Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Moving to CA, Crosswalk & Cars, Red Arrows on Traffic Signals + Much More

September 16, 2013 14:00 pm · 24 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 have a question, is it true that people who move to California from out of state do not have to re-register their cars and out-of-state plates?

I have a co-worker who moved here from another state and stated that she was thrilled when she learned she wouldn’t have to re-register and pay for California registration fees.

So in the long run, she’s not paying California fees and not paying that other state’s fees either, since she doesn’t live there anymore?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Puzzled, if your co-worker moved here from another state, which is to say, became a resident of California, she needs to re-register and pay her fees like any other California resident. Fees must be paid within 20 days of entry or residency to avoid penalties.

It is possible to get a special permit, though. Do you know if your co-worker did so? Nonresidents whose vehicles are registered in their home state can operate their vehicles in this state until they get a job here, claim a homeowner’s exemption, rent or lease a residence here, make a move that shows they intend to live here, such as getting a driver’s license, or enroll in school as a California resident.

Here is an extremely detailed explanation on the Department of Motor Vehicles site:

COMMUTER: I know you’re not supposed to cross a crosswalk when pedestrians are in said crosswalk. What is confusing to me is, at what point are they considered not to be in the crosswalk?

For example, let’s say the pedestrian has crossed the westbound portion of the street and is standing in the median waiting to cross the eastbound part. Are they still considered to be in the intersection? What if there is no median and they have crossed in front of me already and are almost to the curb, but still in the crosswalk?

–Dazed and Confused

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Good on you, DAC, for being on top of the sacred rules of the Vehicle Code, to wit, that motorists shall yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the roadway within any crosswalk at an intersection.

Here’s some good news: If the pedestrian is standing in the center median, he or she is not technically in the crosswalk, so it’s OK to proceed.

If the pedestrian is in the crosswalk and almost all the way to the curb, the Jammer supposes technically you should wait, but she highly doubts a law enforcement officer would ding you if the pedestrian is, say, one foot from the curb.

COMMUTER: I got a speeding ticket for going 15 mph over the speed limit on the freeway. After I was pulled over, rather than try to move from the shoulder back into traffic on the freeway, I took the exit that was immediately ahead of me, planning to loop back onto the freeway.

It was an unfamiliar exit, and at the end of the ramp was what I saw as a red light. I made a complete stop, turned right on red, and was pulled over again!

This time the cop let me off with a warning. The light was a red arrow. Guess I learned my lesson.

–Sadder but Wiser

TRAFFIC JAMMER: SBW, it is the Traffic Jammer’s observation that red arrows are extremely confusing to drivers and the Jammer is publishing your missive as a cautionary note to others. As you painfully learned, it’s against the law to turn right on a red arrow. The Jammer is glad to hear the law enforcement officer was merciful. Sounds like he or she understood that you were probably already a bit shook up after getting a ticket.

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 Dorothy September 16, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Been reading the handbook because I have to take the written test to renew my aging license.

I have a niece that moved here from out of state several years ago. (No, I won’t turn her in.) I don’t know if she has been renewing the out of state tags or not but I suspect not. Maybe I’ll look the next time I see her and her car. She does know she should be registered here but has high hopes of being able to move back to the other state.

2 BCuzItzClaycord September 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Janis – Also there is a registration/plate expemption for military, FBI, CIA and anyone else that it tied to Homeland Security that moves frequently. The vehicle you bring in can be registered and plated in your declared home state but………If you buy a vehicle in the state you are currently residing (like CA) then the new vehcile must be registered and plated in the current state. So if we bought a vehicle in CA it would have to registered and plated in CA until we return to WA even tho the vehicles we brought in are registered and plated in WA.

3 gimli September 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Driver’s mind: how much can I get away without “entirely” killing the person in the crosswalk.

4 Anon2you September 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

#1) @ Puzzled Your co-worker is wrong! Tell them to pay their damn registration fees like everyone else!

#2) Don’t push the crosswalk thing. I learned the hard way, that a person in the crosswalk is IN the crosswalk until they are NOT in it any more. I had an officer in WC ticket me because I proceeded thru the intersection, after the pedestrian had cleared my side of the street and was nearly to the curb from the opposing traffic direction. When I claimed that I went well after the pedestrian had cleared me, I was told that they must be completely through the other side!!!
#3) RED means stop…

5 anon September 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

I know a teacher with out of state plates and she works for MDUSD. She says she has property in another state so she doesn’t have to pay Ca fees.

6 Jerk September 16, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Just print up a set paper plates “Julios Automotive” and be like 50% of the cars in CA.

7 Chicken Little September 16, 2013 at 2:50 PM

The CVC (21950a) says a driver must yield the ROW to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. It does NOT say the pedestrian must be completely clear of said crosswalk. If you drive through the intersection behind the pedestrian, you have yielded the ROW as required by law. You may get pulled over and cited but, by the letter of the law, you’re not guilty under this section. However, if you pass another stopped vehicle, you may be guilty under section 21951

8 down and out September 16, 2013 at 2:51 PM

There is also an exemption for out-of-state students attending school here, unless they are getting the California resident rate at a public school.

9 Honeybun September 16, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Pedestrians in crosswalks have to be allowed to get safely across and stepping on curb before you can drive across a crosswalk or you will not pass a road test. When we are waiting on a pedestrian to cross we always get honked at to go. I am a Driving Instructor and the people who turn on red lights without stopping are giving my students the idea that it is ok not to stop on red before turning right and those no turn on red signs the students think you have to stop and then you can proceed when it is safe to do so, you’d think they never read the Drivers Handbook.

10 Connie Dobbs September 16, 2013 at 3:03 PM

It’s pretty safe to assume the state will always want its cut.

11 what Security September 16, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Definition of a nonresident vehicle

A nonresident vehicle was last registered outside the state of California. Anyone who brings a vehicle into California, or purchases a nonresident vehicle while in California, should be aware of the registration requirements.

NOTE:California law prohibits California residents or businesses from importing and/or registering a new vehicle with less than 7,500 miles at the time of purchase unless it meets or is exempt from California emission standards. If you acquire a 49-State vehicle (manufactured for all states except California) from another state or country, you may not be able to register your vehicle in California.

Reference:Health & Safety Code Section 43151(A)
When fees are due

Fees must be paid within 20 days of entry or residency to avoid penalties. Any vehicle owned by a California resident must be registered within 20 days of entry into California unless a special permit was obtained. Nonresidents whose vehicles are properly registered to them in their home state or jurisdiction may operate their vehicles in California until they:

Accept gainful employment in California.
Claim a homeowner’s exemption in California.
Rent or lease a residence in California.
Intend to live or be located here on a permanent basis (for example, acquire a California driver license, acquire other licenses not ordinarily extended to a nonresident, registered to vote).
Enroll in an institution of higher learning as a California resident or enroll their dependents in school (K-12).

NOTE: Nonresident military personnel stationed in California or their spouses may operate their vehicles with valid out-of-state license plates from their home state or the state where the military person was last stationed.

12 Anon September 16, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Even if you own property in another state, if you live and work here, you must register your vehicle here (note the exceptions previoulsly mentioned). CHP has a section on their website to report cheaters.

13 Another Ballet Mom September 16, 2013 at 4:18 PM

I know I got a ticket 10 years ago that required me to register. I had hopes of only being here a year or two…sigh. Needless to say, I pay my share every year.

14 Joorst Ruuly September 16, 2013 at 4:35 PM

@Dorothy; this again is an example of
Pic-n-Chose the rules you follow. Your
Acquaintance is stealing from every other
auto tax or fee payer, but hey, it’s just her,
right, no victim here!, she’s hoping to move
back to where she came from, and Iam
hoping to win the Powerball!

15 Nom de Plume September 16, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Vehicle license scofflaws are one of my hugest pet peeves. I’ve seen licenses that have been expired for nearly 10 years. Ridiculous.

Out-of-state vehicles that are not licensed in California can be reported, will be investigated and made to comply.

The state needs to institute a similar program for California residents who don’t pay their vehicle fees. I bet millions of dollars are lost each year that the state could use.

16 Registration Nightmare September 16, 2013 at 8:05 PM

@what Security #11

There are 3 exceptions to the 7500 mile rule you mentioned.

1.) Forced to buy a car out of state due to an accident
2.) Bought the car while in the military
3.) Received the car as part of an inheritance.

I went through #3 for 2 years

17 Steve September 16, 2013 at 9:37 PM

I know a police officer that has all of his vehicles registered out of state.

18 Antler September 16, 2013 at 9:59 PM

Dorothy ~ ~ ~ Best of luck on doing well on the driver’s test! My new driver’s license has a surprising thing printed on it. Instead of saying “END: (and then giving an expiration date as the previous license did)”, it says “END: NONE” !!!


19 Mimi (original) September 17, 2013 at 9:11 AM

@Antler – I think it means that you’ll live forever!!

20 Cowellian September 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Antler’s on the Bonus Round!

21 Cheater Hater September 17, 2013 at 10:20 AM

So glad to see I’m in good company about the out of state license cheats. I report just about every one I see online at the above posted links. Easy to do and the right thing to do because these vehicles use and clog and tear up our roads like us law abiding registered owners so they should have to contribute to the maintenance and repair costs of our roads too. Ironically, I see the biggest cheaters in our wealthier neighborhoods/cities too.

22 BCuzItzClaycord September 17, 2013 at 2:14 PM

I have a questoin – why does it cost so dang much to register a vehicle in CA????? Nevada passenger vehicle $33 per year, Washington passenget vehicle $46 per year. I know the excuse will be for road maintenance but the bay area has some of the worst roads I have seen and I have been all over the country. So why is it so expensive???????

23 Antler September 18, 2013 at 12:48 AM

Mimi (original) at #19 and Cowellian at #19 ~ ~ ~ :-)

24 Antler September 21, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Hello, Traffic Jammer in Chief! Question is coming up repeatedly on another thread… the reason for not extending speed bumps the full width of the road that bicyclists need a flat road surface in order to ride safely?

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