Is it ever legal to drive on the shoulder of the road? Here’s what California law says


While driving on a California highway, you may see some extra space on the side of the road, but how much space is allocated for it?

Highway shoulders are generally reserved for emergency use and by emergency vehicles, said Officer Thomas Olsen, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

“It allows first responders and support personnel (i.e. tow trucks) to have a safer environment to handle traffic collisions, medical emergencies, etc.,” Olsen wrote in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “It is also available for motorists to use in emergency situations such as mechanical issues, medical emergencies, etc.”


When can I use the shoulder of the highway?

Olsen wrote that using highway shoulders for traffic is illegal “unless an emergency requires it.”

For example, if there’s an accident blocking the fast lane, an emergency dispatcher can direct you to pass using the center median or shoulder, Olsen said. You can also use the side of the highway if there is an object blocking the highway or if a car in front of you suddenly stops.

Illegitimate reasons for using the shoulder

Unless there is an emergency, Olsen said the shoulders of the highway cannot be used to stop and answer text messages or phone calls.

This applies to all highways, as specified before California car code 360Olsen said. Vehicle Code 360 ​​states that a “highway” is a public space open to public use by vehicles.

The code states that “the highway includes the street.”

“We tend to see many motorists stopping on highways to make non-emergency calls, go to the bathroom, change diapers, etc.,” Olsen wrote. “Their intentions are good, but they are putting themselves and other motorists in a dangerous situation.”

For non-emergency situations, Olsen said motorists should exit the highway and find a safe place.

What if I get off the highway?

Still no. California vehicle code 21753 It is prohibited to use the shoulder of the highway for traffic.

“What we typically see is motorists stuck in heavy traffic and decide to go over the right side to get to the next exit,” Olsen said.

Olsen said drivers should wait for painted lines to direct them off the highway.

“This is illegal and violators can be issued a citation,” Olsen said. “In addition, the shoulders are not maintained as well as the traffic lanes.”

the quote Fines can vary But it’s usually around $237, according to Shouse California Law Group.

Because roads designated for motorist use only are maintained, Olsen said someone is more likely to puncture their tire when using the side of the highway.

Can I use the side of the road to let others pass me?

On highways, such as Interstate 99, Olsen said the shoulders of the road cannot be used to let others pass you.

For other highways, such as State Route 108, Olsen said engineers have designed routes to allow slower-moving vehicles to stop at designated pull-off points.

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