Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Turn Signals, Covering a License Plate, Giant Vehicles Taking up Multiple Spaces + More

August 19, 2013 14:00 pm · 39 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: O Traffic Jammer, you have said before that your pet peeve is people who do not use their turn signals. But surely there are times when it is not necessary. For example, if you are in a marked “left turn only” lane at an intersection, where it’s painted on the curb and further demarcated by a separate stop light. Yes?

-Citizen Against Redundancy

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Here is the answer to our good friend CAR from our very own Claycord law enforcement officer, who anonymously, without recognition, helps out by answering such questions. (Though we can’t use his name, we do say thank you!) The officer’s response:

“I would have to know if the turn lane is controlled by a signal arrow (not just a circular light). The arrow indicates no other movement is allowed – also called a “protected” turn.

Examples: you’re in a left turn lane but you have to wait for oncoming traffic either because you’re facing a green circular signal or no signal at all … still required.

A previous Traffic Commissioner was heard saying that he did not think one was necessary in a turn lane with a protected turn (controlled by a light).  He’s no longer presiding over Traffic Court, and I don’t know what the current one thinks.

I would offer this to CAR: why not? Communicate with your road buddies and use your turn indicators.  And for some of you, they’re turn indicators- you don’t have the right-of-way because you used it.

So, any light I can shed is, well, flashing at best.  Folks have to remember that driving is a community and its relationships are part art and part enforcement.

I remember in Hawaii seeing a lot of stickers with “drive with aloha”.  Can you imagine if we could subscribe to that prescription?

COMMUTER: Dang it Janis, if you listen to the Claycord  Scanner, a lot of the calls are the police pulling over folks with no license plates.

Did you know it’s illegal to fully cover your license plate, even with a clear cover?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Our pal J brings up a very important point. Not only do you have to have license plates, front and back, but you have to be careful how you install them. The Vehicle Code is vague about a lot of things, and permissive about a lot of other things, but very touchy about license plates.

Here’s the exact quote: “No portion of a license plate security cover shall rest over the license plate number.”

When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. This is one of the key ways law enforcement can identify a driver, yes? That’s why the Vehicle Code also stipulates that license plate security covers must not “obstruct or impair the recognition of the license plate information, including, but not limited to, the issuing state, license plate number, and registration tabs, and the cover is limited to the area directly over the top of the registration tabs.”

Even a clear plastic cover could yellow or crack over time, obscuring the license plate. Thanks for your comment, J!

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Woohoo, beloved Claycordians! Good news arrived in the Jammer’s mailbox last week. Here is the original post that started this line of inquiry:

COMMUTER: I live in North Concord just above the North Concord BART station and witness many moving violations daily. As you drive up Panoramic from the BART station there are a total of three “No U-Turn” signs, yet people still do it at the intersection of Panoramic and St. George. Most, I suspect, are doing it to bypass the traffic on Highway 4 going up the hill to Bay Point.

Is there anything I can do to increase the patrol/enforcement of the sign, as it poses a safety issue not only to other drivers, but the numerous pedestrians who walk in the area?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer spoke to Concord Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari, who promised to talk to law enforcement about it. And behold this latest missive from Victor:

COMMUTER: Thanks! There is a motorcycle cop posted at the intersection.


COMMUTER: If I’m in the middle of a conversation via the earbuds on my iPhone and I get in my car and start driving, it’s OK to continue since it’s hands-free, right?

–Easy Freezy

TRAFFIC JAMMERYou are correct that the setup is hands-free and hence conforms to the laws governing talking on cell phones. But to remain legal, you must remove one of the earbuds from your ear. A person driving a car (or a bicycle, actually) cannot have a headset covering both ears or earplugs in both ears.

COMMUTER: The photo in last week’s column of a meter maid cart in a handicapped parking space put me in mind of another question. If some jerk parks their truck or SUV in a compact parking spot, can they be cited, the way a non-handicapped driver can for being in a handicapped spot?


TRAFFIC JAMMERWondering, just so we’re all on the same page, the Cushman cart was not in a disabled space. It was in a former disabled space whose logo, alas, had not been fully obliterated. The Jammer would like to add that the folks who felt the meter maid still should not have parked in that space do have a point. Especially considering that this is the very entity that dispenses parking tickets.

Now, back to your question, Wondering. Unfortunately, there is no punishment for owners of giant hulking vehicles who park in spaces marked “Compact.” The “Compact” designation is only advisory. For one thing, the line between compact and non-compact is a bit blurry, if you think about it (though obviously a Chevy Suburban does not qualify).

TRAFFIC JAMMER: 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 concord resident August 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM

i’d use my turn signals more if people didn’t react by making sure I can’t merge in front of them

2 Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 2:16 PM

This is a bit off subject. But, yesterday afternoon I was driving down Crow Canyon Road. I saw a car (a Cobra) with a “For Sale” sign on it. The personalized license plate is “Terifyd” (although I may have misspelled it). I thought that was pretty cute. I’m wondering if I misread the asking price too. I think it said $45,600.

3 Dragon August 19, 2013 at 2:25 PM

@concord resident, so your solution to someone else driving dangerously is to drive dangerously yourself?

4 Dorothy August 19, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Granddaughter got her first speeding ticket (and I hope the last). She said she was 5 miles over the limit in a residential area and late at night. (She has said she will cover the extra in insurance when that comes up.) When the cop gave her the ticket she told him that she thought anything up to 5 miles over the limit was suppose to be okay. He gave it to her anyhow.

When I asked her where she got that idea, she told me her driving instructor had told her that. I did tell her that some cops get real uptight about speeding, especially in residential areas, even in the middle of the night.

She does plan to go to traffic school when the ticket comes in the mail round about October. That might help with the insurance too.

5 If it was a REAL Cobra.... August 19, 2013 at 2:53 PM

$45.6K is a deal

6 Just another Concord Resident August 19, 2013 at 2:55 PM

I typically park in 2 spaces with my pickup because I have to make sure I can get my wife and her guide dog in when we are ready to leave and still make the turn in reverse to get out of the spot. When I take up only 1 spot while driving alone, invariably somebody decides to park very close to my vehicle.

7 Chicken Little August 19, 2013 at 3:09 PM

According to VC22107, it seems like you wouldn’t be required to use a turn signal under some conditions, but you could still be cited under VC22108 if you don’t use one.

8 Noflow August 19, 2013 at 3:11 PM

I work and park in downtown Frisco, (don’t they just hate when people call that outdoor septic pit Frisco) where my registration sticker was peeled off three times in five years, I installed a clear license plate cover to protect my registration sticker and got a $50 ticket for my trouble. But now, I haven’t had any problems for the last four years. Go figure.

9 Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Your Granddaughter should visit the City Traffic Engineer and ask to see the latest traffic surveys/studies. If 80% of the vehicles in the study are traveling more than five miles over the speed limit, it’s a speed trap and the ticket won’t hold up in court. You can look up the case “The People of California vs. Goulet.” (I’m not about the people part, but the Goulet is spelled just like Robert Goulet the actor)

The City can post a limit more than five miles under the 80 percentile speed in unusual circumstances (a high rate of accidents that drivers might not be aware of). But you will find that information documented in the Traffic Studies.

Your Granddaughter should also ask to review records (the citation, front and back and the Officer’s notes). She should also ask to review the maintenance/calibration records on the radar gun (if the Officer used radar).

Of course, you know your Granddaughter better than we do. It could be she was really driving fifteen miles over the posted speed limit and the Officer was being nice by writing her a ticket for five miles over the speed limit. If that’s the case, she should just pay the fine and attend traffic school.

10 Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 3:28 PM

I meant to type in “I’m not sure about the people part…” Sometimes, I type too fast and miss a letter or an entire word.

11 Cowellian August 19, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Maybe it’s not a bad habit to get into, but you are not required to use your signals for every turn. It all depends on whether or not someone needs to know your intentions.

As far as the licenses covers, the clear ones weren’t always outlawed. Then someone started selling clear license plate covers that supposedly made it impossible for traffic cameras to read your plate. Law enforcement all laughed and said it was impossible for them to work like that. But they did outlaw the covers. Go figure.

12 John August 19, 2013 at 3:39 PM

#6 – Just another …

If your truck is too big for you to park correctly in the given space – that’s your problem. Park further away. Get a smaller vehicle. Stay home. Lots of other options beside being one of “those” people.

13 Patty August 19, 2013 at 3:50 PM

I attach my registration sticker and then take a razor and slice it so nobody can remove the sticker. I have never had mine stolen. Just an idea.

14 Lorelei August 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Bicycles: Do rider have to have lights/reflectors on the vehicle? Do they have to signal their turns? Do they have the right of way? Are they subject to all the same laws as cars? Thank you (P.S. I think they should all wear light-colored clothing if they’re out riding after 5 p.m.)

15 Bill August 19, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Passive Aggressive driving is aggressive driving.. Pull over for faster traffic, don’t drive in a manner to “teach someone a lession”, use your turn signals, and if you are disabled park in a disabled space don’t take up two places and wonder why someone keyed your car.. Have some courtesy, wake up and drive!!

16 Atticus Thraxx August 19, 2013 at 4:07 PM

“Passive Aggressive driving is aggressive driving.. Pull over for faster traffic, don’t drive in a manner to “teach someone a lession”
Amen brother.

17 bumper morgan August 19, 2013 at 4:21 PM

it is legal to install a protector over the month and year tabs. Only complete license plate covers are illegal.

18 Sacto Rob August 19, 2013 at 4:22 PM

I agree with #15Bill. Hogging two spaces, especially close in on a parking lot, is an invitation to having your vehicle keyed. That’s just a fact of life.
As far as people cutting you off when you signal a lane change, no problem. When the car speeds up to block your move, just slow down a bit and you can slide right in behind them. Then when they look in the rear view mirror just give them a big, evil grin.

19 Mimi (original) August 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Oversized vehicles are more than welcome to occupy more than one space, with my blessing, as long as they do it w-a-y out in the back forty of the lot where they don’t inconvenience any one else.

20 Chicken Little August 19, 2013 at 5:57 PM

@Anonymous #9

Whether or not that ticket holds up in court depends entirely on how she was clocked. If the officer used radar, the ticket is illegal and should be dismissed. If he paced her, it is perfectly legal and she will be found guilty.

21 jbelkin August 19, 2013 at 6:02 PM

It’s always good to signal even if you are in a turn only lane because it indicates you the driver of that car realize you are in a turn signal lane – which is a good heads up for the rest of us … as there are idiots who will suddenly veer to the left.

One other reason some people cover their license plate is with a supposed plastic sheet that blocks radar reads – I believe it doesn’t actually work (nor does that spray can work) – but there’s always something.

Has anyone else noticed the increasing number of people who are throwing crap out of the car while they are driving like fast food wrappers, plates & cups? And of course, another reason why people hate smokers -the road is NOT your ashtray and butt disposal.

While we’re at pet peeves, what’s up with people who wait until you are really close before pulling out in front of you? If you’re vision and reflexes are so slow that you cannot figure out my speed and distance until I’m 50 feet away from you, DO NOT PULL OUT IN FRONT OF ME! And if you do, then do not drive 15 MPH. If you want to whip out of a driveaway at 50 MPH, then at least continue driving like a maniac. Do not then start driving 15 MPH forcing me to brake.

22 Cowellian August 19, 2013 at 6:31 PM

Chicken Little@20 said:

If the officer used radar, the ticket is illegal and should be dismissed

Somebody told you a lie, and you bought into it. Good luck if you ever try to argue that in court.

23 Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

@Chicken Little #20-
You should read up on the case law. The legal definition of a “speed trap” will hold up in court regardless of how the Police Officer determines the speed. They’ve changed the law a bit since the Goulet case though. I think if someone is going more than fifteen miles over the posted speed limit in a “speed trap,” they will still be found guilty in a court of law. But, in this case, the Grandma says her Granddaughter insists she was only going five miles over the speed limit. If that stretch of road is a speed trap, she will prevail in court (if she’s prepared).

24 Anonymee August 19, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Did you switch lanes from a going-straight lane to a turning-left/right lane? Then since you should’ve had your blinker on from making that lane change, you might as well just leave it on until after you’ve turned.

25 Jerk August 19, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Turn Signals: Blah, Blah, Blah…..Is what the public has to say about them – if they even know where they are on their vehicles.
I love coming to a 4 way Stop sign intersection such as Farm Bureau and Chestnut, If I and the car opposing me arrives at the intersection at the same time, If they are not using a turn signal – I would assume they are continuing Straight. I’ve had morons try to turn and then get all mad at me for proceeding to go through Straight intersection – Sorry Jack – If you are not going to communicate then it will be ASSumed that you are continuing Straight.
Getting on freeway: While getting up to freeway speed I was now next to a car already on freeway, my left turn signal was on as I needed to get over to the left lane – Car stays right beside me, I waited, either they are going to fall back or step on it, sure enough with an Ugly Look She steps on it and gets over to her right in my lane – You know, I’m supposed to be a mind reader and know what she is doing????

26 Janis Mara August 19, 2013 at 7:14 PM

Awesome comments, O Claycordians – great point, @Anonymee #24. It didn’t even occur to me, but you’re right. Most likely a person would signal to change from the going-straight lane into the left lane, so why not leave the signal on?

@Patty #13, that is a great suggestion. Slice through the registration sticker with a razor several times to foil thieves.

27 ZUZU PETALS August 19, 2013 at 8:30 PM

TO PATTY #13 That was great of you to share that! Long time ago my tags were stolen till someone suggested using a razor blade to slice up the tags after you put them on your plate. I have been doing that ever since and haven’t had my tags stolen because it’s VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to take off the little bits!

28 @Anonymous #23 August 19, 2013 at 8:48 PM

From this link:

“Speed trap rules are not applicable to evidence of speed based on use of a speedometer without any use of radar.”

29 @Cowellian #22 August 19, 2013 at 8:54 PM

From the CVC:

Speed Traps

40802. (a) A “speed trap” is either of the following:

(2) A particular section of a highway with a prima facie speed limit that is provided by this code or by local ordinance under subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 22352, or established under Section 22354, 22357, 22358, or 22358.3, if that prima facie speed limit is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey conducted within five years prior to the date of the alleged violation, and enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of radar or any other electronic device that measures the speed of moving objects. This paragraph does not apply to a local street, road, or school zone.

So, if this section of road in question does, in fact, qualify as a speed trap under this section, the use of radar is prohibited.

30 Pleasant Jenny August 19, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Ugh. People who do not use their signal lights are a HUGE pet peeve to me as a I travel up and down Contra Costa Blvd daily. I don’t see why people can’t use them? It truly is the single conversation our cars can have?

Another pet peeve…cars turning right into a business who seem to make a complete stop as to pull into their own driveways on a residential street rather than the very busy street they are turning off from.

And I never got a chance to comment a couple of weeks ago about cars that come out of parking lots to get into the far left lanes and the cars that enable them. Oy! The Target parking lot is the worst! It seems everyone has decided they hate the signal (be it dealing with pedestrians or that awful 3 way stop in front of the store) that will actually put them straight onto the freeway. So they take the earlier exits but still need to get three lanes over to the left to get onto 680 South. This is a part of my daily life traveling back down Contra Costa Blvd to get home. (Hey Mayor – another great thing about this column is it gives us who miss the “release the rage” or whatever it was called a chance to vent!!!)

31 Rebecca August 19, 2013 at 9:15 PM

I use my signal at all times just to “stay in the habit.”

Keeps me from getting in an accident, and you never know when a cop is around.

I also keep in mind that not every one on the road is a good driver.

People that weave in and out of lanes w/out a signal are lazy and inconsiderate drivers, and lousy ones at that.


32 Anonymous August 20, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Be sure to emphasize the part about that paragraph not applying “to a local street, road or school zone.”

I’ve spoken directly with the Police Chief who confirmed that tickets won’t hold up in court if the posted speed is more than five miles less than what 80% of the cars are driving on local streets.

It doesn’t have anything to do with how the Officer measures the speed (radar or following behind in his car). It has to do with legislators who believe that if 80% of the people drive more than five miles over the speed limit, it must be safe to do so. The basic California speed law is “No faster than it’s safe.”

There are exceptions where a city can post a higher speed limit without creating a speed trap. But, they have to justify it on the Traffic Study Report. The speed trap rule doesn’t apply on the freeway where the posted speed limit is the real limit.

33 Cowellian August 20, 2013 at 9:54 AM

My new car has a camera built into the right mirror. I like using the blinker, just to play with my new toy.

34 Julie August 20, 2013 at 10:02 AM


I don’t know how old your granddaughter is, but if she’s young, young people are an easier target for the police. They’re trying to teach “young people” how to drive before it’s too late.

I got a ticket in Concord at the age of 18 for going “28 in a 25 mile an hour”. My parents sided with the officer, and told me he was sending me a message as a “young driver.” I paid the ticket.

It sent a strong message, and I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket since. (I’m in my 50′s.)

But it didn’t burn me out on cops. I married one!

35 Cowellian August 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Dorothy, you didn’t say where your granddaughter got her ticket, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Walnut Creek. WCPD is very concerned about the safety of our young drivers.

The actual fine is only a small part of what this ticket will cost her. All the fees added to the ticket will really jack up the cost. The cost of traffic school is in addition to the ticket, but it will keep the insurance from going up.

36 Connie Dobbs August 20, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I asked a police officer why they mostly don’t use turn signals, because they’re people and you can talk to them. He gave a pretty decent answer: It improves drivers’ manners if they don’t know whether the cop is following them or if they just happen to be traveling the same route. That and police often get called to be someplace else on short notice.

37 Janis Mara August 20, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Beloved Claycordians, most of you have moved on to other topics by now, but just wanted you to know our pal the Claycord police officer has volunteered to address the issue of driving five miles over the speed limit and related issues discussed in comments above. Look for it in next week’s column!

38 Atticus Thraxx August 20, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Your doing God’s work Janis Mara. Rock on!

39 Janis Mara August 21, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Atticus! Thank you!

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