A break from our regularly scheduled serious law commentary is being provided to you by the newest installment of The Fast and The Furious. Here are the five most common vehicle code violations in this Hollywood blockbuster.
Not only are violations of Vehicle Code 23109(a) prominent in The Fast and the Furious 6¸ the whole movie is arguably just a series of races joined together by comically bad dialogue to bring on the next race scene. In fact, there's more intelligent noise being made by the engines at the start of their races than in much of the lines used by the lead characters. But whether there's a UFC Ring Girl Wannabe dropping the flag between two racers or just the knowing nod at the red light followed by the screeching tires, almost every scene is a traffic lawyers dream. Possible consequences for a Vehicle Code 23109(a) include a misdemeanor on your record, car impounded for 30 days, a drivers license revocation, fines that will probably (after court costs and surcharges) be over $1000, two points on your DMV record, and insurance rates going through the roof for the next few years of your life.
You would think that this code was referring to the organizers running interference from the police, marking the lines, calling the matchups, and taking the money, and it does. But this code also refers to the people who are standing there watching. You know who they are. You saw them in the movie. Those weird surreal crowd scenes before the start of the race where the crowd looks like something out of a sci fi movie where The Village People and the Black Eyed Peas moved to another planet and populated it enough to provide the extras in the latest Fast and Furious race scene. Yep, those are the ones. Just watching and listening to music and letting their eyes get real big and maybe gasping in disbelief when some wannabe racer pulls out the pink slip to his dad's Porsche 911 and puts it on the line. Well, guess what? They can be charged too. And the consequences are pretty much the same. Oftentimes, I have clients tell me that they are being charged for doing nothing. Exactly. Call my law office today and we will work through this.
In every Fast and Furious movie there's at least one big scene that involves a Vehicle Code 22348(b) and I'm happy to report that FF6 is no different. The two fastest racers going through the gears as buildings and people whirl by in the background until that moment when Paul Walker's face goes even whiter as his opponent finds one more gear and zooms to the front. About this time, the camera starts peaking down at the speedometer lurching well over a hundred, our boy Walker licks his lips nervously, and you know he's about ready to do something that would seriously get him killed if this was real life! And then he uses the NOS and he screams across the line and everyone gives him mad respect as he puts on his best Keanu Reeves surfer boy grin and waits to get beaten by Vin Diesel again. Well, that's Hollywood for you.
In the real world, Vehicle Code 22348(b) is a little different. It normally doesn't occur in an urban setting. In the Central Valley you are more likely to be sailing along on one of the more well groomed Highways such as I-5, 58, 46, or even some stretches of the 99. Then you notice that the fast little pocket of cars you were moving with has all slowed down and left you holding the bag as the siren starts up.
The good news is that it is an infraction. The bad news is that it comes with a huge fine, 2 points on your license (which will probably cost you a few grand in insurance), and a possible 30 day suspension for the first offense. And oh yes, you need to make a mandatory court appearance on this charge or hire a lawyer.
It seems like every chase scene in a city is not complete without that obligatory moment where one of the drivers decides to head through a red light against traffic between multiple cars. Does FF6 have such a scene? Of course! Running lights is what Vin Diesel does best. And Hollywood lets him get away it. Unfortunately, Han is not so blessed by Hollywood screenwriters as we get the flashback to Tokyo Drift.
In the real world, Vehicle Code 21453 is also dangerous. Although a disturbing trend has emerged where camera red lights seem to capture people making left hand turns on a very short yellow and turning it into an almost $500 fine. While the fine is high, the insurance rates are higher. And without an officer being there in person to see all of the conditions, red light camera tickets often are given to people who may not have been ticketed had an officer seen the incident in person. There are also numerous constitutional issues that arise in court on camera tickets that can be used to get a ticket dismissed or reduced.
California Vehicle Code 22107 reads like such a simple thing: "No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." Simple, right? But in the Fast and the Furious all of the special gadgets in their cars seemed to be at the expense of working signal lights. How else do you explain being able to watch entire 30 minute sections of a movie that has a car chase every 15 minutes without seeing the use of a single blinker? In real life, much of the confusion arises over the section "in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." This is a serious violation that may affect your car insurance in more ways than just the point; you may also have an accident on your hands.
In closing, is there any great lessons that we can learn from the Fast and the Furious? Not really. Just enjoy the show.