Vehicle Code 21806 VC - Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle

If you’ve received a citation in the mail for a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation, the first step is to understand what this citation is for. Why have you received it? How does it relate to your most recent driving experience? Below, we’ll cover all of the basics that you’ll want to know about it, including the following:

What is Vehicle Code 21806 VC?

There’s no better place to start understanding a Vehicle Code 21806 VC citation than to look at the California legislature. According to this, the violation reads: “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:

(a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

(2) A person driving a vehicle in an exclusive or preferential use lane shall exit that lane immediately upon determining that the exit can be accomplished with reasonable safety.”

While this is a bit long and complex, the actual understanding is pretty simple. If there is an emergency vehicle approaching you with a siren going and/or its lights on as you drive (either behind you or facing you), you must pull over to the right-most lane and stop moving as it approaches you. If you are in an exclusive lane, you would move out of that lane and stop moving, too. You must stay stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 21806 VC?

Thankfully, all of that sounds simple enough, but it can be complicated in real-life situations. After all,  emergency vehicles move quickly, and other traffic can pose a problem with obeying this citation. Let’s put our imaginary California driver, Finnick, into a few situations to see how they work in real life.

Let’s start with a basic situation. Finnick is driving down a street on his way home from work. An active (meaning its lights or siren is on) ambulance is coming toward him. He is in the left lane and must merge right to pull over. He has room to do so but chooses not to do so. He slows down a bit but keeps driving as the ambulance passes. He would be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation because he could have changed lanes but didn’t. He also didn’t stop moving.

A similar situation would be if he had room to change lanes but didn’t and just stopped moving in his lane. In this case, he’s still guilty of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation because he had an opportunity to move right but chose not to.

In another situation, Finnick is late to work and cruising in a priority lane. A firetruck is coming up behind him with its lights on and siren. Other cars behind him move out of the priority lane to allow the firetruck through. Since Finnick is in a rush, knows the firetruck, and easily moves to a lane to his right, he continues driving along as normal and slows down only slightly. As you can guess, he’d be guilty of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation because drivers are supposed to move out of the priority lane if an emergency vehicle approaches and is driving in that lane.

There are quite a few exceptions where a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation wouldn’t apply, most of which are related to the fact that Finnick is driving with other kinds of drivers, vehicles, and lanes of traffic.

If Finnick were in our first situation where he couldn’t move into the right lane because it was blocked, his job would be to move as far right as he could within his lane and stop moving. If he did this, he would be innocent of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation because he didn’t have an opportunity to merge right out of the traffic lane. At this point, the safest thing he had to do was stop moving to allow the oncoming ambulance to have room to drive past.

Let’s imagine that Finnick is in the second situation where he is in the priority lane. If the approaching firetruck is in the middle or right-most lane, Finnick wouldn’t be expected to change lanes to get out of the way. This is because he isn’t in the way. In this case, Finnick would stop moving and stay as far left as he could until the firetruck passed. Since the firetruck is in another lane, the other drivers in that lane will likely merge around Finick to get out of its way.

Lastly, there is the fact that Finnick is not obligated to move out of the way/adjust his driving if the emergency vehicle (oncoming or behind him) is not flashing its light or has its siren on. In those cases, it’s just another vehicle on the street.

These exceptions would qualify Finnick to plead innocent of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation if he received one in any of these situations.

What can I do about this violation?

This is a serious violation. If you receive a Vehicle Code 21806 VC citation in the mail, you’ll get a court date at which you need to appear and enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. You’ll also receive a note in your letter about possibly attending traffic school to mask the violation on your record (we’ll talk more about that later, though).

A Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation has a hefty fee associated with it, since it’s such as serious offense. This is $490 plus court fees for processing, etc. You must pay the total amount to the court if you plead or are found guilty of the violation.

You also will have 1 DMV point added to your driving record. If you have other points on your DMV record within the same 1-3 years, you could be declared a negligent driver, which can result in you having a suspended or revoked license.

On your court date, you must formally enter your plea of innocent or guilty. As always, with legal matters, enter the plea honestly. If you are guilty, plead that way. If you are innocent and qualify for one of the above exceptions, you are encouraged to enter your plea as innocent and plead your case.

That being said, this is a serious violation in how it is charged to your driving record. So, you’ll want a traffic attorney to help plead your case if you qualify for an exception. An experienced attorney can not only attend court on your behalf but also know the best methods for proving your innocent of this violation.

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

Other citations related to a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation can be added to your case, depending mostly on the situation in receiving a Vehicle Code 21806 VC citation. The most common ones include the following:

  • Vehicle Code 21706 VC: This violation is for intentionally following an active emergency vehicle to its destination or driving within 300 feet of the emergency vehicle. 
  • Vehicle Code 2815 VC: You can receive this violation for disobeying a marked crossing guard at their crosswalk.
  • Vehicle Code 21950 VC: Getting this citation means you haven’t yielded to pedestrians attempting to cross at marked crosswalks.

The peace officer and court issuing your Vehicle Code 21806 VC will determine if these citations should or can be added to your court case. If so, they carry additional fines and DMV points that can be added to your case. Sometimes one or all of these can be used in place of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation if they’re more relevant. It simply comes down to using the peace officer and court’s judgment on what is most appropriate.

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

Above, we discussed how your issued citation could have a note about attending traffic school. Specific violation citations are eligible for you to attend traffic school, which will mask the DMV point from your record, amongst other benefits we’ll discuss. You’ll be happy to know that Vehicle Code 21806 VC is eligible for traffic school, assuming that you have not attended traffic school for another citation in the past 18 months, you didn’t commit the offense in a commercial vehicle, and you received a moving violation (which is the type of violation Vehicle Code 21806 VC is considered.

It’s crucial that you attend an accredited traffic school, such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL, to have your DMV record adjusted after completing your traffic school course. 

There are a few benefits to considering a traffic school. The most pressing one for you is to mask the DMV point that would otherwise be on your record for 1-3 years. However, there are others to help you see why it’s the right decision. Firstly, it will help improve your driving skills to be better, more confident, and safer. After driving for several years, we could all use a refresher course, anyway, right?

Another benefit is that you will enjoy taking courses at MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL. This is a modern institution that combines education with entertainment. Not only will your overall experience be enjoyable, but it will also make the lessons easier to remember so that you can recall them when you get on the road again.

If you’re curious to learn more about how our classes work or more general information about your received Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation, please contact us, and we’d be happy to help you out. However, if you need more personalized information regarding your charges, we recommend contacting the court that issued you the ticket.

How can I avoid a citation for a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation?

Avoiding a violation is the best way to protect yourself, your money, and your stress levels. This is a simple one to avoid if you take proper precautions and remember what you are taught in traffic school.

When you see an emergency vehicle approaching onward or from behind, with its light/siren going, immediately plan to get to the right-most lane. Even if that vehicle is a reasonable distance away, start planning your lane changes to safely get out of its way without putting other drivers at risk. 

Putting other drivers at risk is part of what makes a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation so important. Not only do you have to move out of the way of an active emergency vehicle, but you have to act quickly and do so without putting others at risk around you. 

If you’re in a situation where you can’t vacate the lane that you’re in (sitting at a traffic light in a left-turn lane), for example, you would simply stay still and watch where the emergency vehicle is going. Most likely, they’ll stay in the “straight” lane to your right and will go straight through the intersection or turn left in the “incorrect” lane. If they do end up behind you directly in the lane (such as activating their siren/lights when they are in the lane behind you due to receiving a call), you would simply proceed into the intersection or get up onto the curb exit to you and move out of its way so the emergency vehicle can pass.

The most important thing is to get out of an emergency vehicle’s way as soon as possible without putting others at risk. If the only thing you can do, due to being at a busy traffic light, is stop moving, then do that. The emergency vehicle will choose the easiest lane to push through and proceed with that. If you are in the chosen lane, you will move into the intersection, pull into a driveway, parking lot, onto a vacant curb, etc. Simply do what you need to do to get out of its way. Always keep in mind: Receiving a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation means you are knowingly not getting out of the way of an active emergency vehicle. If you can’t or don’t need to do anything to get out of the way, or the vehicle is inactive, you are innocent of a Vehicle Code 21806 VC violation.



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