Vehicle Code 21654 CVC – Slow Vehicles not Driving on the Right

Vehicle Code 21654 CVC is the California statute that makes it an offense for motorists of “slow-moving vehicles” not to drive in the far right-hand lane of a roadway. A “slow-moving vehicle” or a “slow driver” is one that operates at less than the normal speed of traffic that is moving in the same direction. A violation of this code section is charged as an infraction and the driver will receive a ticket plus one point on his/her driving record.

CVC 21654 states “any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction…shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.”

Examples

  • driving on a state highway, going 5 mph less than the posted speed limit, and driving in the middle lane
  • driving slower than any other cars on a Los Angeles freeway and driving in the left lane
  • operating a motor vehicle in the left lane while failing to keep up with the flow of traffic

Defenses

A defendant can raise a legal defense to contest a violation of this traffic law. Common defenses include:

  • the accused was driving at a normal speed,
  • the defendant was passing another car or turning left, and/or
  • there was an emergency.

A violation of this vehicle code section is an infraction. This is opposed to a misdemeanor or a felony.

CVC 21654 is punishable by:

  • a ticket and a fine, and
  • one point on the driver's DMV driving record.

If a driver earns a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can:

Our criminal defense and personal injury attorneys will discuss the following in this article:

man driving slowly and being tailgated
Driving too slowly can be a traffic offense in California

1. When is it a traffic offense to drive too slowly?

It is a moving violation if the driver of a slow-moving vehicle does not drive in the right-hand lane.1

This means it is an offense if the slow driver is in the:

  • middle lane, or
  • the far-left lane, or “fast lane” of traffic.

A “slow-moving vehicle” is one that is being driven at less than the normal speed of traffic that is moving in the same direction.2

2. Can I challenge a 21654 CVC ticket?

Defense lawyers, and law firms, draw on several legal strategies to challenge traffic infractions under this statute. These include showing that:

  1. the defendant was driving at normal speeds.
  2. the accused was passing another car or turning left.
  3. there was an emergency.

2.1. Driving at normal speeds

A person is only guilty under these laws if he or she was driving:

  1. in a traffic lane other than the right-side lane, and
  2. at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic.

Given this, it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she was driving at the normal speed of traffic. This defense means the driver was not a “slow driver.”

2.2. Passing or turning left

This code section specifically states that a slow driver is not guilty of an infraction if:

  1. he/she was outside of the right lane in order make a lane change so as to pass a vehicle, or
  2. he/she was preparing for a left turn at an intersection.3

Therefore, it is a defense for an accused to say that he/she was outside the right lane to:

  • pass a vehicle, or
  • make a left turn.

2.3. Emergency

A slow driver can always raise the defense that he/she was not in the right-hand lane because of an emergency. Perhaps, for example, a driver had to move to the middle lane to avoid hitting another car.

young lade receiving traffic ticket - a violation of 21654 CVC can add one point to your driving record
A violation 21654 CVC law can result in a point on your driving record

3. What are the consequences if the ticket is sustained?

There are two penalties for violating CVC 21654. These are:

  1. a ticket in an amount of $237, and
  2. one point placed on the motorist's DMV driving record.

If a person receives a certain amount of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can:

  • declare him/her a negligent operator, and
  • suspend, or even revoke, his/her driving privileges.

Note to that, in response to traffic violations, insurance companies can increase a driver's insurance rates.

4. What happens if a driver fails to appear in court?

It is a separate offense if a driver fails to appear in court for a traffic violation. “Failure to appear” for a traffic citation is a crime under Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

When a person is issued a traffic ticket in California, he/she has to sign a written promise to appear in court.

If the party willfully fails to appear as promised, he/she violates VC 40508.4 Drivers willfully fail to appear when they are willingly a no-show. It does not matter if they did not intend to break the law.5

A violation of this law is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:

5. How does this section impact a personal injury claim?

A driver that violates these laws may cause an accident with another motorist (e.g., in a rear-end collision or a T-bone accident). If the motorist is injured and later files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found "negligent."

California law defines "negligence" as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.

In a personal injury action, a negligent party bears the responsibility for compensating the plaintiff for any injuries incurred.

Proving negligence can sometimes be difficult. But California courts have ruled that:

  • a driver is presumed negligent in a personal injury case if,
  • he or she caused a traffic accident, and
  • did so while in violation of CVC 21654.7

6. Are there laws related to driving slow and not driving on the right?

There are three laws related to Vehicle Code 21654. These are:

  1. unsafe passing on the right – CVC 21755,
  2. Disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300, and
  3. Right hand lane violations – CVC 21650.

6.1. Unsafe passing on the right – CVC 21755

Vehicle Code 21755 CVC says that a driver can only pass a motorist on the right when reasonably safe to do so.

A violation of this law leads to the same penalties as with CVC 21654.

6.2. Disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300

Vehicle Code 38300 CVC is the California statute that says it is a traffic offense for a driver to disobey any:

  • sign,
  • signal, or
  • traffic control device.

These include things like:

  • stop signs, and
  • red lights.

Like with a slow driver driving in the right lane, violations of this law are charged as infractions.

6.3. Right hand lane violation – CVC 21650

Vehicle Code 21650 CVC says that drivers must drive their vehicles on the right side of the road.

The statute does provide a few exceptions (e.g., when passing a car going in the same direction).

A violation of CVC 21654 is like a right-hand lane violation that applies only to slow drivers.

For additional help...

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Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 21654 CVC.

  2. See same.

  3. California Vehicle Code 21654a CVC.

  4. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  5. CALCRIM 2240: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.

  6. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  7. Casey v. Russell (1982) 138 Cal.App.3d 379.

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