Under California law, tailgating is defined as following behind another driver at a distance closer than what is considered reasonable and prudent. There is no precise measurement for how much space a driver must give to the vehicle in front of them. Instead, this is determined on a case-by-case basis with consideration for many factors, including speed and road conditions.
If you have been ticketed for tailgating and want to dispute the ticket, it is critical to be aware of the proper way to do so. For instance, simply ignoring the citation could result in a misdemeanor charge for failure to appear. Talk to the Simmrin Law Group today to ensure that you don’t make a bad situation even worse.
Determining What Is Reasonable and Prudent
Many factors go into determining whether or not a driver was following another in a manner that was reasonably prudent. Some of the things taken into consideration include:
- The physical distance between the two vehicles
- The condition of the roads
- Weather conditions
- The speed at which the drivers were traveling
- The braking efficiency of the following vehicle
- The alertness of the following driver
This list is not exhaustive, and other factors may also be noted when assessing if the following driver was tailgating or not.
Penalties for Tailgating in California
If you are ticketed for tailgating in California, you will receive a fine of $238 and a point on your driving record. Points assessed on your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driving record get reported to your insurance company. A point on your record will likely increase a driver’s insurance records for years to come.
If you accumulate enough points on your license in a certain time frame, you could also find yourself facing a suspension of your license for negligent driving. This suspension comes into effect if you get:
- Four points in a 12-month period
- Six points in a 24-month period
- Eight points in a 36-month period
Attending Traffic School After Being Ticketed for Tailgating
You can typically avoid having a point added to your license for tailgating by attending traffic school. Attendance of traffic school is not mandatory after being ticketed under VC 21703. However, you can attend voluntarily to avoid this consequence in most cases.
Attending traffic school will only protect you against a point on your license. You will still have to pay your ticket.
Ignoring a Tailgating Ticket
Even if you feel that you were not tailgating at the time you were ticketed, it is inadvisable to simply ignore the citation. When you receive a ticket in California, you will sign a written promise to appear at a certain time and place. The willful failure to appear is a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 40508: Failure to Appear.
While VC 21703 is a simple infraction, VC 40508 is a misdemeanor charge. A violation could result in:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Summary probation
If you believe you were given a ticket for an offense you did not commit, it is much better to show up at your court date ready to contest the charge than to ignore it altogether.
Defenses Against a Tailgating Ticket
There are several common defenses that you can use if you are contesting a tailgating ticket. A few of these are:
- That you were following the lead vehicle at a reasonable and prudent distance
- That the officer made a mistake as they did not have a clear view of the vehicles
- That the lead car was driving erratically
It can be difficult to successfully argue any of these defenses without photographs or video to support your claim. An experienced lawyer can assist you in tracking down footage that proves your case.
Hiring an attorney can also be beneficial in that they will give you a better chance of winning your case and can appear to contest your ticket in your place.
Contact a Traffic Violations Lawyer Today
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have experience fighting all types of traffic violations. While you might not feel the need to hire a lawyer to contest a $238 ticket, if you are facing a suspension of your license due to too many points, the stakes are much higher.
Contact the Simmrin Law Group for a free, no-obligation consultation. We will review your case, answer all your questions, and advise you on how best to proceed.