What Are the Legal Definitions of Tailgating and Reckless Driving?

If you live somewhere as large as Los Angeles, you will most likely travel on a major road at least once a day. With hundreds of vehicles on the road at any one time, a small traffic violation could lead to serious injury and damage. Therefore, several laws and statutes address unreasonable driving behavior. Here are two of them.

Vehicle Code 21703 CVC – Tailgating

Vehicle Code 21703 CVC is a California statute that penalizes tailgating. A driver of a motor vehicle can be found in violation of 21703 CVC if they follow the vehicle in front at a closer distance than what is deemed ‘reasonable and prudent.’

The definition of ‘reasonable and prudent’ is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the speed of both vehicles, surrounding traffic, weather conditions, and other significant factors.

A driver found to violate 21703 CVC will receive one point against their DMV license record and be fined $238 plus any associated court costs. If the offender does not appear in court, they could be further charged or have their license suspended.

Vehicle Code 23103 CVC – Reckless Driving

Vehicle Code 21703 CVC is a California statute that penalizes reckless driving. It defines reckless driving as the operation of a motor vehicle on a public road with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people and property. This statute also covers reckless driving in off-street parking facilities.

Under California law, an individual is considered to act with willful or wanton disregard for safety if they are aware that their actions could pose an unnecessary risk of harm to others yet intentionally ignore that risk. In other words, the court does not need proof that a driver had intent to cause harm—only that the driver knew that their actions were risky.

A basic violation of 23103 VC is a misdemeanor leading to two points against the offender’s DMV license record, plus imprisonment for a maximum of 90 days in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. However, penalties escalate with the extent of injury caused.

If the driving violation led to serious injury to another party, the driver could face a ‘wobbler’ offense. This means that the offender could face a reckless driving felony charge that results in a maximum of three years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The offender’s motor vehicle may also be impounded.

Case Study

An example of a case that involves both these vehicle codes is Sandra Jacqueline Denton v. Samvel Hovhannisyan, et al. Sandra J. Denton, also known as Pepa, is half of the famous American hip-hop duo Salt-N-Pepa. In 2018, she was a victim of a vehicular accident while traveling on the Ventura 101 Freeway.

According to Denton, an Uber driver operating his vehicle was driving too closely to the vehicle that she was in. Because he was tailgating, he did not have enough time and room to react, causing him to crash into the vehicle carrying Denton. Drivers of three other vehicles were implicated for driving recklessly and creating a chain-reaction collision.

As a result of the accident, Denton suffered knee and neck injuries that caused her severe pain. She was not able to perform professionally as well as she used to due to her injuries and feeling unwell during her performances. This led to disruption of her touring and travel schedules and a significant loss of income.

Denton contacted West Coast Trial Lawyers and attorney Neama Rahmani to recover compensation for her personal injuries and financial damages. Rahmani met with Denton to speak in detail about the facts of her case. He obtained essential evidence and important records and filed a lawsuit against multiple parties, including Uber, in April 2020.

About Neama Rahmani

Neama Rahmani is a prominent personal injury attorney from California. He is the president and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Rahmani graduated from Harvard Law School at 22, becoming one of the youngest law graduates in the school’s 200-year history. His first appointment as legal counsel was with the esteemed law firm O’Melveny & Myers, where he worked with high-profile clients such as Disney, Marriott, and the Roman Catholic Church.

Seven years later, Rahmani decided to move into public service. He joined the United States Attorney’s Office as a federal prosecutor, dealing with human and drug trafficking along the United States-Mexico border. There, he notably helped capture and prosecute a fugitive murderer and drug lord, later featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted.’

In 2012, Rahmani joined the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission as the Director of Enforcement, leading confidential investigations into the conduct of elected officials. In 2013, Rahmani founded West Coast Trial Lawyers, where he has led hundreds of attorneys in massive litigation cases and received billions of dollars in settlements for his clients.

Outside of the courtrooms, Rahmani can be often seen on television or in news interviews, as well as on the board of the UCLA Political Science Board of Advisors. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife—an attorney for foster children, their son and daughter, and their family dog.