Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – YV & N. Main, Red Light Tickets & Cop No Stop

February 3, 2014 14:00 pm · 29 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

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: (California’s) Vehicle Code is actually more open to interpretation than most people realize, but the general consensus is that Section 21650 of the Vehicle Code applies to using oncoming traffic lanes to pass slow vehicles on the left, specifically on roadways that may not have dividing lines, such as in more rural and residential areas.

I do not believe there is a Vehicle Code section, at least in California, that regulates how long a vehicle can remain in the leftmost lane on the freeway. Janis, if you could, please confirm that with “Leo,” so that we have the most accurate information.

-Just The Fax

TRAFFIC JAMMER: First of all, beloved Claycordians, Just the Fax is referring to our resident Claycord law enforcement officer, who kindly donates his time to make sure the most accurate and up-to-date information appears in this column. Last week we held a contest to give the anonymous officer a nickname, and more about that will appear later in today’s column.

Meanwhile, here is the officer’s answer to Just the Fax’s question:

“Let’s define the scenario to a multi-lane freeway which seems to be what most people are referencing. The only time I see this reasonably being enforced would be if there were the posted signs, “Slower traffic keep right.” Then a slow driver could be cited for Vehicle Code Section 21461(a), Fail to obey sign, or my favorite, Section 22400, Minimum speed law.

However, drivers generally won’t be cited if they are driving at 65 mph. That’s the absolute speed limit in the state (there’s an exception for special 70 mph areas). Refer to Section 22349.

That being said, I remind my fellow Claycordian drivers that traffic enforcement does not occur in a vacuum. The main reason, I believe, that these laws aren’t enforced is because it’s the spirit of the laws.  Who is to judge the foul here? The driver at the speed limit in the left lane or the speeder in the same lane?

In short, good driving practices and standards tell us to move to the right. I understand folks who stay out of the right lane to allow merging traffic on and off the freeway.  I also understand staying out of the left lane to allow the speedsters on their way. So, the answer is somewhere in the middle.  Either way, stop promoting YOUR way as the RIGHT way. Share the road and slow down.”

COMMUTER: I take BART every day for my commute and on my way home from Walnut Creek BART around 3:45 p.m.,  I see at least three to five cars run the red light when they’re turning from Ygnacio Valley Rd onto North Main, seemingly to head into the Target shopping center.

These are not minor red light runners either, if there is such a thing, these are people who are entering the intersection on a late yellow or solid red, sometimes narrowly missing the drivers who now have the right of way at a green light. This is a daily occurrence and I never understand why the Walnut Creek Police Department doesn’t station motorcycle police at that intersection, especially with red light tickets being close to $500 per violation.

Are you able to use your resources and get someone posted put there? It’s only a matter of time before a head-on collision happens just cause someone wants to get to target 15 seconds quicker…

–Catie in Walnut Creek

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Catie, the Jammer certainly sees your point. This area sounds like a scary trouble point. Since many law enforcement officers read this column, the Jammer is posting this in case it might catch an officer’s eye. Catie, can you let the Jammer know if anything changes?

Regarding your comment about the cost of a red light ticket: as a point of clarification, you might be surprised at how the money violators pay for traffic tickets is distributed. While it’s true that if a local officer writes a ticket, most of the base fine for the ticket goes to the city. But the base fine is only the beginning.

You know how, when you buy a ticket to an event through a ticket-buying site, there are all these add-ons, making the price of the ticket go way up? Well, traffic tickets are like that too. There’s the base fine, and then there’s all the added fees. Those added fees are distributed to various places, depending on the violation and other factors.

Out of the money paid, the state might get a “penalty assessment,” most of which is used for programs including restitution for crime victims and witness protection. The rest could be allotted to the county’s general fund. The county where the ticket was issued could get money for automated fingerprint identification and other programs. Money might go to the state to help fund DNA testing for the collection of evidence … and on and on.

Now, speaking of red-light runners, the Jammer recently had a scary experience at an intersection with a red-light runner. When she shared it on social media, a friend who is a recently retired law enforcement officer with 20 years’ experience had an illuminating reply. So here’s the Jammer’s question and the response:

COMMUTER/TRAFFIC JAMMER: I was sitting at a red light, facing north, with a police car behind me. I got a green arrow for a left turn. Thank God, I realized that the southbound oncoming car headed in my direction was going so fast it probably wasn’t going to stop, because it didn’t stop. The car drove right through a red light. And the police officer did nothing! Nothing, that is, except following me all the way through the left turn and at least two more right turns. Eh??

–Traffic Jammer


“I am going to answer your post with two different responses.

The first about the cop not going after the red light runner – there are several things that could be the reason for the cop not going after the red light runner.

He was behind you, was it safe for him to go after the red light runner? Having to get turned around and speed up to make a stop probably wasn’t worth the hazards to the safety of others around you.

Another possibility is that he was going to assist another officer and he didn’t have time to stop and give the red light runner a ticket. Yes, I know, we want all the red light runners given tickets but that is impossible. Besides, the public would cry foul if any agency did that.

He may not have any tickets left in his book. He could have given out his last ticket and was going to either the station or another officer to get more tickets. I don’t know what RPD’s policy is, but my agency mandated that if we didn’t have a ticket book, we could not stop anyone.

Officers have radios and MVT (mobile vehicle terminals) in their cars. Talk about multitasking when driving down the road – officers are the masters at this. Plus, all of us have cell phones, so when a fellow officer or a superior calls you, you have to answer. Some say that the current cell phone law should apply to officers when they are on duty, but some information cannot be put out over the air.

There are many people with scanners who listen to dispatch. From a personal note, I got questioned at a stop light for being on my cell phone while in a marked unit. The person was upset because they felt that the law should apply to me like everyone else.

I responded politely that it was my superior and that what he had to tell me couldn’t and wouldn’t be put over the air. And if they had any further complaints about my cell phone use, they should call my department. I offered my name, badge number and supervisor’s name.

Now, about you and your reaction to having an officer behind you –

When we look in our rear view mirror and see the officer sitting behind us, we go through a couple of emotions: fear and guilt are the top two.

Fear – did I do anything wrong? Why is he/she behind me? Once you start driving, you pay attention to your speed, the way you handle the car and again, your senses are heightened because the police is behind you. You could be gripping the steering wheel so tight that you have white knuckles.

Guilt – like fear, you wonder what you have done wrong. You start thinking about your driving and what you have done wrong (speeding, running the yellow/red (or as some say an orange light) lights, not coming to a complete stop when turning right).

So, while you experienced anger at the red light runner not getting a ticket, you also experienced fear (if you had not delayed going through the light, you would have been hit), guilt because the officer was behind you.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And now, beloved Claycordians … time for the results of our “Name the Claycordian Law Enforcement Officer” contest.

We had a number of suggestions, many of which were clearly tongue in cheek, and some brilliant suggestions as well. All the suggestions rocked and the Jammer is so happy that you all participated. It’s so much fun to see the creativity of Claycordians on display!

@Antler suggested “Point Man;” “Leo” was endorsed by @Dorothy and @Just The Fax; “Officer 5, 0” was suggested by @Hors’n Around; “Lou Tennant,” “Claycord Fuzz,” “Jam Sandwich,” or “Insane Desperado,” all courtesy of @Living In a Bubble; “Blue Knight,” “Ponch”, “Cop” or “Copr (C)laycords (O)wn (P)olice rep.,” and “Barney” were suggested by @TOB; “Claycord Cop,” from Horse’n Around; “Donut Speed,” from J.; “Officer YO for Yes Officer,” from a reader who emailed his suggestion; and finally, emailed from reader David Stork, “Officer Jammer.”

Starting with the runners-up: A point man is a soldier assigned to a position some distance ahead of a patrol as a lookout, taking a crucial role in the forefront. The Jammer likes this one, and hereby announces Antler as a runner-up. The Jammer’s other favorite was “Claycord Cop,” from Hors’n Around.

Antler and Hors’n Around, if you will kindly email the Jammer at, we will arrange for you to receive your prizes. There are a few choices, starting with a stuffed toy that is a BART train, and including Claycord memorabilia. Let’s hear it for Antler and Hors’n Around!

As for the nickname that will be used from now on: The choice was made by our ever-helpful officer himself, as seemed only fitting, and he decided on “Leo,” the acronym for “Law Enforcement Officer,” which the Jammer had suggested.

All Hail Leo … thank you so much for your service!

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 February 3, 2014 at 2:50 PM

He’s right you know. When I see a cop car behind me I wonder if I did something wrong that I didn’t notice or even forgot about. I’m on really good behavior then.

On the other hand, I’ve also had cop cars come up behind me and sort of use my car to semi-hide behind before going after someone who just whizzed by.

2 Noj February 3, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Haven’t seen anyone pulled over in years for turning w/o signalling first. So what’s the reason for that? Half the people on the road turn without signalling…

V C Section 22107 Turning Movements and Required Signals
Turning Movements and Required Signals

22107. No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.

Amended Ch. 1996, Stats. 1959. Effective September 18, 1959.

3 nytemuvr February 3, 2014 at 3:08 PM

@Noj #2
Too hard to hit the lever with coffee, texting, talking on the phone and putting make-up on to bother with the signal….that’s a joke and not meant to be about just women There’s a myriad of other things people do besides those. I drove a truck for years….”Let me tell ya bout a time……………

4 RanchgirlCA February 3, 2014 at 3:34 PM

What about when the ‘passing lane’ is the designated carpool lane and its during designated carpool hours? Is someone in a carpool supposed to move over into heavy traffic, because some leadfoot wants to go faster in the carpool lane? This happens all the time. I’m going the speed limit or at least as fast as the people in front of me and I’ve got some jerk tailgating me. Doesn’t help the stress of communting…

5 Horse n around February 3, 2014 at 3:46 PM

I won I won I won!!!! LOL

6 Mom of the Horde February 3, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Funny that the red light runners at YVR and N. Main were brought up. Occasionally WCPD does post a couple of motorcycle officers in the parking lot of the Chevron there to pull over motorists that run the red light making the left turn onto Eastbound YVR from N. Main.

7 RANDOM TASK February 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM

! DISCLAIMER ! WE THE PEOPLE NEITHER REFUTE OR DENY SAID CLAIMS. So that being said …..” WHAT” an officer shall not enforce any laws when said officer has no ticket book. Yet said tax payer ( I/E/ paying the officers salary) will and has been cited for 1-2 miles over the speed limit there by decreasing ticket book volume and increasing courts with obvious tickets that will be thrown out. Wow if this does not represent the forethought of demifornia then aliens from another planet are not possible in said universe even though they have illegals on this planet regularly invade demifornia even though its a law and supposedly taxed and upheld by said dems in the spirit of the peoples wishes who voted said dems into office in the first place. So in point the old adage ” do as I say but not as I do” applies to not only dems running the state but any and all taxpayer funded entity that decides it does not need to do anything the people want as long as they keep the status quo ……wonderful

8 Jojo Potato February 3, 2014 at 4:42 PM

This whole business about the tickets not generating any actual income to the responsible jurisdiction drives me crazy. it seems like every organization that can has got their tenticles into the cash. This is just wrong. If the local city, for example, is, trying to keep things safer by giving out tickets as in the YVR example above, they should collect the majority of the revenue. All these extra fees are just rip offs that have been grabbed by our “representatives” without any citizen input. Watch the U.S. twirl down the toilet guided by greedy agencies.

9 @RANDOM TASK, #7----Your ranting is becoming more delusional February 3, 2014 at 4:55 PM

I suggest you speak with your witch doctor about changing your meds, and I say witch doctor because you probably aren’t in favor of traditional medicine, because it is just a government controlled entity.
Secondly, since you used “neither” in your statement, followed by “or”, be advised the “or” should be changed to “nor”, when following “neither”.
Either-or, neither-nor. But I guess that’s what home schooling got you.

10 RunnerDope February 3, 2014 at 6:21 PM

>> Haven’t seen anyone pulled over in years for turning w/o signalling first. So what’s the reason for that? Half the people on the road turn without signalling…


I don’t think the police know about that law.I rarely see police cars using turn signals. They’re probably too busy watching out for manhole covers that might spill their coffee.

11 Retired Cop February 3, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Always signed out 4 ticket books at a time–never ran out & 4 parking ones also. If I was going to assist another Officer & saw a violation – – I made sure my amber lights to the rear were on so the people knew I was going to a call as they knew I saw the violatorm

12 Janis Mara February 3, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Thanks, @Retired Cop – it’s great to get your perspective!

13 Antler February 4, 2014 at 12:05 AM

There is a prize???!!! I do thank you, Ma’am. LEO really is the perfect name, though, and I am glad to tie for second place! Will email.

14 Horse n around February 4, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Darn. It won’t let me e-mail. Well glad I tied with Antler. Maybe Janis, you could give Antler my prize. :)

15 jtkatec February 4, 2014 at 9:51 AM

Horse n around and Antler, you better not be declaring bankruptcy now that you have won.

Oh, this isn’t the lotto?

16 Janis Mara February 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

@Horse n around #14, it won’t let you email? Try one more time and if that doesn’t work, try janismara AT (I am rendering it this way so spammers don’t pick it up.)

And again, to both of you, Congratulations – and to all who entered! Every entry was a good one and the choice was difficult.

17 Antler February 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Horse n Around ~ ~ ~ Congratulations! And aren’t we lucky!!! Watch out for that jtlatec critter, though…. ;-)

I like the name LEO a whole lot, though…and it’s more logical.

18 Captain Freeway February 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM

@RanchGirlCA (#4) — You got that right. There are so many situations where it isn’t safe or appropriate to move out of the way of an aggressive lane-changing, tail-gaiting gap-shooter… unless you don’t care about putting yourself and others at risk by disrupting everything around you to accommodate the bad driver. However, if it is safe to move out of the way and staying where you are makes a bad situation worse… then yes – reward the behavior of the aggressive driver, move out of their way and escape to safety. BTW, it doesn’t only happen in the far left lane either – does it? The situation I was bashed for last week wasn’t even a complete description of what happened – I didn’t think it was necessary to explain my situation in that much detail – since the point was — If people are going to bash slow or blocking drivers in the left lane here (which I wasn’t and you’re not either) they should also be willing to call out aggressive drivers here and not just say “let CHP handle it” — and certainly not defend the aggressive drivers. Fortunately everyone seemed to get it after a few rants back and forth – which I’m sorry for my part. I had no idea that some would actually (seemingly) put aggressive drivers ahead of defensive drivers. Anyway — please everyone be safe out there, watch out for the gap-shooters and please don’t be one yourself. Take care, CF

19 Antler February 4, 2014 at 4:08 PM

….oh, oops….Jammin Janis, I really wouldn’t be able to use the stuffed BART car toy because our youngest grandchild is already almost 14, and she’s a SHE. Most anything else, though…..always did want a hubcab planter with a red rose bush in it! :-)

20 Antler February 4, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Well, that was dumb, Antler. You know blamed well what that Janis Dahlink of a columnist is going to DO now……..mutter, mutter.

21 Jose February 4, 2014 at 4:58 PM

@Cap’n Freeway,
I don’t think you understand that deliberately blocking somebody who wants to get by you (not saying that YOU were doing this, of course) IS a form of aggressive driving and is likely to produce road rage in the person being blocked. It is not, as you seem to believe, “defensive driving”.

Are you going to start jumping out in front of red light runners, too? Like I said before, we already have people who are paid and trained to be traffic cops. They don’t need or want your help.

22 Red Light runners in WC?? Ha February 4, 2014 at 8:44 PM

Maybe because Walnut Creek PD hasn’t had any traffic officers (motorcycle cops) for 2-3 years? They used to be everywhere…

23 Antler February 4, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Sharla at #22 …… No. I was one of the runners up in the contest to give a nickname to the Law Enforcement Officer who advises Janis Mara, our fabulous columnist. She mentioned that one of the prize choices is a stuffed BART toy, so I was only telling her that I can’t really use one of those. And I was truly-TRULY only joking about wanting a red rose bush in a hub cap!!!!!

24 Captain Freeway February 5, 2014 at 6:36 AM

Jose cracks me up. At least you’re softening up your posts a bit. I appreciate that.

25 jtkatec February 5, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Oh, man! The reason I bought my ’65 Tbird was specifically to block aggressive drivers.

Go ahead and hit me in your plastic car!!! MMMMUUUUHHAAAAA…

26 Janis Mara February 5, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Well, don’t you worry, Antler, I’ll find the nicest hubcaps in Claycord for you and you’ll get the red roses just in time for Valentines :-)

27 Janis Mara February 5, 2014 at 12:30 PM

Er, there actually may not be hubcaps :-)

28 Antler February 6, 2014 at 10:55 PM


(ahem……there seems to be a problem brewing…..please may I speak with LEO?)

29 Antler February 7, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Jammin’n Janis, the prize is spectacular. I do thank you for the elegant red roses…….and for NOT including a hub cap! :-)

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