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California Rear-End Accident Laws (CVC 21703): What to Know

According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 21703, the driver of a motor vehicle must not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic on, and the condition of, the roadway. If a driver fails to maintain a safe following distance and causes a rear-end collision, they may be found at fault for the accident.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Vehicle Code § 21703 VC – Following Too Closely (Tailgating)

According to SCLG, Vehicle Code § 21703 VC is the California statute that prohibits drivers from following the vehicle in front too closely, or tailgating. A ticket for this traffic offense is an infraction that carries a fine of $238.00 plus court costs [1].

The California Vehicle Code Section 21703 prohibits drivers from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, taking into account the speed of the vehicle, traffic conditions, and road conditions. This violation is often referred to as 21703 VC or 21703 CVC in citations.

Here are five key points to understand about this law:

  • Following too closely is determined based on the specific circumstances of each case.
  • Legal defenses are available for those accused of violating VC 21703, and an attorney can help fight the charge.
  • The fine for violating Vehicle Code 21703 is $238.
  • Tailgating can result in one point being added to the driver’s DMV record, and accumulating points can lead to a license suspension.
  • Ignoring a California ticket for following too closely can result in a charge of failure to appear, which can be a misdemeanor under Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

What is the Three-Second Rule in California?

The three-second rule is a straightforward guideline for maintaining a safe following distance behind another vehicle. As you drive behind a vehicle, pick a roadside landmark, such as a sign or tree, and note when the vehicle ahead of you passes it.

Count the seconds it takes for your vehicle to reach the same landmark should be at least three seconds. This ensures you have enough space between your vehicle and the one in front, allowing you ample time to react if they suddenly break.

Every driver is responsible for preventing accidents, especially rear-end collisions. Adhering to the three-second rule can reduce the risk, though it’s important to adjust for different driving conditions.

What are Right-of-Way Laws in California?

According to DMV, right-of-way rules help you understand who goes first when vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists meet on the road. The vehicle that arrives to the intersection first has the right-of-way. Other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians must wait for the person who has the right-of-way. Never assume that other drivers will give you the right-of-way. Give up your right-of-way when it will help prevent collisions [2]

Intersections are key areas where right-of-way rules come into play. Controlled intersections have signs or traffic signals, while uncontrolled and blind intersections do not. Before entering any intersection, carefully check for vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians from all directions. Pedestrians always have the right of way.

Here are some key right-of-way rules at intersections:

  • At intersections without STOP or YIELD signs, the first vehicle to arrive has the right-of-way. If vehicles arrive simultaneously, yield to the vehicle on your right.
  • At T intersections without signs, vehicles on the through road have the right-of-way.
  • When turning left, yield to pedestrians and oncoming vehicles that pose a risk.
  • When turning right, watch for pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles.
  • When a green traffic signal is present, proceed with caution, always giving priority to pedestrians.
  • When entering traffic, yield to vehicles already in the lanes and avoid blocking intersections.
  • Understanding and following right-of-way rules helps ensure safe and orderly traffic flow, reducing the risk of accidents.

Also Read: Is Brake Checking Illegal?

California Traffic Accident Statistics

According to the most recent data from the California Office of Traffic Safety [3]:

  • In 2019, California saw a total of 3,316 crashes resulting in fatalities or injuries involving drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • The state recorded 3,606 traffic accident fatalities in 2019.
  • Los Angeles County had the highest number of traffic fatalities in 2019, with 664 deaths, followed by Riverside County with 262 deaths and San Diego County with 258 deaths.
  • The leading primary factor in fatal and injury crashes in California in 2019 was unsafe speed, followed by improper turning.
  • California witnessed 14,008 pedestrian-involved collisions and 7,031 bicycle-involved collisions in 2019, leading to 893 pedestrian fatalities and 155 bicyclist fatalities.

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