Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle in California
(Vehicle Code 21806)

California Vehicle Code 21806 VC states that drivers in California must yield to emergency vehicles when they're using: (1) sirens; and, (2) at least one visible red light.

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

  • A proper yield under this section is when a driver slows and drives to the right-hand edge of the road. Drivers must remain stopped until the emergency vehicle passes.
  • A driver that does not yield must pay a fine of $490.00.
  • A driver that violates this section will also receive one point on his DMV driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he gets 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
  • A person that violates Vehicle Code 21806 VC can challenge a ticket by raising a legal defense. It's in the driver's best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before doing so.
  • Drivers cannot ignore a California ticket for violating VC 21806. This act will likely result in a charge of failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508, which can be charged as a misdemeanor.

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

california fire truck emergency vehicle failure to yield law
California Vehicle Code 21806 VC states that drivers in California must yield to emergency vehicles when they're using: (1) sirens; and, (2) at least one visible red light.

1. Vehicle Code 21806 VC – Drivers in California must yield to emergency vehicles

California Vehicle Code 21806 states that drivers must yield to emergency vehicles when these vehicles:

  1. Sound a siren; and,
  2. Use at least one visible red light.1

To comply with this section, drivers must yield by driving:

to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.2

While drivers must yield to emergency vehicles, the drivers of these vehicles cannot drive recklessly. Courts in California require emergency vehicle drivers to drive with due regard for the safety of the public.3

2. The penalties for failure to yield to emergency vehicles in California

A driver receives two penalties for violating Vehicle Code 21806. These are:

  1. A fine; and,
  2. Points on the motorist's California State driving record.
girl receiving traffic ticket california failure to yield to emergency vehicle
A driver that fails to yield to an emergency vehicle will receive a ticket for the violation.

2.1. Fine

A driver that fails to yield to an emergency vehicle will receive a ticket for the violation. The driver will also have to pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for violating this section is $490.00.4

2.2. Points on the motorist's DMV driving record

Motorists in California that fail to yield to emergency vehicles will receive one point on their DMV driving record.5 Points put on a driver's record are ultimately reported to a driver's insurance carrier. This typically causes an increase in the motorist's insurance rates for several years.

When a driver receives multiple points on his driving record within a 1-,2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that person a negligent driver. If this happens, the DMV can either suspend or revoke a motorist's driving privileges.

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

3. Legal defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 21806

A driver that receives a ticket for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle can always challenge the ticket by raising a legal defense. If successful, the driver will avoid the penalties for a VC 21806 violation. If challenging a ticket, though, motorists should consult with an attorney for assistance.

3.1. Common defenses for not yielding to an emergency vehicle

There are four common defenses for violating Vehicle Code 21806. These are:

  1. The officer made a mistake because the driver did yield.
  2. The emergency vehicle was not sounding a siren.
  3. The emergency vehicle was not using a red light, or, it was not visible.
  4. There was not a safe location for the driver to stop.

If a motorist challenges a ticket, it's crucial that he support his defense with some type of evidence. The best evidence includes:

  • Surveillance video
  • Photographs
  • Testimony or statements from witnesses
california failure to yield to emergency vehicle legal defense
It's in the driver's best interests to contact a California attorney for help.

3.2. Contact a lawyer for help

Drivers can represent themselves when challenging California traffic tickets. However, it's in the driver's best interests to contact a California attorney for help.

Lawyers are necessary when challenging a ticket for three key reasons. These are:

  1. Prosecutors are more likely to offer deals to drivers with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys are skilled at getting charges reduced or dropped.
  3. If a driver has an attorney, he does not have to go to court. The

driver's lawyer can go on his behalf.

4. Violation of Vehicle Code 21806 VC and traffic school

Drivers that violate VC 21806 do not have to attend traffic school. However, they can voluntarily choose to do so.

Drivers in California can attend traffic school if they meet three requirements. These are:

  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.

If a driver attends traffic school, he must still pay his fine.6 However, he generally does not get any points put on his driving record if he completes the school.7

5. Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and criminal charges

It is not a crime in California if a driver violates Vehicle Code 21806. No criminal charges are filed. Similarly, violators are not subject to incarceration or other criminal penalties.

Violations of VC 21806 are infractions under California law.

6. Ignoring a ticket for violating VC 21806

Drivers should not ignore – or even forget about – a ticket for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. Two things happen if this occurs. These are:

  1. The driver violates 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

Upon getting a traffic ticket in California, a driver must sign a written promise to appear in court. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time and place (unless he has an attorney – please see 3.2 above).

If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 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.9

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

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. Effect of violating VC 21806 on a personal injury lawsuit

A driver that violates Vehicle Code 21806 may cause – or get involved in – an accident with another motorist. If the motorist 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 the context of an auto accident, negligent drivers are 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 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle since the act violates VC 21806.

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 21806 VC

There are three laws related to VC 21806. These include:

  1. Following emergency vehicles;
  2. Failure to obey a school crossing guard; and,
  3. Failure to yield to pedestrians.

8.1. 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 21055.13

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.14

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.15

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.16

8.2. Failure to obey a school crossing guard

California Vehicle Code 2815 VC states that a driver must obey a school crossing guard when:

  1. The guard is wearing his official school crossing guard insignia; and,
  2. The guard is acting within the scope of his duties.

Drivers that violate VC 2815 will receive two penalties. These are:

  1. A fine of $285.00; and,
  2. One point on the driver's DMV driving record.

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 2815 on three or more occasions may also get their driver's license suspended for up to 30 days.17

8.3. Failure to yield to pedestrians

Per California Vehicle Code 21950, drivers in California must yield to pedestrians crossing a roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk. For failure to yield to another vehicle cases, please see our page on Vehicle Code 21800 21801 21802 21803 and 21804 failure to yield to other motorists in California.

Under VC 21950 (a):

The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.18

VC 21950 (c) places additional responsibilities on motorists in that it requires drivers to exercise due care when approaching pedestrians.

That section states:

The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.19

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21950 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.

Were you accused of failure to yield to an emergency vehicle in California? Call us for help…

california failure to  yield to emergency vehicle legal experts attorneys
We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LAWFIRM

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating VC 21806, 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.

Cited in Nevada? See our article on failure to yield to emergency vehicles in Nevada (NRS 484B.607).

Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 21806 VC.

  2. California Vehicle Code 21806(a) VC.

  3. Raynor v. Arcata (1938) 11 Cal.2d 113.

  4. See DMV.org.

  5. See same.

  6. See California Courts website.

  7. See same.

  8. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  9. 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.

  10. See same.

  11. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  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 21706 VC.

  14. California Vehicle Code 21055 (a) VC.

  15. California Vehicle Code 21055 (b) VC.

  16. See DMV.org above.

  17. California Vehicle Code 2815 VC and California Vehicle Code 42001.1(b) VC.

  18. California Vehicle Code 21950(a) VC.

  19. California Vehicle Code 21950 (c) VC.

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