Tires with little to no tread depth are commonly called “bald tires.” California Vehicle Code §27465(b) says it’s a traffic offense for a motorist to drive a motor vehicle with low-tread tires. That’s because an automobile with bald tires is more likely to hydroplane on slick roads.
They’re also more likely to get punctures which can contribute to unexpected blowouts. Unfortunately, if you violate this law, you’ll receive an infraction and a traffic ticket. Learn more about California’s bald tire violation, VC §27465(b), and what you should do if you receive a citation.
What Is the Minimum Tread Depth for Tires in California?
Your tire’s tread is the portion of your tire that meets the road and consists of grooves and ribs. In the U.S., tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch. Standard tires are sold with 10/32 to 12/32 of tread on them.
Consumer Reports suggests using a quarter rather than a penny to ascertain whether your tires need to be replaced. Place a quarter headfirst into a tread groove; if George Washington’s head is barely visible, then your tread has about 4/32 (1/8) of an inch of depth.
One-eighth of an inch is the California vehicle code recommendation for all major grooves on tires affixed to the “steering axle” (front tires on a standard automobile) of a vehicle.
For all other tires, you should have 2/32 (1/16) of an inch depth. This measurement can be checked by placing a penny headfirst into your tire groove. The distance between the edge and the top of Lincoln’s head is 1/16 of an inch. If it’s less than this, you need to shop for replacement tires.
California law states that no person can drive their vehicle on a public road with tread depths less than those listed above.
Additional Wheel Regulations Under VC §27465
In addition to the requirements listed above, the vehicle code states:
- Any two adjacent grooves at any spot on your tire should have at least 1/32 of an inch tread depth.
- Snow tires that are used in lieu of chains or other traction devices are required to have at least 6/32 (3/16) of an inch depth in all major tire grooves.
- Tread depth measurements on any tire must not be taken where wheel features, including humps, fillets, or tie bars, are located.
Note that these tread depth regulations in VC §27465 do not apply to agricultural vehicle tires or your spare tire put on during a roadside emergency.
What Are the Potential Fines for Driving with Bald Tires?
A violation of California VC §27465(b) is charged as an infraction. If you are issued a ticket, you are required to pay a base fine of $25. The actual penalty will cost more and include assessments and other fines.
A violation for driving with bald tires does not result in points on your driving record for the DMV.
What Happens If I Ignore My Citation?
When you’re issued a traffic citation, you are required by California law to appear in court. You can endure additional charges or fines if you fail to appear in court or address any traffic ticket type.
If you willfully fail to appear in court or don’t pay your fines, you may be found guilty of California Vehicle Code §40508.
A violation of this code is treated as a misdemeanor, meaning you can face penalties of:
- Up to six months in jail
- Fines up to $1,000
This code applies to other traffic ticket citations, including license plates or headlamps. If you’ve received one of these citations, a lawyer experienced in tire violations can instruct you on what to do next.
How Can I Challenge a Vehicle Code §27465 Ticket?
Your criminal defense attorney will discuss your case with you and develop a strategy to help you contest your bald tire violation. Legal tactics may include showing that:
- Law enforcement made an error in calculating tread depth.
- The vehicle you were driving was an agricultural vehicle.
- The tire with shallow tread depth was a spare.
Tire Depth Calculation Error
The California vehicle code involves minute fractions of an inch and that the measurements be precise. Therefore, a defense against a bald tire violation may include claiming an error in the tread measurement and that the tires were within legal specs.
You Were Driving an Agricultural Vehicle
Subsection (d) of VC §27465 does not pertain to “implements of husbandry.” However, a vehicle used primarily for conducting agricultural work is considered an implement of husbandry. Therefore, if you were operating a farming vehicle with bald tires, you would not be violating the law.
You Were Driving with a Spare Tire on Your Vehicle
If you had a flat tire or blowout and used a spare tire that had tread measurements less than the legal limit, you could use this as an excuse, and you should not be ticketed for the violation.
Call Simmrin Law Group Today to Fight a Bald Tire Violation
Driving on bald tires is dangerous and can lead to a severe accident. According to California law, your front tire treads should be a minimum of 1/8th inch deep, while the back ones should be 1/16th of an inch deep. If they’re less than this, you could be cited for a violation, or worse.
If you were involved in an accident and the worn-down treads on your car were to blame, reach out to the attorneys at the Simmrin Law Group today. Call our number for a free consultation or contact us via our online form.