Column: Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on

April 30, 2012 14:00 pm · 14 comments

Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions. Email your questions to

COMMUTER: I tried to find the answer to this on the Department of Motor Vehicles website, but had no luck. If your driver’s license photo is really awful, does the DMV allow for retakes?

–CoCo Janie

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Good news, CoCo Janie, for you and the 119,753 other inhabitants of Claycord, the Traffic Jammer included, whose driver’s licenses are less than flattering. Yes, you can have your driver’s license photo retaken. It will cost $25 because the DMV has to generate a new duplicate license, but many of us will feel that’s a paltry sum in exchange for replacing that space alien on the laminated card with a visage more closely resembling something human.

As with any visit to the DMV, you’re best off making an appointment on the website or calling 1-800-777-0133 to do so. Unless you have the major jones for standing in line; the Traffic Jammer would never choose to interfere with her beloved readers’ pleasures in life. Who knows, if you don’t make an appointment, you might meet the love of your life during your two hours in the queue at the front desk. (And if you do, please invite the Traffic Jammer to the wedding and put the photos up on

COMMUTER: I’ve got a question that I’ve never seen addressed in the Vehicle Code. It involves the intersection of Bancroft and Minert roads.

While traveling south on Bancroft, I want to turn left on to Minert, but the left hand turn lane is full. My choices are to wait in the left lane short of David Avenue or continue traveling straight on Bancroft past Minert and make a U-turn when possible. I’ve seen people wait in the left lane, but that doesn’t seem safe.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Steve, this is something that the Traffic Jammer herself has often wondered about. The good news is that you will not be violating the Vehicle Code or incurring the wrath of any passing law enforcement officers by waiting in the left lane. It’s perfectly legal to do so, Officer Josh Miller of the California Highway Patrol told the Jammer. So just put on the ol’ left-turn signal and hunker down until you can legally make that left turn.

The safety issue is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. If cars are roaring down Bancroft like the Indy 500 (the Jammer has never observed such a thing, but these days she doesn’t get out much) and you fear getting rear-ended, by all means, give up, go straight and make the U-turn further down. That’s a determination you will have to make, Officer Miller said.

COMMUTER: One way to bring more money into the California state coffers is to enforce vehicle registration fees. We can report out-of-state vehicles that should be registered in-state. However, expired California plates can only be reported to local law enforcement (see below). They have other priorities so it’s doubtful anything will be done. As a result of this huge gap in enforcement, every day I see numerous vehicles driving with expired plates.

Most make no attempt to conceal this fact; others re-use a prior year’s sticker whose color matches the current year in order to fake the registration. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen two vehicles using 2007 stickers which means the last license they purchased was in 2006! This isn’t right. The public needs to be able to report expired California vehicle registrations directly to the DMV and know that something will be done about it.

I can already hear people complaining the fees are too high so they don’t pay them. No matter, it’s the law. Here’s a link to the applicable DMV page.

–Nom de Plume

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Nom de Plume, the Traffic Jammer loves-loves-loves your Claycord handle. As far as your message, however, the Jammer is torn.

Recently, we had a bit of a kerfuffle here in the Traffic Jammin’ column over whether a reader should report a coworker who was driving to work even though her license had been suspended for DUI. The majority of the posters strongly felt the reader should indeed report her coworker, largely because DUI is a serious offense and could result in bodily harm if not worse.

With this registration thing, though, the Jammer is not sure what to say. As a transportation columnist, certainly it is not the Jammer’s place to be a scofflaw. But these days, so many people are hurting financially through no fault of their own, because of the down economy. It’s one thing to encourage people to pay their registration fees – hey Claycordians! Pay those fees! – but it’s another thing to encourage them to report others for unpaid registrations during these tough times. Your thoughts, readers?

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Got kids? They can become part of history by helping to design decorative medallions for the new fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. For more information, visit the tunnel’s website. Deadline to enter the contest is May 7, so don’t delay.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Speaking of contests, let us all praise famous men, or at least famous Claycordians, for their encyclopedic knowledge of traffic regulations! In last week’s Traffic Jammin’ contest, the amusingly named Wilder Road Rage was the first reader to correctly identify the meaning of a white-painted curb: No stopping or standing, dropoff or pickup only. Anon777, me, Skippy and Reader also nailed the correct answer. Congratulations to all! Wilder Road Rage, email to arrange to get your Claycord memorabilia prize.

That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to

1 Anon777 April 30, 2012 at 2:13 PM

CoCo Janie: Don’t waste your money. I kept getting my license auto renewed however, I really wanted to replace my old ugly picture, so the next time I got the auto renew papers, I made an appt and went to get a new pic at DMV instead of just mailing the papers in. Guess what?? The new pic was worse than the last one. Not wasting my time again; I’ll just stick with the crappy picture!

I had to laugh about your kerfuffle….I see billboard/traffic signs all the time that say, Call 911 to report Drunk Drivers….hmmmm….a driver sharing the road with “alleged drunk driver” doesn’t know for sure they are drunk, just assumes such because they are driving erratically?? So it’s pretty much the same as a coworker knowing another coworker has a DUI + suspended license and shouldn’t be driving.

2 Bancroft @ Minert April 30, 2012 at 2:19 PM

I have always found the signal timing on Bancroft at both Minert and David to be very inefficient. It seems it is time to have a traffic survey done and change the signal timing to accommodate the traffic in this area more effectively and efficiently.

3 Chuckie's Wife April 30, 2012 at 2:58 PM

I have to disagree with the Traffic Jammer on her take with unregistered vehicles. I, too, feel for the people that are struggling in this economy, but if they want/need to drive a car, they have to register it, since that’s the only thing that keeps them in compliance with the law.

Besides paying for a variety of DMV-related costs, the registration process requires regular smog checks and enforces vehicle insurance.

Allowing motorists not to have their vehicles registered due to hardship is, in my book, the same as condoning theft due to hardship.

4 Shiloh April 30, 2012 at 3:17 PM

I agree that people need to register, if only so that they will be forced to carry insurance on their vehicles. If they can’t afford the $130 +/- registration fee, they surely can’t afford to fix my car and pay my hospital bills!!

5 Shiloh April 30, 2012 at 3:39 PM

@trafficjammer: I thought you were going to address the question I emailed to you about the roundabout?! I was so excited, I told my husband I was going to be famous with MY question posted on a big-time blog! But then it didn’t happen :( So much for dreams, I guess . . . ;)

6 JenA April 30, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I love going to the DMV. I make appointments but I still have fun people watching. I told my husband I should start my own business by taking care of peoples DMV work.

7 Paul (formerly) in South Concord April 30, 2012 at 4:34 PM

@ Shiloh… #5.

I’m sure that Her Majesty will address your question, as well as questions/remarks of others (myself included) as makes sense within the limitations of this column. I’ve read her for years and can say this about what she’s up against:
Usually, the poor dear has to hunt down the proper authority/office/person… (own her own, I might add) then she has to badger them mercilessly, while waiting for their response, before passing the information on to her loyal subjects.

Sometimes, this can take a while, even though she’s exceptionally skilled at what she does. Rest assured that there’s a good chance, that you’re not actually waiting on her… but that she’s stuck waiting for (dare I say it?!) a government employee (GASP!)

Please take my comment with it’s intended spirit of silliness and have a wonderful day! :-D

8 Always Right April 30, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Scofflaws should be reported. No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, we all should agree that we need to enforce the laws on the books.

9 Not sure April 30, 2012 at 5:35 PM

I’m not sure about people not being cited for expired registration. Mine was paid but I still got a ticket, also got a ticket for not having a little piece of paper that said I have insurance, even though I have paid for insurance for the past 30 years. Plead not guilty, judge said I can’t accept that, I will accept a plea of no contest. What a bunch of bullship.

On the other hand I have a neighbor who drove a vehicle with paper plates for over 3 years. I guess if you are in the Country illegally it’s okay.

10 Shiloh April 30, 2012 at 5:35 PM

@Paul, I know you are right .. and I hope you recognized the silliness in my comment as well (although I truly am excited about the possibility of being famous …) :)

11 Tckid April 30, 2012 at 8:06 PM

I’ve had that issue with the Bancroft lights before. The timing is just stupid to be honest. My brother and I comment on it every single time we drive through there

12 paranoid pablito April 30, 2012 at 9:05 PM

It’s a Driver License, not Driver’s Licence (look on yours if you dare doubt Pablito). And while we’re at it, it’s a garbage disposer, not disposal. Great column Jammmy..

13 trafficjammin April 30, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Woohoo, a comment from Paranoid Pablito! Thanks, PP, you are of course correct: It is indeed a Driver License. Also, did not know about garbage disposers. While we’re on the subject, did you know that Dumpster is a registered trademark and as such should be capitalized?

But alas! We stray from the focus of this column. Beloved Shiloh, do not worry. The Jammer has not forgotten you and behind-the-scenes work will eventually bear fruit.

And wow, JenA actually does enjoy people watching at the DMV. The Jammer is going to try to take a lesson from this and adopt the same attitude next time she visits.

14 Left turn lane May 1, 2012 at 12:06 AM

Am I reading the response to the question about the left turn on Minert correctly? Are you suggesting that the person in question wait in the left turn lane for David Ave, until there is enough room to pull forward to the Minert turn lane, or are you suggesting that the person pull up next to the left turn lane for Minert, and block traffic on Bancroft as they wait for room in the left turn lane?

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