets that can be applied to a specific case if the situations are similar enough. Some of the most common citation attachments to a case like this include:

  • Vehicle Code 38300: This citation is for when you disobey a traffic sign, signal, or other kinds of the control device on a roadway.
  • Vehicle Code 22102: This traffic violation is when you make an illegal U-turn.

Depending on the situation of your violation, these tickets can be added to your current Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation, or they can be used in place of the noted Vehicle Code 21801 CVC citation. It depends on what the peace officer and court decide, based on your driving record and the situation surrounding the offense. Note that these tickets have their own fines and penalties, so you’ll also have to answer to those, too!

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

Some tickets are eligible for attending traffic school. The criteria include receiving a moving citation, not committing the offense in a corporate/commercial vehicle, and not attending traffic school in the past 18 months.  

Assuming you and your record meet these criteria, yes, this ticket is eligible for traffic school! As mentioned above, you might see this noted on your citation notice that you received in the mail. Make sure that you choose an accredited traffic school, such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL, so that the attendance credit will show up on your driving record when you complete the course.

The honest thing is that many people don’t like the thought of attending a traffic school. Everyone remembers it as being boring, slow, and not at all helpful. The honest thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way! Modern schools are designed to be entertaining, engaging, informative, and dedicated to getting you back on the road while knowing and believing that you are a better driver.  

When you attend a modern institution that is focused on proper techniques, you’ll actually enjoy the process of learning, and this is going to be very helpful in giving you the best education possible. Why? Because classes that are interesting are also classes that are memorable.  

There are many advantages to consider, of course, besides the actual class lessons themselves. Firstly, it saves you time. Since you simply agree to attend traffic school and pay your fine, many courts will allow you to even skip the court date and get started.  

As well you’ll mask that DMV point that would otherwise be added to your record. This can show up to insurance providers and can increase your premiums. These DMV points also stay on your record for several years, so if you end up with a few more citations that also add on a DMV point, you could end up with your license suspended!

If you have questions or concerns on this, please contact us!  If you want to know about how we hold our classes, we encourage you to reach out as well!  Need a personalized approach to your ticket? Please contact the court who issued it to you for more information.

How can I avoid a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation?

As you can guess, you’ll want to do whatever you can to avoid this pesky violation. Not only is it money out of your pocket, but it’s also going to be an unnecessary blemish on your DMV record for several years! Here’s what you need to know.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, never assume that you have the right of way when you come to an intersection unless you are continuing straight. Whenever you are in a left lane and crossing oncoming traffic, assume that you must wait until every other vehicle has passed through to complete your turn. This may seem frustrating, but it is the law, and it’s always a nice surprise to see that you do have a gap in which you can complete the left turn safely.

Secondly, you’ll want to remember that there’s nothing wrong with holding off on your left turn if you aren’t sure you have enough space to complete it safely before the oncoming lane reaches you. At the same time, you may feel as though you’ll upset the drivers behind you. It’s your DMV record that would be impacted if you were to receive a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation, though not the other driver’s record. What’s more important, at the end of the day?

Another thing to help you always stay in the clear is that you should review your driver’s manual every once in a while if you aren’t timely sure of this yielding law. There’s a lot of a grey area, of course, and it’s normal to get a little fuzzy on what you should or shouldn’t do when you are out of the hypothetical situation and into the real one with other drivers around you.  

These tips will help you ensure that you always protect yourself from a Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation citation. While there is no such thing as a guarantee, the best you can do is always keep the law in mind! Remember: A Vehicle Code 21801 CVC violation applies when you are willingly and knowingly failing to yield to oncoming traffic for a left turn. If you aren’t acting knowingly or willingly, the charge doesn’t apply!



San Diego Ticket Fighter