Common Traffic Tickets Explained – Stop Signs, Stoplights, and U-Turns


Are you confident in your knowledge of traffic violations? You may think so, but California vehicle codes are lengthy and complex, allowing certain details to slip through the cracks of our understanding. We make mistakes every day, and unfortunately traffic violations fit into our mishaps and result in thousands of dollars in fines, a huge jump in car insurance premiums, and even a devastating suspension of your license.Here are some common traffic violations to be more aware of when driving to keep you and your passengers safe in addition to reducing your chances of violating a vehicle code.Running a Stop Sign – This may be a common infraction, but there are many ways to beat this kind of ticket. For instance, if the officer has parked on a cross street when he saw you fail to stop at the sign, it may be possible that his vision was blocked and he didn’t see that you actually did come to a complete stop a few feet behind the line. Other defenses may be possible if the sign is newly installed or markings on the road have been worn away.Running a Stoplight – The wording of this law is very similar to the above infraction, but the application and defenses available differ greatly. For one, it is important to understand exactly what constitutes a violation of this section. To be guilty, you must enter the intersection when the light is red. If the front of your vehicle entered the intersection when the light was yellow, you have not broken this law. However, this does not mean you should simply slam on the gas pedal to be sure you enter the intersection a millisecond before the light turns red; an officer may still cite you for reckless driving if your actions are sufficiently dangerous. It is important to remember as well that you should never tell the officer it was a short yellow light – this is very close to admitting you did indeed enter the intersection when it was red.Illegal U-Turns – There are three types of illegal U-turns, each dealing with the sort of “district” you are in when you are cited. The definition of business, residential, or non-residential and non-business will often be the distinction between whether you were guilty of violating these provisions or not.

U-turn in a Business District – A “business district” is a place where over 50% of the property fronting the street is devoted to businesses along 300 feet of highway. You can only make a U-turn at an intersection or, on a divided highway, at an opening unless a visible sign prohibits it.
U-turn in a Residential District – A “residential district” is a place where there are at least 13 houses or businesses on one side of the road or 16 on both sides over a quarter mile stretch. In these areas, you may make a U-turn at any controlled intersection or at any place where no vehicle is approaching within 200 feet in either direction.
U-turn in Non-Residential, Non-Business Districts – This includes any area not defined as “residential” or “business.” Here, you may make a U-turn anywhere (including over double yellow lines, unless they are more than two feet apart) as long as you have an unobstructed view 200 feet in both directions. It does not matter whether a vehicle was approaching or not, only that your view was unobstructed.