Home > Beat Traffic Tickets, Traffic Tickets > Ponder this Traffic Ticket Dilemma

Ponder this Traffic Ticket Dilemma

A story recently posted on Santa Cruz Sentinel, “Street Smarts: Who’s at fault in dooring incident”,  leaves us all to ponder who should get a traffic ticket in this circumstance described below.   We welcome your comments on this story:

Here’s a question: You’re driving down the street alongside parked cars when a car door opens. Your vehicle strikes the door, causing damage. Who should get the traffic ticket, you or the person in the parked vehicle?

This inquiry came from a gentleman who was cited for hitting a car door that he said suddenly opened in front of him as he traveled on one of the county’s many surface streets. To get the ticket out of his hair and keep it off his driving record, he opted to pay it and go to traffic school.

But he may have had grounds to fight the ticket and win. According to him, he was following the rules of the road — including driving at a safe speed and in his travel lane — when the door abruptly swung open.

California Vehicle Code Section 22517 would lead us to believe the person inside the parked vehicle should have gotten the citation.

“No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers,” the section states.

“If the vehicle is driving in the proper roadway position, then it is incumbent on the door opener to do so safely,” said Capt. Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department. “If it would be otherwise safe to open the door and the driver of the moving car swerves or moves position in the roadway, then it is the driver’s fault. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the door opener to do so safely. It is unusual to see this occur between two cars. It more typically happens between someone opening a car door and a bicyclist. In this case, it is the door opener’s responsibility to ensure it can be done safely.”

But the things the driver was doing before the crash could’ve been behind the officer citing him rather than the person in the parked car, said Sgt. Mark Gonzalez of the Capitola Police Department.

“He could have been driving in the bike lane, in which case the vehicle would be at fault for driving in the bike lane,” said Gonzalez. “It depends on what section he was cited for and the circumstances. The vehicle traveling in a lane of ownership — within the lane lines going the speed limit — would not be at fault so there must be some circumstance that led up to the violation.”

By the way, the fine for opening a car door when it’s unsafe will run about $146, not including other fees and assessments that can be attached, according to the county’s Traffic Infraction Fixed Penalty Schedule, a list of vehicle code violations and their fines. Driving violations that occur in the bike lane, including unlawful driving or turning across a bike lane, cost about the same.

View the penalty schedule at the county Law Library in the basement of the county building at 701 Ocean Street, or online at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/documents/2009_jcbail.pdf.”

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