Tire tread depth is crucial for maintaining adequate traction on the road surface. Tires with insufficient tread depth can lead to hazardous driving conditions, especially on wet or slippery surfaces, increasing the risks of accidents and injury.
Driving a vehicle with bald tires is more than just a safety hazard—in the State of California, it's also against the law.
California Vehicle Code 27465b VC is a legal ordinance prohibiting motorists from driving with tire treads below state-approved safety standards.
In other words, this statute makes it a traffic offense for someone to drive a motor vehicle with tires that have worn tire treads.
California law imposes a minimum tread depth of at least 1/8th of an inch in depth for front tires and 1/16th of an inch in depth for rear tires. Thus, tires with unlawfully worn treads are commonly called “bald tires.”
Vehicle Code 27465b says, “No person shall use on a highway a pneumatic tire on a vehicle axle when the tire has less than the following tread depth, except when temporarily installed on a disabled vehicle.…”
The “tread” of a tire is the portion of the tire, with ribs and grooves, that comes in contact with the roadway. In addition, many other laws in California regulate certain parts of a vehicle, including mufflers, seat belts, and windshield wipers.
A violation of this law is an infraction and is punished with a traffic ticket. Let's review this state law in more detail below.
VC 27465b - Explained
Simply put, under VC 27465b, it's against the law for a person to drive a motor vehicle with a "pneumatic tire" (i.e., "bald tire") on the car.
In layman's terms, a "bald" tire has worn down so much that its treads are either non-existent or no longer effectively grip the road, posing a safety risk.
In a legal context, this definition is more precise and quantifiable, with the 1/32 of an inch tread depth generally acting as the standard.
VC 27465b provides specific minimum tread depths required for different vehicles and axles. A tire is considered legally "bald" if it falls below the following tread depths:
- For trucks, buses, and similar commercial vehicles above regulatory weights: 1/8 inch for tires on the steering axle and 1/15 inch for tires on all other axles.
- For other standard motor vehicles: 1/32 inch at all points on all tires.
- For snow tires: 3/16 inch at all points on all tires.
What Are the Exceptions to the Rule?
- Spare tires: VC 27465b makes an exception for a spare tire put on a vehicle in an emergency. The driver is exempt from penalties if the spare tire is below the tread limits.
- "Implements of husbandry": VC 26465 makes an exception for vehicles used in agricultural operations. If the vehicle is considered an implement of husbandry, the bald tire rule does not apply.
How are dealers and repair shops affected?
VC 27465b primarily targets drivers of vehicles with bald tires. Court decisions have interpreted the law that auto repair shops are not liable under this law if they remove and replace a bald tire in the course of other repairs. However, VC 27465a does prohibit vehicle sellers from selling a vehicle with a bald tire.
What are the Penalties for VC 27465b?
Violating VC 27465b is considered a non-criminal infraction. If you are convicted of this offense, you face a $25 base fine for each tire found to be bald, plus additional court assessment fees, which can make the total fine significantly higher depending on the county where the infraction occurred.
Will I get points on my driving record?
No. There are no DMV points assessed for VC 27465b infractions.
What happens if I ignore the citation?
When ticketed in California, you can pay the fine or appear in court to dispute it. When the citation is issued, you sign a promise to appear in court, which you can skip if you pay the fine.
If you don't pay or appear at your scheduled court appearance, you can be charged with misdemeanor failure to appear, defined under Vehicle Code 40508, resulting in a fine of up to $1000 and up to 6 months in county jail.
Can this be used in a personal injury lawsuit?
Suppose a driver violates VC 27465b VC and has a traffic accident because of worn tires causing a blowout. In that case, if the other motorist was injured, they could file a personal injury lawsuit against you.
Their claim could be that your worn tire treads are negligent, and they should receive financial compensation for their injuries. They would have to prove that you caused the accident resulting in injury and that you were driving a vehicle with bald tires in violation of the statute.
What are the Defenses for VC 27465b?
When you are ticketed for violating VC 27465b and disagree with the citation, you can appear in court, preferably with an attorney, to dispute it. Common defenses used to contest bald tire violations are discussed below.
Perhaps we can question the measurement. One possible defense involves questioning the accuracy of the tire tread measurement. The measurement must be taken correctly and with appropriate tools. If you can prove the measurement was inaccurate, you may be able to have the ticket dismissed.
Perhaps we can argue that you qualify for an exception. If the bald tire in question was a spare being used temporarily, or if you were driving an agricultural vehicle, you are exempt from the fine.
Perhaps we can challenge the traffic stop. Another defense is to challenge the legality of the traffic stop itself. If there was no probable cause for the stop, any evidence gathered during the stop, including the bald tire violation, could be considered inadmissible.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge. In some instances, you may have a basis for your defense if you can demonstrate that you were unaware of the tire condition and had no reasonable means of knowing it was below the legal tread depth.
However, this defense can be tricky, as motorists are generally expected to maintain their vehicles in a safe, roadworthy condition. You must prove that you could not have known the tires were below standard.
You can contact us by phone or using the contact form to review the details of your case. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.