By Logan Quirk
Keeping yourself and others safe should always be the priority for all motorists. Laws such as CVC 21658a that discourage the practice of lane weaving are on the books because of how they help promote road safety.
Against their better judgment, though, some drivers may ignore the law and the risks involved by engaging in careless lane weaving anyway. Engaging in that behavior can be downright dangerous.
In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons why you should avoid swerving in and out of lanes as much as possible. We’ll talk about the different consequences you might face if you decide to engage in lane weaving. You can also read about how to fight lane weaving charges if authorities wrongly accuse you.
All California motorists need to know more about lane weaving. Read on to learn more about this driving habit and what engaging in it could mean for you.
What Is Lane Weaving?
Lane weaving occurs when cars and other large vehicles move from one lane to another repeatedly. You’ve probably noticed some drivers engaging in this practice before as they tried to get into the faster moving lane during rush hour.
Typically, lane weaving means that one vehicle is going to another lane and then returning to their original lane later. Sometimes though, a car may also weave within their own lane to overtake other vehicles.
It’s also worth taking the time to clear up an important point here. You may have heard of lane splitting before. Notably, that is not the same as lane weaving.
In contrast to lane weaving, lane splitting refers to the practice of motorcycles riding along the sides of stopped vehicles. Lane weaving can refer to driving practices carried out by both car and motorcycle owners. Lane splitting is limited to motorcycles.
Understanding the Risks of Lane Weaving
It’s difficult to overstate the dangers posed by reckless lane switching when you’re driving a car. You’re significantly increasing the chances of an accident taking place when you keep on moving in and out of your lanes.
The statistics also show that lane weaving has been the cause of numerous accidents.
Per this article from the Insurance Information Institute, the habit of lane weaving is the third most common type of driver behavior that led to fatal crashes in 2018. It accounted for about 7.2 percent of the fatal crashes that took place that year.
To put that into perspective, the only driving behaviors that more commonly led to fatal crashes were driving way too fast and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication. Lane weaving led to more fatal crashes that year than driving while using your phone or failing to follow traffic signs.
Why Is Lane Weaving So Dangerous?
Hearing that lane weaving can be more dangerous than distracted driving may be a revelation to some, but it also makes sense. You’re presenting problems when you consistently engage in that driving practice.
Lane Weaving Makes You an Unpredictable Driver
When you keep moving from one lane to another, you make yourself an unpredictable driver. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
Your sudden turn to another lane may catch a fellow driver off guard and lead to a collision. Even if the driver manages to avoid your car, they may still have to slam on the brakes, and another vehicle may rear-end them.
Continue weaving in and out of lanes unpredictably, and it will only be a matter of time before another driver reacts poorly to your maneuver.
Lane Weaving Can Be a Contagious Practice
Getting cut off repeatedly can be annoying for any driver, especially if you need to slow down because of the person weaving in and out of the lanes. As a response to someone’s erratic driving, you may decide to engage in lane weaving too.
Constant lane switching can trigger something in drivers. If one driver engages in that behavior, it may not be long before others follow suit. The roads may become more dangerous because of that.
Lane Weaving Can Put Even Careful Drivers at Risk
Lane weaving can be a threat to others, even if they are careful. No matter how cautious you are behind the wheel, it’s hard to protect yourself against the erratic movements of another driver.
Staying safe is more than a good enough reason to avoid lane weaving entirely. If that’s not enough, remember that your decision to keep switching lanes can also put innocent drivers at risk.
What Is the Law Addressing Lane Weaving in California?
The lawmakers in California understand the dangers presented by drivers repeatedly changing lanes. To protect against that dangerous practice, they enacted CVC 21658a.
According to CVC 21658a, vehicles operated on roads that have two or more clearly marked lanes must stay inside a single lane. The law does allow for some form of lane switching, but that action should only be with “reasonable safety.”
CVC 21658a primarily protects against lane weaving, but it also polices other negligent driving behavior. For instance, the law also makes it illegal for drivers to continually straddle the line between two lanes.
If you are going to switch lanes, you should also do so carefully and decisively. Don’t stay between two lanes of the highway for too long. That’s another form of lane weaving, and you may receive a violation as a result.
When Is Lane Changing Legal?
We’ve already determined that changing lanes carelessly, straddling the dividing line, and staying between two lanes for an excessive amount of time are illegal actions according to CVC 21658a.
However, the law doesn’t state that lane changing of any kind is illegal. You can still go ahead and switch lanes if you were cautious when doing so.
Use your better judgment to determine if you can change lanes safely in your situation. Remember the principles of defensive driving and follow them so you can make the move safely.
There are also some situations where continuous lane weaving may be allowed. Typically, police officers will allow you to drive that way if there’s an emergency of some kind.
You can also argue that you needed to change lanes because a driver near you was operating their vehicle erratically. In that case, the police officers may understand why you had to move away from the lane your vehicle originally occupied.
How Do You Safely and Legally Change Lanes?
Changing lanes may be something you need to do during your trip. Is there a way to do it without endangering anyone and without violating California’s traffic laws?
It is indeed possible to execute a lane change safely and legally. The tips below should help you pull off this sometimes tricky maneuver without any issue.
Use Your Turn Signal
Turn signals are on vehicles for a reason. They’re supposed to help you inform other drivers that you need to make a move. Don’t shy away from using them.
Switch on the appropriate turn signal more than 100 feet before the spot where you intend to make the turn.
It’s also a good idea to start slowing down before you get to the spot. That way, the drivers around you can tell that you are planning to change lanes. A kind driver may even allow you to merge in front of them.
Wait until You Reach the Right Spot before Changing Lanes
You cannot change lanes whenever you please. Before making your move, look for an appropriate spot where you can turn without affecting the traffic too much. Ideally, there will be a less populated stretch of the road that you can use for that purpose.
Don’t stay at the spot you chose for too long, though. Once you get there, make the turn when the opportunity presents itself and stay in the new lane you chose.
Refrain from Aggressive Driving before Making a Lane Change
Changing lanes can be inconvenient for the drivers around you. Don’t give them a reason to make turning harder for you.
Avoid tailgating the vehicle in front of you so you can get more space to change lanes, and don’t honk your horns loudly at the vehicles in the lane you want to join. Doing either of those things will annoy the other drivers, and they may make it even harder for you to switch lanes.
Is Touching a Separate Lane Illegal?
California drivers should know that touching a separate lane does not automatically mean you’re violating CVC 21658a.
Previous rulings involving lane weaving cases indicate that the law does allow for touching the lane, but only if it occurs for a short time. If you remain in contact with the other lane without switching over, you can receive a violation.
What Are the Penalties if You Are Caught Lane Weaving?
Drivers will face two kinds of penalties if they are guilty of lane weaving.
The first penalty will be a fine. Violators of CVC 21658a will pay a $238 fine if they were weaving through lanes recklessly.
The other penalty comes in the form of receiving a point to your driving record. They will only add one point to your driving record per lane weaving violation, but that can quickly pile up.
Motorists who tally four points in twelve months will receive a suspended driver’s license for six months and be on probation for twelve months. Those who tally six points inside of two years and eight points within thirty-six months will have the same penalties.
You should also know that those points will remain on your California driving record for a while. DriversEducationUSA.com notes that the points will stay on your record for three years.
Keep in mind that you could receive other penalties for your irresponsible driving habits. While going from one lane to the next, you may accidentally hit a fellow motorist. Suddenly, your penalties will include a heftier fine as well as jail time.
Failing to pay your ticket on time can also be the cause of some serious headaches. Individuals who continually ignore their ticket may be fined up to $1,000 and receive a jail sentence.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Fight a Lane Weaving Violation
As you may have noticed, California’s laws regarding lane weaving can be subjective. There’s a lot of gray area in CVC 21658a. Whether an officer will charge you with a lane weaving violation will depend on how they perceive what happened.
If you want to avoid paying a fine and a point added to your driving record, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to fight for your case.
A lawyer can challenge the account of the officer who charged you and argue that you did nothing wrong. Your lawyer could argue that you were indeed cognizant of the vehicles around you when you switched lanes. They can say that you exercised a reasonable amount of caution and did not endanger anyone while making your move.
If the police officer said that you were straddling the space between two lanes for too long, your lawyer can argue that you did so for a reason. Your lawyer can point out that the vehicles on either side of you did not give you a chance to merge with their respective lanes safely.
The lawyer you’re working with can also argue that you had a valid emergency. The need to address that emergency can justify why you resorted to lane weaving.
In a case where your guilt or innocence can hinge so much on subjective matters, hiring a good lawyer is essential. A skilled and experienced lawyer can make a compelling case showing your justified lane weaving.
Let us at the Quirk Law Group make that case for you. Get in touch with us today and avoid the penalties that come from a mistaken charge of lane weaving.