California Vehicle Code 22400 VC — the minimum speed law — prohibits drivers from slowing or stopping as to impede the normal flow of traffic. The section also disallows motorists from driving at a speed below an established minimum speed limit.
There are five important points to know about driving too slowly in California.
- The determination of whether a motorist is driving too slowly as to impede traffic will depend on all relevant circumstances in a case.
- Legal defenses exist for those accused of violating VC 22400 and violators can hire an attorney to fight any charge(s).
- The fine for violating Vehicle Code 22400 VC is $238.
- A driver that drives too slowly will also receive one point on his DMV record. You risk getting a negligent operator license suspension if you get 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
- Drivers cannot ignore a California ticket for violating Vehicle Code 22400. This act will likely result in a charge of failure to appear, per Vehicle Code 40508 VC, which can be charged as a misdemeanor.
In the article below, our California auto accident attorneys will address:
- 1. What is impeding traffic and are there minimum speed laws in California?
- 2. Are there legal defenses if a motorist violates Vehicle Code 22400 VC?
- 3. What are the penalties if I drive too slowly or impede traffic?
- 4. Do I have to attend traffic school if I violate Vehicle Code 22400 VC?
- 5. Is it a crime if I drive too slowly or impede traffic?
- 6. What happens if I ignore a ticket for violating VC 22400?
- 7. What is the effect of violating VC 22400 on a personal injury lawsuit?
- 8. Are there laws related to Vehicle Code 22400?
1. What is impeding traffic and are there minimum speed laws in California?
Vehicle Code 22400 does two things. These are:
- It provides the basic law on impeding traffic/driving too slowly; and,
- It gives California’s Department of Transportation the authority to establish minimum speed limits.
1.1 What does it mean to impede traffic or drive too slowly?
VC 22400 (a) prohibits a driver from slowing or stopping on California roadways so as to impede the normal flow of traffic.
The specific language of this section states:
No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with the law.
No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with the law.1
California courts have made it clear that whether a driver impedes traffic or drives too slowly is a question of fact.2 This means the determination depends on all the relevant circumstances of a given case.
Courts in California have identified the following as important relevant circumstances:
- The posted maximum speed limit;
- The number of lanes on the highway;
- The weather;
- The driving conditions;
- The amount of traffic; and,
- The time of day (or night) that a motorist was driving.3
A driver will violate VC 22400 if these circumstances, or facts of a case, show that the driver was impeding traffic or driving too slowly.
1.2 What is California’s minimum speed law?
Vehicle Code 22400 (b) gives the Department of Transportation the authority to set minimum speed limits in the State of California. A driver violates the law if he drives at a slower speed than the established minimum speed limit.4
VC 22400 (b) states:
Whenever the Department of Transportation determines on the basis of an engineering and traffic survey that slow speeds on any part of a state highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the department may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which no person shall drive a vehicle, except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law, when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected along the part of the highway for which a minimum speed limit is established.
2. Are there legal defenses if a motorist violates Vehicle Code 22400 VC?
There are legal defenses if a motorist drives too slowly and impedes traffic. It’s in the motorist’s best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before raising one.
2.1 What are the most common defenses?
There are four common defenses if a driver is accused of violating Vehicle Code 22400. These are:
- The facts show that a driver’s speed was not too slow.
- The facts show that the normal flow of traffic was not impeded.
- The driver had to reduce his speed for the safe operation of his vehicle.
- A slow speed was necessary considering the grade of the road the motorist was driving on.
2.2 Do I need an attorney?
Drivers can represent themselves when fighting a California ticket for driving too slowly or violating a minimum speed limit. But, it’s recommended that anyone charged with this violation hire an experienced lawyer to represent them.
It’s advantageous to hire an attorney for three main reasons. These are:
- Prosecutors tend to offer better deals to defendants with lawyers.
- Defense attorneys are knowledgeable on how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
- Defendants with defense lawyers do not have to go to court.
3. What are the penalties if I drive too slowly or violate a minimum speed limit?
Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 22400 VC will receive:
- A fine of $238; and,
- One point assessed to the driver’s DMV driving record.5
Please note that points assessed on a motorist’s record are reported to that motorist’s insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in the driver’s insurance rates for several years.
If a person accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period in California, the DMV can declare that person a negligent operator. If this is done, the DMV can suspend or even revoke that person’s driving privileges. Either action requires a California DMV hearing.
4. Do I have to attend traffic school if I violate Vehicle Code 22400 VC?
Motorists that violate VC 22400 do not have to attend traffic school.
Drivers, though, can voluntarily choose to do so. Generally, you can go to traffic school if:
- You have a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- Your ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
If a driver elects to go to traffic school, he must still pay his traffic fine.6 However, the driver generally should not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school.7
5. Is it a crime if I drive too slowly or impede traffic?
It is not a crime if a motorist violates Vehicle Code 22400 VC.
These violations are infractions under California law and an offender is not subject to incarceration.
6. What happens if I ignore a ticket for violating VC 22400?
Two things happen if you ignore a ticket for driving too slowly. These are:
- You violate a new law, Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
- You may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.
6.1 What is the violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC
When you are issued a traffic ticket in California, the officer will have you sign a written promise to appear at the time and place specified.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 You willfully fail to appear when you are willingly a no-show. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to break the law.9
Nor does it matter whether you’re guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.10 You violate Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:
- Appear in court,
- Appear to pay bail,
- Pay bail in installments,
- Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
- Comply with any condition of the court.11
6.2 What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.12
7. What is the effect of violating VC 22400 on a personal injury lawsuit?
A driver who violates Vehicle Code Section 22400 VC, and thereby causes an accident, may be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit.
California law defines “negligence” as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of an auto accident, the negligent driver is at fault for the accident and may have to pay for any damages caused.
Proving negligence in a personal injury case is sometimes difficult. In California though, a driver is considered “negligent per se” if he violates a statute.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant’s violation of a statute or ordinance
This means a driver would be negligent per se if he caused an accident while driving too slowly, since this is in violation of VC 22400.
Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California’s comparative fault laws.
8. Are there laws related to Vehicle Code 22400?
There are three laws related to Vehicle Code 22400. These are:
- California’s “speeding laws;”
- California’s laws on driving under the influence; and,
- California’s law on driving on the wrong side of the road.
8.1 What are California’s “speeding laws?”
“Speeding laws” refers to those California laws that impose penalties on motorists if driving too fast. Some of these include:
- The basic speeding law
- Absolute speed limits
- “Prima facie” speed limits
- Driving over 70 miles per hour
- Speeding in a construction zone
- Excessive speed on a freeway
- Driving over 100 miles per hour
Penalties for violating these speeding laws typically include a fine and points assessed on the motorist’s DMV driving record.
As to fines, the exact amount of a speeding ticket will depend on the speed at which the driver was driving. The amount will also include a base fine, fees, and penalty assessments.
If a driver exceeds the speed limit, but wasn’t driving more than 100 miles per hour, then the base fine of a ticket will be:
- $35 if faster than the limit by 1 to 15 miles per hour
- $70 if faster than the limit by 16 to 25 miles per hour
- $100 if faster than the limit by 26 miles per hour
8.2 What is driving under the influence in California?
A driver in California may drive too slowly because the motorist was driving under the influence. If so, the DUI is treated as a separate offense.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is against the law in California. It’s against the law to:
Please note that the penalties for a California DUI can grow quite severe. Thus, you must consult with a California DUI attorney if charged with this offense.
Legal defenses to a California DUI charge do exist, but a California DUI lawyer is necessary to assert the right one on your behalf.
8.3 What is driving on the wrong side of the road in California?
Drivers in California must not drive on the wrong side of the road per Vehicle Code 21651b.
California Vehicle Code Section 21651 describes how traffic should flow on California’s divided public roads.13
According to Vehicle Code 21651 (b):
It is unlawful to drive any vehicle upon a highway, except to the right of an intermittent barrier or a dividing section which separates two or more opposing lanes of traffic.14
This language is clear. All vehicles on California’s highways must drive to the right of a barrier or dividing section. This means they must drive on the right side of the road.
Driving to the left of a barrier or dividing section is driving on the left side of the road. A motorist is driving on the wrong side of the road if he does this.
Driving on the wrong side of the road is a “wobbler” under California law. A “wobbler” is a crime that can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Whether a violation of VC 21651 (b) results in a misdemeanor or felony depends on whether anyone was hurt or killed because of the violation.
A motorist guilty of driving on the wrong side of the road will also receive points on his driving record.
For further assistance…
If you or someone you know has been cited for a violation of VC 22400, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. For cases in Nevada, please see our article on NRS 484B.623 driving too slowly tickets in Las Vegas Nevada.
- California Vehicle Code 22400 (a) VC.
- Shannon v. Thomas, 57 Cal. App. 2d 187.
- Monreal v. Tobin, 61 Cal. App. 4th 1337.
- California Vehicle Code 22400 (b) VC.
- See DMV penalty chart.
- See California Courts website.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: 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.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- See California Vehicle Code 21651 VC.
- California Vehicle Code 21651 (b) VC.