California Vehicle Code 21801 CVC applies when turning left or making a U-turn to the left and facing oncoming traffic. The law says that you must yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic until you can complete the turn safely. A violation of this code section is an infraction; you will receive a ticket and one point on your driving record.
The language of the code section reads:
21801. (a) 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 which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, 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.
(b) A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a), and having given a signal when and as required by this code, may turn left or complete a U-turn, and the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection or the entrance to the property or alley from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.
Examples of Illegal Acts
- turning left into a driveway and “gunning it” to beat an approaching vehicle
- completing a U-turn in Los Angeles without looking for any oncoming drivers
- ignoring an approaching truck while making a left turn
You can raise a legal defense to challenge a traffic ticket issued under this statute. Common defenses include:
- you yielded until you safely completed a turn,
- any approaching vehicles did not pose a hazard, and/or
- you acted out of necessity.
The moving violation is punishable by:
- a ticket and a fine, and
- one point on your DMV driving record.
If you receive a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, then the Department can:
- declare you a negligent operator, and
- suspend or revoke your driving privileges.
Our California car accident attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. Is it illegal to fail to yield when making a left or U-turn?
- 2. How can I fight a CVC 21801 ticket?
- 3. What happens if the ticket is sustained?
- 4. What happens if I ignore the ticket?
- 5. How does a violation of this statute impact a personal injury action?
- 6. Are there laws related to failing to yield?
1. Is it illegal to fail to yield when making a left or U-turn?
California Vehicle Code 21801 applies to the situation where you are facing oncoming traffic and wish to:
- turn left,
- complete a U-turn to the left, and/or
- turn left into an alley or some public or private property.
Here, the law states that you must:
- yield the right-of-way to all approaching vehicles, and
- do so until you can complete the turn with reasonable safety.1
Note that you do not have to yield to all oncoming vehicles. You only have to yield to those close enough that “constitute a hazard.”2
Also note that the law requires you to yield to “approaching vehicles.” “Approaching vehicles” include oncoming cars that are temporarily stopped at an intersection because of a traffic light.3
2. How can I fight a CVC 21801 ticket?
Defense lawyers, and law firms, draw on several legal strategies to contest charges under this statute. These include showing that:
- you made a turn with reasonable safety.
- any approaching vehicle did not constitute a hazard.
- there was a necessity that forced you to break the law.
2.1. Safe completion of a turn
These laws say that you only have to yield the right-of-way until you complete a turn with reasonable safety. This means it is always a defense for you to say that you:
- may not have yielded to a driver, but
- there was no requirement since you completed a turn with reasonable safety.
2.2. No hazard
Also recall that you only have to yield to approaching motor vehicles that pose a hazard. A defense, therefore, is for you to say that you did not yield to a car because there was no hazard. Perhaps, for example, it was far away when a turning movement was being made.
Under a necessity defense, you try to avoid guilt by showing that you had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime.
In the context of CVC 21801, you could attempt to show that you committed the crime because there was no other choice. Perhaps, for example, a driver could not yield because you:
- were driving erratically because of an emergency, or
- were trying to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle.
3. What happens if the ticket is sustained?
There are two penalties for violating this statute. These are:
- a ticket (usually in an amount of $237), and
- one point placed on your DMV driving record.
If you earn enough points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can:
- declare you a negligent operator, and
- suspend, or even revoke, your driving privileges.
Note too that insurance companies can increase your insurance rates in response to traffic violations.
4. What happens if I ignore the ticket?
You cannot ignore and fail to show up in court for a traffic ticket. This is a crime per Vehicle Code 40508 CVC.
When you are issued a traffic ticket in California, you have to sign a written promise to appear in court.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you commit the offense of “failing to appear,” per VC 40508.4
A violation of this law is charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
5. How does a violation of this statute impact a personal injury action?
A driver that violates these laws may cause an accident with another motorist (such as in a head on collision or a T-bone accident). If you are injured and later file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the driver may be found “negligent.”6
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 is responsible for compensating you for any injuries incurred.
Proving negligence can sometimes be difficult. But, in California a driver is considered “negligent per se” if they violate a statute. This means a driver would be negligent per se for failing to yield in violation of CVC 21801.
6. Are there laws related to failing to yield?
There are three laws related to failing to yield while turning left. These are:
- disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300
- Illegal U-turns – CVC 22102, and
- Coasting in neutral – CVC 21710.
6.1. 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 to disobey any:
- signal, or
- traffic control device.
These include things like:
- stop signs,
- traffic lights, and
- crosswalk signals.
Like with CVC 21801, violations of this law are charged as infractions.
6.2. Illegal U-turn – CVC 22102
Vehicle Code 22102 CVC makes it illegal to make a U-turn in a business district, except at an opening where authorized.
Like with failing to yield while turning left, a violation of this law results in one point against your driver’s license.
6.3. Coasting in neutral – CVC 21710
Vehicle Code 21710 CVC makes it an offense to coast in neutral while going downhill.
A violation of this law leads to the same penalties as with CVC 21801.
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense or personal injury attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.