Vehicle Code 21804:
Entering a Highway from an Alley or Driveway in California

Vehicle Code 21804 is the California code section that requires drivers to yield when entering a highway from an alley or driveway. Under VC 21804, drivers exiting an alley or driveway must:

  1. Yield to all traffic that is “close enough to constitute an immediate hazard;” and,
  2. Continue to yield until they can safely proceed.

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

  • A driver that violates Vehicle Code 21804 must pay a fine of $238.00.
  • A motorist that does not yield also receives one point on his DMV driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he receives 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months.
  • Drivers can challenge a ticket for not yielding by raising a legal defense. It's best, though, for drivers to consult with an experienced California defense attorney before doing so.
  • Motorists cannot ignore tickets for violating Vehicle Code 21804. This results in the violation of a new law, failure to appear, pursuant to California Vehicle Code 40508. This violation may be charged as a misdemeanor.

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

california vehicle code 21804 yielding to traffic
Vehicle Code 21804 is the California code section that requires drivers to yield when entering a highway from an alley or driveway

1. Vehicle Code 21804 – Drivers entering a highway from an alley or driveway must yield

California Vehicle Code 21804(a) imposes two yielding rules on drivers that enter a highway from an alley or driveway. These are:

  1. Drivers must yield to all traffic “close enough to constitute an immediate hazard”; and,
  2. Drivers must continue to yield until they can safely proceed.1

Whether traffic is “close enough to constitute an immediate hazard” is a question of fact. This means it is determined by looking at all the facts and circumstances of a given case.

California courts have ruled that motorists sufficiently yield by looking in both directions of traffic and proceeding when no vehicles are seen.2

California Vehicle Code 21804 (b) applies after a driver enters a highway from an alley or driveway. After entry, VC 21804 (b) states that all drivers on the highway must yield to the vehicle entering the highway.3

2. The penalties for not yielding

A driver receives two penalties for violating Vehicle Code 21804 VC. These are:

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

2.1. Fine

A driver that fails to yield when exiting an alley or driveway receives a ticket and must pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for violating VC 21804 is $238.00.4

2.2. Points on the motorist's DMV driving record

Motorists that do not obey Vehicle Code 21804 will also receive one point on their DMV driving record.5 This is unfavorable because points are ultimately reported to a driver's insurance carrier. The result is that the driver's insurance rates increase for several years.

A further problem occurs when a driver receives multiple points on his driving record over a certain period of time. If a driver in California receives 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months, the DMV can either suspend or revoke his driving privileges.

Please note, though, that either action will require a California DMV hearing.

3. Legal defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 21804 VC

A driver that receives a ticket for not yielding has the right to challenge the ticket. This means he can raise a legal defense to show that he was not guilty. If this is done, though, it's best for the driver to contact an experienced attorney for help.

3.1. Common defenses if accused of failing to yield when entering a highway from an alley or driveway

There are three common defenses if accused of a VC 21804 violation. These are:

  1. The officer made a mistake because the driver did in fact yield.
  2. An emergency prevented the driver from yielding.
  3. While a vehicle was approaching on the highway, it did not constitute an immediate hazard.

This last defense goes back to the language used in VC 21804 (a). Recall that the code section requires drivers, exiting an alley or driveway, to yield to all traffic “close enough to constitute an immediate hazard.” Given this, it is an acceptable defense for a driver to show that, although traffic was present on the highway, entering the road was allowed because the traffic did not create a hazard.

No matter the specific defense raised, a motorist must support it with credible evidence. The best evidence to use is:

  • Witness statements;
  • Photographs; and/or,
  • Surveillance video.

3.2. Get help from an experienced attorney

Drivers can represent themselves when trying to beat a ticket for not yielding. However, it's best for motorists to contact an experienced California traffic ticket attorney for assistance.

Hiring a lawyer for help is critical for three main reasons. These include:

  1. Prosecutors tend to give better deals to drivers with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys understand how to get charges reduced and dismissed.
  3. A driver with an attorney does not have to go to court. The driver's attorney can go on his behalf.
california traffic school legal defense attorneys
Drivers that violate VC 21804 do not have to go to traffic school. But, they can choose to do so.

4. Violations of Vehicle Code 21804 VC and traffic school

Drivers that violate VC 21804 do not have to go to traffic school. But, they can choose to do so.

Note that if a driver goes to traffic school, he must still pay his fine of $238.00.6 However, the driver generally does not receive any points on his DMV driving record.7

In general, a driver in California can volunteer for traffic school if:

  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.

5. Violations of VC 21804 and criminal charges

Violating Vehicle Code 21804 does not result in criminal charges. This is because it's not a crime in California if a driver does not yield when exiting an alley or driveway.

Violations of VC 21804 are infractions under California law. As such, a driver does not have to face jail time or other criminal penalties if ticketed for a VC 21804 violation.

6. Ignoring a ticket for not yielding when entering a highway

Drivers should not ignore – or even forget about – a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 21804. Two things result if this occurs. These are:

  1. The driver violates California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. The driver receives penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1. Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC

If a driver gets a ticket in California, he must sign a written promise to appear in court. He promises to appear at a certain time and place.

If the driver willfully fails to appear, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It's not even a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.9

It also does not matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic ticket.10 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.11

6.2. Penalties for violating VC 40508

A violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties include:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000.12

7. Failing to yield and how it affects a personal injury lawsuit

A driver that violates Vehicle Code 21804 may cause an accident with another motorist, or even a pedestrian. If the motorist/pedestrian 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. When it comes to auto accidents, negligent drivers are considered at fault for the accident and they may have to pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case can sometimes be difficult. But, in California, a driver is considered "negligent per se" if he violates a statute.

Negligence “per se” is a type of legal theory. It presumes a driver is negligent if he violates a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se for not yielding because that act is in violation of VC 21804.

Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, he 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 21804 VC

There are several laws related to VC 21804. These include:

  1. California's other failure to yield laws - Vehicle Code 21800-21803;
  2. Signaling before turning or changing lanes – Vehicle Code 22108; and,
  3. Proper hand signals required – Vehicle Code 22111.

8.1. California's other failure to yield laws – Vehicle Code 21800-21803

California Vehicle Code Sections 21800-21803 provide several rules as to when drivers must yield to other motorists.

These sections largely set forth yielding laws that apply to intersections and when drivers make left turns.

In short:

  • Vehicle Code 21800 (a) VC requires drivers entering an intersection to yield to motorists already at the intersection.
  • Vehicle Code 21800 (b)(1) VC states that if two vehicles enter an intersection at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.
  • Vehicle Code 21800 (c) VC provides that when two vehicles enter an intersection controlled by stop signs at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.
  • Vehicle Code 21800 (d)(1) VC requires drivers to stop when approaching intersections with traffic signals that are not working.
  • Vehicle Code 21800 (d)(2) VC states that if two vehicles enter an intersection at the same time, and the signals for the intersection are not working, the driver on the left must yield to the motorist on the right.
  • Vehicle Code 21801 VC mandates that drivers turning left, or completing a U-turn, must yield to motorists driving in the opposite direction.
  • Vehicle Code 21802 VC provides that drivers must stop at intersections with stop signs and yield to motorists already at the intersection.
  • Vehicle Code 21803 VC demands that motorists entering an intersection controlled by yield sign, yield to other drivers already at the intersection.

Drivers that violate California Vehicle Code Sections 21800-21803 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.
california traffic legal defense turn signal law
California Vehicle Code 22108 requires all drivers to signal at least 100 feet prior to making a turn or changing lanes

8.2. Signaling before turning or changing lanes – Vehicle Code 22108

California Vehicle Code 22108 requires all drivers to signal at least 100 feet prior to making a turn or changing lanes.13

The section states:

Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.14

The purpose of a signal is to give a warning to the rear driver.15

Further, once a driver signals, he does not have the absolute right of way within the road or intersection. California courts have stated otherwise and have imposed additional duties upon the signaling driver. These include a duty to:

  • Use reasonable care in the operation of a vehicle.16
  • Make proper observations.17
  • Exercise care in completing a turn to avoid collisions.18

A driver in California that violates VC 22108 receives two penalties. These are:

  1. A fine of $238.00; and,
  2. One point on his DMV driving record.

8.3. Proper hand signals required – Vehicle Code 22111

A driver is not limited to his vehicle's turn signal to warn drivers of his actions. Drivers can use hand signals to indicate when they are:

  • Turning left
  • Turning right
  • Stopping or suddenly decreasing their speed

If, however, a driver chooses to use a hand signal, the signal must be given appropriately.

California Vehicle Code 22111 VC describes what an appropriate hand signal is for turns and stops. The section states:

All required signals given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of a vehicle in the following manner:

  • (a) Left turn—hand and arm extended horizontally beyond the side of the vehicle.
  • (b) Right turn—hand and arm extended upward beyond the side of the vehicle, except that a bicyclist may extend the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.
  • (c) Stop or sudden decrease of speed signal—hand and arm extended downward beyond the side of the vehicle.

A driver that does not signal in compliance with VC 22111 receives two penalties. These include:

  1. A fine of $238.00
  2. One point assessed to his DMV driving record.

Were you accused of not yielding in California? Call us for help…

california traffic attorneys and legal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating VC 21804, 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-LAWFIRM.


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 21804 (a) VC.

  2. Shannon v. Thomas (1943), 57 Cal. App. 2d 187.

  3. California Vehicle Code 21804 (b)

  4. See DMV.org.

  5. See same.

  6. See California Courts website.

  7. See same.

  8. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  9. 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.

  10. See same.

  11. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.

  12. 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.

  13. California Vehicle Code 22108 VC.

  14. See same.

  15. Coyne v. Whiffen (1933), 132 Cal. App. 699.

  16. Donahue v. Mazzoli (1938), 27 Cal. App. 2d 102.

  17. Bauer v. Davis (1941), 43 Cal. App. 2d 764.

  18. Ekwall v. Los Angeles Hat Co. (1930), 105 Cal. App. 300.

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