Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Driving on the Shoulder on Ygnacio Valley Rd. (GREAT VIDEO), Headlights & Wipers, Collisions + More

December 9, 2013 14:00 pm · 38 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: Nearly every morning as we travel westbound Ygnacio Valley Road and prepare to turn right on Ayers Road, we find a string of cars that are using the improved shoulder as an extended right turn lane. This shoulder runs for about 1000 feet before the actual right turn lane. Rain or shine, we will see cars driving on the shoulder to avoid the backup and having to wait a few extra seconds before turning.

In researching the Vehicle Code, this seems to be illegal behavior. But perhaps we’re missing something that permits this driving?

Attached is a video that shows the section of westbound Ygnacio and what it looks like each morning around 8 a.m. If this is illegal, do you think the Concord police would like to make some money? Or alternatively, if this is a common practice and seems like people need the right turn to be longer, is there a reason that improved shoulder couldn’t be marked instead as a full right turn lane?

Sign us, “Perhaps Others Like Keeping Ahead, Driving On The Shoulder” (a.k.a. POLKA DOTS)

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Thanks, POLKA DOTS, for the great video you sent along. The Jammer saw right away that this was a job for our resident law enforcement officer, who is himself a Claycordian in every way, as his family lives here and he also works here. The officer kindly penned this response:

“Passing using the shoulder is unlawful. Refer to California Vehicle Code section 21755(a) which states: ‘The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting that movement in safety. In no event shall that movement be made by driving off the paved or main-traveled portion of the roadway.’

The shoulder is not the main-traveled portion of the roadway. It is for emergencies. 
Also, if traffic is bumper-to-bumper and inching along, passing on the shoulder (where you are NOT supposed to be anyway) even at 25 mph or slower can be “dangerous” and, therefore, violate the code.

I like to play these scenarios in my head (and for the readers, too): So I am in my emergency vehicle (pick your favorite: fire truck, ambulance, or police car). I am headed to an emergency with my lights flashing and siren sounding. What are drivers required to do by law: CVC 21806?

Well, it says: “…the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.” (Emphasis added)

So, if I am trying to get by, the right lane (#2 lane in this case), moves to the shoulder, the left lane (#1 lane) moves to the #2 lane, and I have a clear path to the emergency.

For those that use the shoulder: not only are you violating the law, but you are also driving in peril. There is SO MUCH debris that gets thrown to the shoulder, especially on a thoroughfare like Ygnacio Valley Road, it is –well- perilous. Believe me, I work there.

There are a bevy of laws that govern what is allowed and what is not when it comes to passing. In short, passing on the right is discouraged. Refer to the following sections: 21750 CVC directs you to pass on the left, 21754 CVC gives specific examples of when it is OK to pass on the right, as does 21650(f) CVC.

And. lastly, I have to address the “police make some money” comment. <Yawns, drums fingers on the table> Really? This is so tiresome. Folks, Claycord cities get pennies on the dollar for the fines imposed in citations. There simply isn’t enough revenue in issuing citations to impact a suburban city’s budget.

Even in metropolitan cities, the revenue from parking citations barely impacts the budget. The citations issued in Claycord are, mostly, issued to address hazardous driving (whether you agree with them or not). And there are studies to prove that focused traffic enforcement has an effect on drivers’ behavior.

As for the engineering of or elongating the turn lane … now, that has some traction. We always say there are three E’s to traffic: Education, Enforcement, and Engineering. Well, we have covered two here. The rest is up to you, Janis.

COMMUTER: I’ve got a question for one of your automotive experts. Cars are getting smarter with every new model. For years, cars have been able to turn on their own headlights when it gets dark. So why in the world can’t they turn on the headlights when the wipers are on?

–Regards, Cowellian

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Our resident automotive expert, Las Positas College automotive faculty member Brian Hagopian, answered the question:

“Actually some models do just that. The one I am most familiar with is the 2006 Cadillac CTS, I owned one! As time goes on, more and more models get these features, and until the federal government creates a law… it will just be a luxury item.

For example, rear view cameras, soon enough there will be a federal law that every car will be required to have one for child safety. People cannot see little kids behind them because of body design.”

The Jammer thought she’d share Hagopian’s email tagline, because she really liked it: “Never trust quotes you find on the internet.” – Benjamin Franklin

In addition to Mr. Hagopian, several smart Claycordians contributed their expertise on the windshield wiper subject. The first to comment was Been There, who said, “In fact the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country has that exact feature. If the windshield wipers have been on for more than a few seconds, and you have it set to the automatic lights mode, the headlights come on. Very convenient!”

Kali shared that the 2005 Chrysler also has automatic lights, and A said his or her 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis has the feature. crazytech58 said, “Newer cars have this feature,” so if you have a recent model and it’s not yet activated, check your owner’s manual on how to do so.

COMMUTER: One of my pet peeves is when I am driving along in the right-hand lane, a driver merging onto the freeway ahead of me will cut over the solid white line dividing the entrance ramp and the freeway. I narrowly missed a collision when this happened the other day.

Shouldn’t those drivers wait until they get to the broken line? Is it against the law to cross the solid line?

–Hates the Unexpected

TRAFFIC JAMMER: HTU, your signature tells the story. The more we know what to expect from other motorists, the easier it is to drive safely and avoid crashes. This is why people who don’t signal annoy the Jammer so much.

In order, the answers to your question are yes and no. The drivers should wait until they reach the broken line to merge onto the freeway. If they do not do so, however, it is not punishable by law. By all means, however, depending on the situation, the driver who crosses the solid line could be cited for unsafe lane change, unsafe turning movement, reckless driving or following too closely.

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 chillee December 9, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. You do realize that the person filming the above shoulder video is also breaking the law by using a camera/mobile device while driving. Perhaps we need a snarky post about that subject?

2 Anon-2-U December 9, 2013 at 2:34 PM

@Chillee – did you ever think there might be a passenger holding the recording equipment, or better yet, it’s mounted on the dash using a suction cup to hold the recording equipment?

Personally, I’d try to block the entitled a**holes by being over the shoulder line, but not in the shoulder….it’s called WAIT YOUR TURN!!!

3 anonanonagain December 9, 2013 at 2:34 PM

I agree with you Chillee. Still that is no excuse for all these morons thinking that they are above the law or are too inconvenienced to wait/ late for work, school or just in general. People always think that the rules don’t apply to them and make some arrogant excuse to skirt the law. I hope that a giant ticket will do the trick and curb these narcissistic drivers and help keep this open for emergency vehicles only…..

4 mercy December 9, 2013 at 2:40 PM

out of mercy?

5 Jerk December 9, 2013 at 2:42 PM

I agree with chillee. And I would be curious if the person filming is a Claycord resident?
It’s a shame that Claycord residents working, going to school and doing business in Claycord have to be inconvenienced by a wall of East County COMMUTERS.
I say extend the the right turn lane. I would have an issue if these people are using the right shoulder and then cutting over to the left in order to cut off cars and get ahead of the line.
Beware if you think you’re going to be John Wayne and try and block the right shoulder, A co-worker of mine went into labor and her husband was trying to get her to the hospital – Well 580 was backed up & He used the right shoulder, Yep, Some A-Hole intentionally blocked them NOT COOL.

6 oldman December 9, 2013 at 2:46 PM

If so many people are using this method, it suggests there is a need due to large number of people wanting to turn right. Why not lengthen the lane?

7 TOB December 9, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Janis, I’d like to see CHP park and monitor evening commute at Hwy24/680. Talk about dangerous! Too many people cutting in past the solid line dividing the split causing brake checks and near accidents. So bad it’s setting the example to majority it’s ok to cross a solid line which is illegal. As much as you leave space to be safe and to react, someone darts in so it’s always dangerous. A CHP ticketing these jerks on occasion would be helpful for all of us who traverse this interchange in our evening commutes. Maybe next week can address this? :)

8 Curious George December 9, 2013 at 2:48 PM

@chillee….Good catch !!!! I was thinking the exact same thing! Sure looks like they are filming from the drivers side of their vehicle .Maybe they should have signed it “PISPA” (Perhaps I should pay attention !!)

9 Steve December 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM

regarding question 1. Maybe the cities of Concord and WC should do a better job controlling the lights on YVR to allow more than 5 cars go at a time during rush hour.

The reason people use the shoulder is to get to Cowell.

But WC is so focused on people noticing businesses that don’t open until after 10 am, they refuse to adjust the lights to accomodate rush hour. A 7 mile drive shouldn’t take close to 30 minutes every day.

10 anon December 9, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Perhaps we should close Kirker pass in the commute direction. Would make traffic in Concord, Clayton and WC much better.

11 JLG December 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

I would sure hate to be a cyclist in that lane.

12 Dorothy December 9, 2013 at 2:58 PM

“Folks, Claycord cities get pennies on the dollar for the fines imposed in citations. There simply isn’t enough revenue in issuing citations to impact a suburban city’s budget.” Then where does the money from traffic fines go? A lot of them run in the hundreds of dollars range and the cities only get pennies on the dollar?

13 Cowellian December 9, 2013 at 3:00 PM

I would like to point out that if you are on a road where the shoulder has been turned into a de facto turn lane, and you aren’t on that shoulder, then you are not going to be able to turn.

Now, what are you going to do?

14 Jerk December 9, 2013 at 3:01 PM

#2, There’s NO PASSENGER recording anything, the driver is doing it.
Suction cup? No.
Are you watching a different video?

15 Futurama December 9, 2013 at 3:10 PM

I think you should all be forced to take the bus :D

16 mwo1859 December 9, 2013 at 3:24 PM

I used to live in concord for along time. It is great to see Ygnacio road is now 3 lanes.. I myself would report each plate to concord PD.

17 Look at the Bright Side..... December 9, 2013 at 3:37 PM

the Douchebag cutting the shoulder at Ayers is one less A-Hole doing the Wilder Road Off-&-On…

18 Ancient Mariner December 9, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Now that the new east span of the Bay Bridge is open, when are they going to remove the orange sign that says to go 35 mph through the Bay Bridge ‘S’ Curve, which no longer exists?

The sign is by the weigh-station at Treat Blvd. on 680 South, with others in various places.

19 Fred December 9, 2013 at 4:23 PM

They said “we” in the question which isn’t definitive but may indicate a passenger. On the other hand, the view looks further left than the passenger side so maybe it is a suction mount. In fact, at the end, it almost sounds like they picked up the suction-mounted camera to record the side mirror. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the driver is going too fast and is keeping space there, but still…

Oh wait, shouldn’t we be talking about the people driving on the shoulder? I’m guessing Chillee is one of those drivers and is just upset about being caught.

20 former crossing guard December 9, 2013 at 4:26 PM

When I was a teenager in Connecticut (many years ago), I saw a young woman get hit by a car that was driving on the shoulder. I assume she was killed since I can still see her silhouette spinning against the guardrail and hear the thump of her body hitting the vehicle. Circumstances were a little different–foul weather, nighttime. The girl’s vehicle had been disabled, and the family had just gotten out to stand by the guardrail. The car using the shoulder had no business doing so and appeared only to be trying to get past the stopped traffic.

The lesson is that travel lanes are for travel, and shoulders are not. When people start making up their own rules on the road, bad things can happen.

(I also saw an accident on Treat several years ago when someone decided to be courteous and let another car cross traffic in front of them… not realizing someone else was about to pass them at 40 miles per hour in the adjacent lane. The collision could have been a lot worse if the timing were just a fraction of a second different. People, do NOT make up your own rules on the road, even to be courteous. Being predictable is far more important than being nice. And the rules exist to help keep us all safe.)

21 Nuttsie the Nutter December 9, 2013 at 4:29 PM

@ TOB Do you even read before you post. Regarding crossing the solid white line…”The drivers should wait until they reach the broken line to merge onto the freeway. If they do not do so, however, it is not punishable by law.”

22 @steve December 9, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Use Highway 4 and avoid YVR.

23 bigdaddy December 9, 2013 at 4:44 PM

you should call the cops

24 Silva December 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM

I also find it apalling that it takes me 35 minutes to get through 4 stop signals on Ygnacio Valley Road each morning.

25 missime December 9, 2013 at 4:50 PM

@ Cowellian

My question exactly. What are you supposed to do if you want to turn right, but others have turned the shoulder into a right turn lane?

Janis, can your law enforcement friends tell us what to do?

26 wasd December 9, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Post the pics of the license plates for everyone to name and shame!

27 Sara December 9, 2013 at 5:14 PM

I hate driving that road every morning on the way to 680 every mornning; the traffic is so bad at 8 in the morning.

28 I'm The Urban Spaceman December 9, 2013 at 5:37 PM

>>>. Being predictable is far more important than being nice. And the rules exist to help keep us all safe.)<<<

This should be the Traffic Jammers new Mantra.

29 Janis Mara December 9, 2013 at 5:42 PM

@missime #25, I will follow up with our law enforcement friend on that question and share in next week’s column. Good question!

30 fulubulu December 9, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Government should be For The People. It’s not. It’s For The Government. The turn lane should be lengthened and the YVR stop lights should be timed to reduce commute times. The traffic engineers creating this chaos of WC and Concord should be brought to the town square and chastised. You think we don’t care engineers? kma!

31 @Dorthy December 9, 2013 at 6:17 PM

“Then where does the money from traffic fines go? A lot of them run in the hundreds of dollars range and the cities only get pennies on the dollar?”

Dorothy traffic citations are violations of the state vehicle code, even though they were issued in the city by a municipal police officer. Everybody has their hands in the pot. The state gets the first cut, counties get the second, The courts take a portion (third) and impose additional fees. The issuing city department is the last so they get pennies on the dollar.

32 Craig Cannon December 9, 2013 at 6:24 PM

If you look at the lower part of the video, note the Wipers and Window Washer Dispensers, the video was shot from a Drivers View. Too many times you see motorists holding up their Handi Cams or Phones While Driving by a Wreck. IDIOTS. DO TWO WRONGS MAKE A RIGHT? I wonder what holds the bigger fine? Shoulder Riding, or Driving while Video Taking? And while this “Good Samaritan” is Video Making, what if a Bike or Motorcycle Slipped in Front of Him? Splatter. Get the Video Gets Erased!

33 Gimli December 9, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Dash cams are a good idea. It sure helps in a insurance battle. I keep one on my bicycle too.

34 Shannon Bottorff December 9, 2013 at 8:36 PM

I got a ticket for turning right in that exact location a few years ago!! It is definitely NOT a turning lane and it is definitely illegal to do so!

35 mike December 9, 2013 at 11:43 PM

here is an idea. leave your house earlier

36 Anon December 10, 2013 at 6:28 AM

I’d pass on the right if necessary too. I’ve had to do this on Clayton Road to be able to turn into my neighborhood. Traffic is ridiculous these days and what pisses me off is the drivers that leave a diesel truck load of space between them and the car in front. If you’d all pull up, traffic would move and merge better and other folks would be able to make their turn and exit off the road.

37 Jason L. December 10, 2013 at 8:01 AM

All that needs to happen is that you park a traffic officer on the shoulder down near the intersection and that will solve the problem. Imagine driving down the shoulder and then *whoops!* – start of a bad day!

38 TOB December 10, 2013 at 10:23 AM


Do you even read? Not about merging.. It’s about split and people riding 24 then cutting over last second to N 680 over solid line causing hard brake checks.. Where did you read merging anything.. Please read before speaking.. Merging,, WTH are you reading merge.. Handle fits you will. Peace!

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