Driving Through a Safety Zone in California
(Vehicle Code 21709)

California Vehicle Code 21709 VC makes it illegal for motorists to drive through safety zones.

There are five important points to know about this code section.

  • A "safety zone" is essentially a clearly marked area set aside for the use of pedestrians. Common examples include striped areas where passengers load and unload buses.
  • A driver that violates Vehicle Code 21709 must pay a fine of $238.00.
  • A motorist that drives within a safety zone will also receive one point on his DMV driving record. A driver could get a negligent operator license suspension if he receives a certain number of points in a given time period (e.g., 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
  • Drivers can challenge a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 21709. But, it's best for the driver to gain the assistance of an attorney before doing so.
  • Drivers must not ignore tickets for driving through a safety zone. A driver that ignores a ticket can get charged with failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. This violation may be charged as a misdemeanor under California law.

Our California personal injury attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

1. Vehicle Code 21709 VC – Driving through a safety zone is prohibited

California Vehicle Code 21709 prohibits a driver from driving within safety zones.

VC 21709 states:

No vehicle shall at any time be driven through or within a safety zone.1

A "safety zone" is defined as:

the area or space lawfully set apart within a roadway for the exclusive use of pedestrians and which is protected, or which is marked or indicated by vertical signs, raised markers or raised buttons, in order to make such area or space plainly visible at all times while the same is set apart as a safety zone.2

Examples of "safety zones" include striped areas that are designated for passengers to load/unload street cars or buses.

California courts state that all safety zones must be plainly marked and seen.3

Courts further state that while pedestrians have a duty of watchfulness when crossing a street, this duty does not apply when standing in a safety zone.4

2. Penalties for driving through a safety zone in California

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21709 are penalized with both:

  1. A fine; and,
  2. Points on the driver's DMV driving record.

2.1. Fine

A motorist that drives within a safety zone will receive a ticket and he must pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for violating Vehicle Code 21709 is $238.00.5

2.2. Points on the driver's DMV driving record

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21709 VC will receive one point on their DMV driving record.6 Points assessed on a motorist's record are reported to that person's insurance carrier. This is not a good thing since it typically results in an increase in the driver's insurance rates for several years.

A problem also occurs when points on a motorist's driving record accumulate over time. If a driver in California accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, that driver may be declared a negligent driver. The result is that the DMV can either suspend or revoke that person's driving privileges.

Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.

3. Defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 21709 VC

A driver that receives a ticket for driving through a safety zone does not have to plead guilty. This means the driver can challenge the ticket by raising a legal defense. Please note, however, if this is done, it's in the motorist's best interests to gain the assistance of an attorney.

3.1. Common defenses for motorists that drive within a safety zone.

There are three common defenses for violating Vehicle Code 21709 VC. These are:

  1. The safety zone was not clearly marked.
  2. The driver drove through the safety zone because of an emergency.
  3. The officer made a mistake and falsely accused the driver.

If one of the above defenses is used, drivers should have support for their side of the story. The best support lies in:

  • Witnesses;
  • Photographs; and/or,
  • Surveillance video.

3.2. Get help from an attorney

Drivers in California can represent themselves when challenging a ticket for violating VC 21709. But, it's best for the drivers to hire a lawyer to beat the ticket.

There are three main reasons why this is true. These are:

  1. Prosecutors most often like to give better deals to drivers with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys know how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
  3. If a driver has a lawyer, the driver does not have to go to court. The driver's lawyer can go for him.

4. Violation of Vehicle Code 21709 VC and traffic school

Motorist's that violate the law by driving within a safety zone do not have to attend traffic school.

But, drivers that do violate VC 21709 can choose to go to traffic school. This is provided:

  1. The driver has a valid driver's license;
  2. The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
  3. The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

Drivers that attend traffic school must still pay their $238.00 fine for the ticket.7 However, drivers typically do not get any points on their driving record if they complete the school.8

5. Driving through a safety zone and criminal charges

The State of California does not file criminal charges when a person violates Vehicle Code 21709. This is because it's not a crime in California if a motorist drives within a safety zone.

Violations of VC 21709 are infractions under California law. Drivers that violate this code section are not subject to incarceration or any other criminal penalties

6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 21709 VC

Two unfavorable things happen when a driver ignores – or even forgets about – a VC 21709 violation. These include:

  1. The driver breaks a new law, California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. The driver may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1. Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC

A driver is obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court when he receives a traffic ticket in California. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time on a specific day (this is unless the driver has a lawyer – please see 3.2 above).

If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates a new law - Vehicle Code 40508 VC.9 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It is not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.10

It also does not matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.11 He violates 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.12

6.2. Penalties for violating VC 40508

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 $1,000.13

7. Effect of violating Vehicle Code 21709 on a personal injury lawsuit?

A driver that drives within a safety zone may cause an injury to a pedestrian or another motorist. If so, the injured pedestrian may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, and 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. With regards to motor vehicle accidents and personal injuries, negligent drivers are at fault for the accidents and injuries. They must also pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case can sometimes be difficult. In California, however, 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 driver's violation of a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se if he caused injuries while driving through a safety zone because he would be in violation of Vehicle Code 21709.

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. Laws related to Vehicle Code 21709 VC

There are three laws related to VC 21709. These are:

  1. California's law on driving in a bike lane;
  2. Speeding in a construction zone; and,
  3. California's law on following emergency vehicles.

8.1 California's law on driving in a bike lane

California Vehicle Code 21209 (a) prohibits drivers from driving a vehicle in a bike lane.

That section clearly states:

No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane…14

VC 21209 does provide three exceptions to this general rule. Motorists can drive in a bicycle lane in California to:

  1. Park where parking is permitted;
  2. Enter or leave the roadway; and,
  3. Prepare for a turn within 200 feet from the intersection.15

Motorists that violate California Vehicle Code 21209 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to their DMV driving record.16

8.2 California's law on speeding in a construction zone

Drivers in California may be in violation of Vehicle Code 22362 VC if they speed in a construction zone.

Under VC 22362, it's a "prima facie" violation of the basic speed law for a motorist to travel more than the posted speed limit within 400 feet of a construction or work zone.17

California's basic speeding law is found in California Vehicle Code 22350 VC. It essentially requires drivers to drive at a reasonable and safe speed. What a reasonable and safe speed is will depend on the circumstances or facts of a case.

The use of "prima facie" means that if a driver does speed in a construction zone, he may still challenge the ticket by showing that his speed was reasonable and safe.

A driver that violates Vehicle Code 22362 will receive a fine and one point on his driving record.

The exact amount of the fine will depend on how fast a driver was going.

  • If driving 1 – 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $367.
  • If driving 16 – 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $525.
  • If driving 26 or more miles per hour over the speed limit, the fine is $648.18

8.3 California's law on following emergency vehicles

California Vehicle Code 21706 states:

No motor vehicle, except an authorized emergency vehicle, shall follow within 300 feet of any authorized emergency vehicle being operated under the provisions of Section 21055.19

An emergency vehicle is operating within the provisions of Section 21055 if the vehicle is being driven in:

  1. Response to an emergency call;
  2. Rescue operations;
  3. The immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law; or,
  4. Response to a firm alarm.20

A vehicle is also within the provisions of Section 21055 if:

the driver of the vehicle sounds a siren as may be reasonably necessary and the vehicle displays a lighted red lamp visible from the front as a warning to other drivers and pedestrians.21

Motorists that violate California Vehicle Code 21706 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to their DMV driving record.22

Were you accused of driving through a safety zone in California? Call us for help…

california traffic attorneys
Call us at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating VC 21709, or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAW-FIRM. For tickets in Nevada, please visit our page on NRS 484B.110 driving through a pedestrian safety zone in Las Vegas Nevada

Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 21709 VC.

  2. California Vehicle Code 540 VC.

  3. Strafiotis v. Daniels (1928) 90 Cal. App. 144.

  4. See same.

  5. See DMV.org.

  6. See same.

  7. See California Courts website.

  8. See same.

  9. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  10. 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.

  11. See same.

  12. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.

  13. 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.

  14. California Vehicle Code 21209 (a) VC.

  15. California Vehicle Code 21209 (b)(1) – (b)(3) VC.

  16. See DMV.org above.

  17. California Vehicle Code 22362 VC. This section also states that speed limits must be posted within 400 feet of the work zone and the limits can be set as low as 25 miles per hour.

  18. See DMV.org above.

  19. California Vehicle Code 21706 VC.

  20. California Vehicle Code 21055 (a) VC.

  21. California Vehicle Code 21055 (b) VC.

  22. See DMV.org above.

Free attorney consultations...

Our attorneys want to hear your side of the story. Contact us 24/7 to schedule a FREE consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. We may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed altogether. And if necessary, we will champion your case all the way to trial.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

To contact us, please select your state:

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370