Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on Claycord.com.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This Claycord.com 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 email@example.com.
COMMUTER: I am noticing a lot of people getting aftermarket dark tint on their front windows (driver’s door/passenger door). I thought that was a violation of the Vehicle Code in California.
How much tint can there be on the front windows, and does it matter if the tint is factory-installed or after-market? As a cyclist, it’s hard to make eye contact with car drivers if you can’t see their eyes. What’s the deal??
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Excellent question, BR! And excellent point about not being able to make eye contact with drivers through tinted windows. It’s also hard for law enforcement to see if drivers are distracted, drinking at the wheel, talking on cell phones and so forth, as well.
At least partially for these reasons, the main requirements for legal window-tinting in California are, first, that the windshield and front driver’s side and passenger’s side windows can’t have any aftermarket tinting.
Secondly, if the rear window is tinted, the vehicle must have outside rear view mirrors on both sides.
COMMUTER: I went to the DMV website Aug. 15 to set up an appointment to renew my driver’s license in person. The soonest appointment I could get was Sept. 6.
I drove to a local DMV on a Friday afternoon without an appointment and was in and out in less than an hour. The DMV keeps encouraging people to make appointments but it seems like the wise move is just showing up.
–In and Out in 45 Minutes
TRAFFIC JAMMER: In and Out, you make an excellent point. If someone needs to buy or sell a car, for example, they usually need to do it within one or two days – not in three weeks. The Jammer contacted the DMV and here’s what she was told:
“Making an appointment to visit the DMV is still the best option. The average wait time for customers with an appointment has been 6:44, while the non-appointment customers have had an average wait time of 46:05. For faster service, please make an appointment before you visit a DMV office. Please call 1-800-777-0133, during normal business hours. You can also make an appointment online: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/foa/welcome.do?localeName=en
Most vehicle registration items may be processed through the mail or Internet and do not require an in-person visit to a DMV office. Registration renewal notices for tags are mail-in, Internet or telephone only; appointments should not be made for these items.”
That’s the official word, Claycordians; needless to say, it is not mandatory to make appointments.
COMMUTER: Granddaughter got her first speeding ticket (and I hope the last). She said she was five 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 five miles over the limit was supposed 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.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Our beloved Dorothy, one of the mainstays of Claycord, posted the above in the comments on last week’s Traffic Jammin’ column. In ensuing comments, many questions about driving five miles over the speed limit came up.
Our pal the Claycordian law enforcement officer has once again come through with a detailed explanation. Here’s the word from an officer who has been enforcing the law for more than 15 years in Claycord; if you want to know whether or not you can get away with driving five miles an hour over, be sure to read all the way to the end.
“(Disclaimer: My information is based on my 15+ years of law enforcement in Claycord. It is not legal advice.)
Do you know my favorite setup and ticket?
I like to park at the curb in a fully marked, black-and-white police car just like anyone else. I like to park between two speed limit signs (one in each direction). I like to have a valid speed survey and/ or be on a local roadway as defined in California Vehicle Code (CVC) 40802(b)(1) et seq. and I like to use radar as speeders approach me or pass me – parked right there at the curb. I call it hiding in plain sight!
The Speed Trap was aptly quoted in the comments and is covered in the aforementioned CVC 40802. Likewise, a Claycordian referenced a widely applied “case law”: People v. Goulet, 13 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1
What seems to be misunderstood is the application of these concepts and the lack of details in Dear Grandma Dorothy’s small tale.
So, here we go:
A police officer may pace a vehicle anywhere at any time. This means an officer matches a suspect’s speed and maintains the distance between the police car and the suspect’s car over a given distance. There is no minimum distance that is required. The officer usually attests to the current calibration of the police car’s speedometer. I have successfully prosecuted cases where I paced someone for less than a quarter-mile, as well as paced someone for several miles.
Sometimes, speeders ask, “How did you clock me?” I simply answer, “I was following you.”
In order to use radar, an officer must attend a “radar operator” school. The radar must meet specific requirements as does the roadway. Either the roadway meets the definition of a “local roadway” defined in CVC 40802 (uninterrupted distance, certain width, one lane in each direction) or it qualifies as having a prima facia speed limit (school zone) OR a radar survey is required.
A radar survey determines the speed that 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling or below. (If the “85th percentile” is 38 mph, then 85 percent of the vehicles surveyed are going 38 mph or slower).
According to the case law, the speed limit should be 40 or 35 mph. However, a variety of factors could allow a municipality to make the speed limit as low as 30: the accident rate of the roadway, the road conditions (horizontal or vertical curves, driveways) or traffic (bike lanes, pedestrians).
I think that the idea that 5-10mph over the speed limit is OK came from The Basic Speed Law CVC 22350. In short, don’t drive faster than it is safe to do so.
The argument goes something like this: the 85th percentile is 38mph, and I’m driving 40-45mph. The road is straight, the sun is out, the sky is clear, birds are singing and it’s generally a great day to be alive and go for a drive. I am safe and the speed limit is posted at 35mph. I’m on Second Street in Anytown, Claycord, USA. (Second St is supposedly the most popular street name in the US).
Someone, somewhere allegedly won this argument in court and “beat” a speeding ticket. This has not been repeated in my career in hundreds of appearances in Traffic Court where I have heard thousands of cases.
My argument is: you were driving over the speed limit. You were distracted by the clear sky and singing birds and not paying attention. You were going too fast to be prepared for catastrophic failure to your vehicle or a sudden, unanticipated change in the road. I know this is fatalistic thinking, but I’m weary of picking up the pieces in the aftermath. And, oh yeah, it’s the rule. Take some responsibility, like Dorothy’s dear granddaughter, and own up to it.
Five over the limit seems like a slim margin. I liked the comment that maybe Granddaughter caught a break and was written for a slower speed. Nonetheless, anything over is a violation. Have you ever sped up to beat a red light? You made the light, but I’ll bet you were speeding. Even if it was a little bit- and it wasn’t safe.
I heard somewhere that the average driver violates over 200 laws before being pulled over. Not ticketed, just pulled over.
I have maintained about a 50/50 ratio on traffic stops. About half the people I stop get a warning. I am one of the most prolific ticket-writers at my police department. I usually only ticket at 15 mph over the speed limit. That’s me. Throughout Claycord, most of my colleagues ticket at 10 mph over the speed limit. Some do it lower.
I haven’t lost a Traffic Court case in years.
Please slow down.”
TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by Claycord.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org