A conviction for an unsafe lane change ticket can be costly for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 22107, Turning and Stopping and Turning Signals, warns the driver to use their turn signal or blinker a minimum of 100 feet before changing lanes (referencing VC 22108). Most drivers would not think of moving their massive rig without checking mirrors and providing other drivers with their intentions by using a blinker.
However, things are not always so simple. Sometimes truck drivers are at the end of a chain reaction where they had to take quick action to avoid an accident. Then, an unsafe lane change might be the safest option to prevent an accident.
Of course, the law enforcement officer (LEO) often only sees the vehicle with the most mass making what they perceive as an unsafe lane change. The commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder's only choice is to challenge the ticket in court because if convicted, they face a DOT FMCSA “serious offense.”
What Is a DOT FMCSA Serious Offense?
The FMCSA has several conditions they see as “major offenses” or “serious offenses.” Whichever you call it, either can lead to a driver disqualification. According to the FMCSA’s Title 49 CFR Part 383.51, Paragraph 6.2.5 Disqualification of Drivers, the length of time the driver is disqualified or suspended depends on the offense.
The FMCSA breaks those down into four classes:
- Major offense
- Serious offense
- Railroad crossing violation
- Out of Service (OOS) Order violations
A Major offense, if convicted, requires a minimum one-year disqualification and includes any of the following:
- DUI of alcohol
- DUI of a controlled substance
- Blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 or higher
- Refusal to take a BAC test
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Committing a felony in a CMV
- Driving your CMV while your CDL is suspended, canceled, or revoked.
- Causing death or a fatality because of the negligent operation of your CMV.
- Using your CMV in the commission of a felony involving drug distribution, manufacture, or dispensing/selling controlled substances, will lead to a lifetime ban or disqualification if convicted.
A Serious offense, if convicted a second time within three years of the first, requires a 60-day (2nd offense), or 120-day (3rd offense), or a one-year disqualification for the 4th, and includes any of the following:
- An unsafe lane change.
- Following too closely (tailgating).
- Reckless driving.
- Excessive speeding (15 mph over the speed limit or any speeding in a construction zone).
- Violations of state law (involving a traffic control device, typically a sign, flashing lights, or a red light) resulting in a fatality.
- Driving without a CDL or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) in possession.
- Driving a CMV without the proper endorsement or certification.
- Using a cell phone while driving, holding, texting, or calling if the state convicts you.
A conviction for an illegal railroad crossing results in an automatic 60-day disqualification, a 120-day suspension for a second offense, and one year for a third.
How Much Is an Unsafe Lane Change Ticket
Although the fine is only $237 in CA, it includes a 1.5 negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) point assessment by the DMV, which is sent to the FMCSA. Therein lies the crucial problem. Once the FMCSA receives the conviction notification, they will check your Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record. If it is your second “serious offense” within three years of the first, they will send a notification of “driver disqualification” to the state.
If the conviction was successfully appealed, reduced, or changed, you should hire a lawyer and file a request for correction with a Requests for Data Review (RDRs) on your DataQs page.
This is why a CDL holder should always consult a traffic attorney before deciding to pay a fine, particularly an unsafe lane change or any FMCSA serious offense.
Traffic Attorneys Who Can Help with an Unsafe Lane Change Ticket in Placer County, CA
When you get a traffic ticket in Placer County, CA, call Bigger & Harman (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
We have more than a decade of experience in CA Traffic Courts protecting the driving privileges of CDL holders. We understand with you, it is more than a privilege; it’s your livelihood. We extend a free initial consultation and always work with a flat fee to resolve your ticket.
The 2019 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf
The FMCSA DataQs page.
CVC Section 22107, Turning and Stopping and Turning Signals