Seat belts are key, but on private property the law is different
Q. I am a retired police officer and former traffic-violator instructor. I believe I have found an inconsistency between the California Vehicle Code and the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Driver Handbook. Vehicle Code 27315 talks about people needing to be properly buckled up if on a “highway.” The handbook says, “You may not operate your vehicle on public roads and on private property, such as public parking lots, unless you and all of your passengers (except certain children, who must be in another qualifying restraining device) are wearing seat belts.” Parking lots are often private property. Because the word “highway” is used in the Vehicle Code, I believe the law only applies to the highway, which includes streets as well, and not private property such as many parking lots. Please clarify for me.
– Tom Barnhart, Upland
A. Tom, as a retired cop and reader of Honk, there is strong evidence that you are a sharp cookie.
You are correct, sir.
Unless measures have been taken to pull private property under the Vehicle Code’s domain, most driving laws fall by the wayside. Gated communities can get cops to cite on their private streets, so can malls and other entities.
But, in general, few laws are in effect, including the seat belt law, Duane Graham, a California Highway Patrol officer and spokesman in the Westminster office, explained to Honk.
“Most of the codes are not enforceable,” he said. “In certain situations, private property ownership can go to their local government and request to have their property covered under the California Vehicle Code. In those instances, the private property should have signs posted, which would indicated that the Vehicle Code is enforced.”
Driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and hit-and-run are still enforced under California law on private property. Also, drivers can be cited for blocking a fire hydrant and parking in a handicapped space without the proper license plate or placard.
Even just moving a ton-plus hunk of nuts and bolts across a parking lot is worthy of everyone buckling up, to be sure, but the Driver Handbook is reaching a bit in regard to the law.
When asked about this by Honk, a DMV spokeswoman noted the Vehicle Code can at times be enforced on private property, and said the Driver Handbook passage is “an advisement,” because it says “may not,” rather than “shall not.”
Tom, Honk is most definitely with you on this one.
Q. Forgive me if you have recently written about this, but it bears repeating as schools open. When must vehicles stop for a school bus with its lights flashing as students hop on or off? Drivers often seem impatient when I err on the side of safety and stop; other drivers often whiz past me, impatient. What is the law? Thanks – hoping to keep kids safe.
– Barbara McMurray, Laguna Beach
A. Honk checked in with Traffic Investigator Wes Hadley of Santa Ana PD, and he said state law hasn’t changed since the last time we went down this road together in Honk Land.
If going the same way as the school bus, all motorists must stop.
If approaching from the opposite direction, and there is one lane going each way, drivers must stop as well if the roadway is not divided, say by a concrete or natural-terrain barrier. If divided, you can keep rolling along. Same goes if there are at least two lanes in each direction.
To ask Honk questions, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk.