When Is Changing Lanes Illegal In California?

Every driver changes lanes. From entering a freeway to avoiding hazards in the roadway, changing lanes is a necessary occurrence in driving. However, changing lanes in California is illegal in some instances.

The California Vehicle Code on Changing Lanes 

Any act that violates a law, statute, or regulation is illegal. With that said, that act of changing lanes does not violate any provision under the California Vehicle Code. However, there are instances when changing lanes in an unsafe manner or without signaling goes against the California Vehicle Code.

CVC 22107

The California Vehicle Code provides that drivers can change lanes or move vehicles from their direct course only with reasonable safety and after giving an appropriate signal. Changing lanes and moving left or right from the direct course without signaling or when such movement is unsafe is considered an unsafe lane change, which is prohibited by the California Vehicle Code 22107.   

No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

CVC 22107

Unsafe Lane Change 

An unsafe lane change is when a person changes lanes or steers the vehicle right or left from its direct course without ensuring that it is reasonably safe to do so or without giving an appropriate signal. An appropriate signal can be a turn signal or a hand and arm signal. 

An unsafe lane change is one of the most common violations when driving a car. A negligent driver can cause injury to unsuspecting or unprepared drivers nearby by failing to give an appropriate signal. Also, unsafe lane changes can result in car accidents when made without ascertaining whether there are vehicles nearby or coming when passing a car.   

Other instances of unsafe lane changes include when a motorist switches from one lane to another then collides with another vehicle that is already in that lane; when a driver fails to see the vehicle nearby or fails to check the blind spot; or when a driver unsafely drives to a highway and collides with another vehicle. 

When Changing Lanes is Illegal 

Changing lanes is not illegal per se. It only becomes illegal when the provisions of the California Vehicle Code regarding it are violated. The Code clearly states that changing lanes should be done reasonably and only after an appropriate signal is given. Accordingly, while changing lanes in an intersection is not per se illegal, it would become an unsafe lane change if done without first signaling. Likewise, if the lane change impeded traffic it could be classified as an unsafe lane change in contravention of CVC 22107.

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