Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Left Turns, Narrow Lanes, Jewelry Hanging from Mirrors + Much More

February 10, 2014 14:00 pm · 36 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: When my father was teaching me how to drive, he said in order to make a left turn at an intersection, I should edge out into the intersection so I could see approaching cars better and have a better chance of making my turn. My wife tells me it’s dangerous and I shouldn’t do it. Who is right?

–Caught at the Crossroads

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer shared this one with Leo, our resident (and recently nicknamed) Claycordian Law Enforcement Officer. He tackled the query with zeal:

“This is so much fun!  I love the ‘what-ifs’ and debating or educating traffic laws, rules, or just good habits.

OK. So, I think we are talking about an intersection that either has stop signs, signals, or no controls. After making a lawful stop (like the amusement park rides: full and complete stop behind the limit line) if required, the driver may, and arguably should, pull straight into the intersection.  About one vehicle length should be enough.

The turning vehicle’s signal would already be on, per California Vehicle Code sections 22107 and 22108.

Then, when safe, the driver makes his/her turn, per sections 21801(a) and 22100(b).

This is called “taking control” of an intersection and is valuable at signaled intersections when traffic is heavy. For example, light turns green for both directions. Turning vehicles pulls into intersection on green but cannot turn due to oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic doesn’t clear until light changes to red. And turning vehicle is “stuck” in the middle of the intersection.

Not true: turning vehicle lawfully entered the intersection and now, per sections 21801(b) and 21451(a), has control of the intersection and can complete the turn.

In my example, mom would never get thru the intersection due to traffic.

That’s how it works in my book.”

COMMUTER: Is there a minimum width for a road lane? I am currently driving a full- sized pickup, and it seems like the lanes on Concord Boulevard are a lot narrower than, say, the lanes on Clayton Road.

While on Concord Boulevard (specifically the area between Bailey Road and Ayers) it seems like my vehicle is just about touching both lane markers on either side. Quite disturbing when there is another full-sized pickup in the adjacent lane. It seems like the mirrors are going to hit if you try to stay in the lane.

It’s even more obvious when towing a trailer. I have debated even going out with a tape measure to find out for myself. But thought this might be a safer alternative.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Ah, Killjoy, as ever your excellent question belies your nom de Claycord. Here’s the scoop: There is a national association that sets standards for things like the width of a lane. Since it is a government association, of course it has a moniker longer than the tail of Haley’s comet, to wit: the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

As it happens, the association is at this very moment celebrating its 100th birthday. AASHTO, as the cognoscenti refer to it, was founded in 1914, when the battle cry in America was “Get the farmers out of the mud!”

Who knew?

Anyway, back to our modern-day, 100-years-later life, and Killjoy’s endangered side mirrors. The range of lane widths for travel lanes and ramps is 9-12 feet, and the chart with this information can be found HERE.

Claycordians, here’s a cool bit of information: In honor of its 100th birthday, AASHTO is inviting folks to submit stories of their travel experiences in America – family vacations, commutes by car, mass transit or train. “Did work on a construction project fascinate you as a child? Tell us your story,” the association says, and it might get published on their blog.

If you have questions, ideas, stories or photographs to share, contact Lloyd Brown at Submissions can’t be more than 600 words long and can include photos and graphics.

COMMUTER: I see so many cars with “jewelry” hanging from their rear view mirror.  First, I believe it’s illegal, as it’s an obstruction to your forward vision and a distraction to your driving and situational awareness.  One common item I see dangling is a tassel, often with a young driver in the car.  Frankly, I don’t care to see proof that you graduated from high school; I would rather you demonstrate that you can drive safely.  I also see beads and a bunch of other stuff swinging around in drivers’ cars.

Also, I still see people with a GPS unit mounted to their windshield in the middle of the windshield, contrary to the law that prohibited this a few years ago. You don’t see this as much now, since more cars come with it integrated into them, as well as smartphones having built-in GPS capability.

Can you check with your officer friend and see how (if?) they are enforcing this?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: ClayDen raises an excellent point. “A person shall not drive any motor vehicle with any object or material placed, displayed, installed or applied upon the windshield or side or rear windows … that obstructs or reduces the driver’s clear view through the windshield,” says California Vehicle Code section 26708.

The Vehicle Code then goes on to specify a bunch of exceptions to this rule. Tassels, beads, and jewelry are not among them. They are obstructions to the driver’s clear view, and hence a violation of the code.

As ClayDen said, “signs, stickers or other materials” may be placed in a 7-inch square of the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver, or in a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest the driver. A GPS unit smack in the middle of the windshield doesn’t correspond to this.

As to how often or whether this is enforced: As violations go, this falls somewhere in the general vicinity of a crack in the windshield. It’s unlikely an overworked law enforcement officer is going to go all out flipping on the lights and pulling someone over because their tassel is hanging from the rearview mirror. That said, for your own and others’ safety, as ClayDen noted, it’s better not to have such distractions.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: One last note, beloved Claycordians: In our contest to name our Claycordian law enforcement officer, which drew many awesome suggestions, Horse ‘N Around won a runner-up award (“Claycord Cop”). To claim your prize, since you had a problem sending to, feel free to email

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 Mrs. T February 10, 2014 at 2:27 PM

My GPS does not distract me at all. And it will stay where it is on the windshield. What I have hanging from my mirror does not distract me either so it will stay. No cop is going to waste time pulling someone over for this. Maybe Clayden is the one getting distracted while looking into other people’s vehicle’s while driving :)

2 Dorothy February 10, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Remember I wanted a No Turn on Red sign at Loveridge and California in Pittsburg for traffic that had to turn right to get to the freeway ramp? There’s still is no sign but it isn’t needed anymore! Yes! Making a left turn onto California has been easy lately and now I know why. Since the road work on that particular stretch is mostly completed there is a right turn signal at the light for those wanting to get to the freeway. I usually don’t need to turn right at that intersection so I didn’t know about right turn signal until the other day. Much better than a sign – way to go whoever authorized that signal!!

3 Well.. February 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

I agree Mrs. T. I have something hanging from my rearview mirror. It has been there so long that I don’t even notice it. I have a fairly common car with a common color. It makes it easier to find my car when there are others just like it.

4 ClayDen February 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

@Mrs. T

I think it’s perfectly safe to drive over 100mph when conditions permit, as I have a very capable car that is equipped with tires rated for 186mph and I am a skilled driver. You apparently think it’s OK to disregard the law regarding attaching your GPS to the windshield. I suspect that I would not be able to avoid a ticket for breaking the speed law, and I suspect you won’t either, especially if you have an accident with your GPS mounted in the middle of your windshield. If you are paying attention to your surroundings (good situational awareness), it’s hard to miss all of the stuff hanging from the rear view mirrors of many cars.

BTW, I have found that an excellent place to attach my GPS is to the moonroof, just on the edge of my peripheral vision. I rarely use my GPS, as I normally know where I’m going.

5 RunnerDope February 10, 2014 at 4:44 PM


I’m having trouble following your logic in saying that something hanging from your rear-view mirror is a violation of Vehicle Code section 26708.
The part you posted only refers to “any object or material placed, displayed, installed or applied upon the windshield or side or rear windows.”

And BTW, swerving to avoid the manhole covers on Cowell Rd. is probably more dangerous then hanging something on your mirror. :-)

6 Mrs. T February 10, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Go on with your bad self Clayden :) however you might want to try that on an open road with no other cars near.
I do find your comparison funny though. Thanks for the giggle!

7 anon February 10, 2014 at 6:59 PM

is concord making any effort to fix the mess created with the closed bike crossing lane on treat road, it’s dangerous to go to that intersection.

8 Jose February 10, 2014 at 7:04 PM

The biggest vision obstruction in my windshield is my rear view mirror. I’m a pretty tall guy and that thing is seriously in my way. I’ve already moved it up as high as it will go, but I still find myself ducking to look under it sometimes. I might just have to take it off and use the side mirrors.

9 Interesting February 10, 2014 at 7:54 PM

Jose, please don’t remove your rear view mirror. All three mirrors are there for a reason. I’m tall myself.

10 Jose February 10, 2014 at 9:27 PM

I used to drive trucks for a living. They don’t even have rear view mirrors. I’m pretty sure I’d be just fine without it. Thanks for your concern, though.

11 ClayDen February 10, 2014 at 10:02 PM

@Mrs. T

Note that I said “when conditions permit.” About a year and a half ago, I was driving north in I-15 in Utah on the way t Grand Junction Colorado with the speed limit of 80. The little bit of traffic was rolling 15 over (95mph) and everything seemed fine. Back when there were no speed limits in Nevada (other than “safe and prudent”) I drove almost 10,000 miles at or above 100 in a properly equipped car. Again, “when conditions permit” is the operative phrase. However, we get back to the thing called the law.

12 Killjoy February 10, 2014 at 10:17 PM

Two mirrors are needed as per California Vehicle Code 26709.
One on the left side, and either the middle or the right.

V C Section 26709 Mirrors


26709. (a) Every motor vehicle registered in a foreign jurisdiction and every motorcycle subject to registration in this state shall be equipped with a mirror so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle.

Every motor vehicle subject to registration in this state, except a motorcycle, shall be equipped with not less than two such mirrors, including one affixed to the left-hand side.

(b) The following described types of motor vehicles, of a type subject to registration, shall be equipped with mirrors on both the left-and right-hand sides of the vehicle so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway through each mirror for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle:

(1) A motor vehicle so constructed or loaded as to obstruct the driver’s view to the rear.

(2) A motor vehicle towing a vehicle and the towed vehicle or load thereon obstructs the driver’s view to the rear.

(3) A bus or trolley coach.

(c) The provisions of subdivision (b) shall not apply to a passenger vehicle when the load obstructing the driver’s view consists of passengers.

Amended Ch. 74, Stats. 1970. Effective November 23, 1970.

13 Killjoy February 10, 2014 at 10:22 PM

That being said, I’m pretty tall too. Mirrors get in my way as well. I find myself ducking to look at things through the windshield. The mirror mounted on the dash like in the older Corvette would be awesome!

14 Mrs. T February 10, 2014 at 10:44 PM

Clayden let’s just get to the point ok. Driving at speeds of 100 or more is extremely dangerous for you to compare that to something hanging on your rear view mirror or having a GPS on your windshield is absolutely ridiculous. You are not selling it.
OK so in the news you always see, “Drunk Diver kills”,”A person speeding hits family of 4″ “A police chase ended badly today while the officers were in pursuit of a vehicle going 100mph or more”
I have personally NEVER read “A vehicle hits a tree today after being distracted by the beads hanging in his rear view mirror”????

15 Mrs. T February 10, 2014 at 10:45 PM

Just saying some of these cali laws are pretty stupid.

16 Antler February 11, 2014 at 1:11 AM

And then there are two of my friends who drive with their handicapped placards hanging from the rear view mirror (and both cars are rather small, so the windows are not large to begin with). I had to call out “STOP SIGN !!!” on three occasions the last time I was riding with one of them. And then I took the placard off and asked, “Is here on the seat beside me all right?” She nodded “yes”, kept looking out the front window, and said, “Oh my gosh….that WAS blocking things!”

My point is that some people certainly DO have so many beads/feathers/whatever draped over the mirror that it obstructs just as much road and signage as an opaque plastic handicapped sign does!

17 Anon February 11, 2014 at 2:47 AM

:My GPS does not distract me at all. And it will stay where it is on the windshield. What I have hanging from my mirror does not distract me either so it will stay. No cop is going to waste time pulling someone over for this.”

“Just saying some of these cali laws are pretty stupid.”

Just another person who feels the laws do not apply to them & they are above it all. I wonder how they would feel if their child was killed by someone who violated some stupid law. I can only imagine the additude if they ever got a ticket. The laws are there for a reason & not “stupid” like Mrs.. T said. Ask any cop. Karma isn’t cool & calling laws stupid shows you for who you are.

18 Mrs. T February 11, 2014 at 8:26 AM

You are right 17 it does show me for who I am. A citizen who obeys all laws except the ones that are stupid :) I think I can judge for myself if something is blocking my view. But please do not bring children into this debate, what is wrong with you??. If you can’t have a back and forth with me stating your opinion on the matter without being rude or bringing my kids into it then you need not comment. Why don’t you try being a grown up before you comment next time. Take notes from my back and forth with Clayden. Neither of us were being rude, just stuck to the point!!

19 Anon777 February 11, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Thank you Mrs. T. I get pulled over every two years like clockwork and in my 33 years of driving and having something hanging from the rear view mirror, I’ve NEVER been ticketed for that. That, alone tells you how serious the cops see this issue!

20 Cowellian February 11, 2014 at 9:13 AM

As I told my kids when they were learning to drive, for every stupid law, there was a least one very stupid person that made that law necessary.

21 RunnerDope February 11, 2014 at 9:33 AM


And if we have a law for every stupid person, we’re gonna end up with a lot of stupid laws.

22 Janis Mara February 11, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Ahahahahaha this thread is hilarious! Just wanted you to know our CHP law enforcement officer will weigh in about those items dangling from the rear view mirror in the next column. Traffic Jammer over and out :-)

23 Cowellian February 11, 2014 at 6:22 PM

I think we’re already there.

24 ClayDen February 11, 2014 at 8:06 PM

@Mrs. T 18

I’m guessing that you agree that it was OK for Edward Snowden to commit treason too, because he didn’t agree with the laws regarding classified material. If you don’t like a law, get it changed.

25 B.Obama February 11, 2014 at 10:09 PM

If you don’t like a law, just ignore it.

26 Mrs. T February 12, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Clayden I actually have no opinion on that because I do not follow stuff that does not intrigue me. So guess again :)

27 Lyle Burks February 13, 2014 at 10:22 AM


A small correction to your answer to Killjoy. AASHTO does set standards, however, for “Traffic Engineering” guidelines California (cities and counties included) use the MUTCD, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, as modified by CALTRANS. This book defines everything from lane widths and configuration, to signal heads.
You’re welcome your majesty

28 Janis Mara February 13, 2014 at 5:11 PM

@Lyle #27, so happy to see from you, my friend! We are lucky to have your expertise in this column. Thanks for your help. Say, just one more question. How do you pronounce “MUTCD?” :-)

29 Atticus Thraxx February 13, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Easy Clayden…your bump-drafting Mrs.T. Road rage while talking about driving is kinda funny though.
Never mind, please continue :)

30 nytemuvr February 13, 2014 at 8:06 PM

I’ll take Mrs. T for a ride on the Autobahn in the old Mopar, see what she has to say (probably not much), bring an extra Depends. She can ride with you first Clayden.

31 Mrs. T February 14, 2014 at 9:59 AM

#30. I would probably say I know a Dart that will drag race you under the table. Come from a family of drag racing honey. I ain’t skeered :)

32 nytemuvr February 14, 2014 at 11:37 AM

@Mrs. T #31
It’s like fighting someone….there’s always someone faster or a better fighter. I have a friend with a AA/Alcohol dragster that’ll beat your friends Dart. So neener, neener, neener. My Challenger is set-up for top speed, can’t compare apples and oranges. Drag racing is Cruisin’ Creek days. Watch BBC Top Gear and you’ll see different driving attitudes in other countries. Our Interstate system was designed for 100 mph when conceived, (which still isn’t finished after 75 years). When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s we drove to Oklahoma most summers and Dad cruised at 100 mph as soon as we left California on Route 66.

33 Connie Dobbs February 14, 2014 at 1:18 PM

I’ve always been a little curious about people who hang dream catchers from their mirrors. What are they trying to tell us?

34 Anon-E-Cat February 14, 2014 at 1:34 PM

@Anon#7 – The metal blocking gate was purposely put there to stop stupid bicycle riders from attempting to cross Treat where there was an opening in the median. What you are SUPPOSED to do is go up to the signal, push the button, walk your bike in the crosswalk, and continue on your route bringing both safety to yourself as well as the drivers on Treat. Quit whining and go up a few feet to the signal light.

35 Antler February 15, 2014 at 8:39 PM

Connie at #33….. That makes two of us! But then I thought that if some Catholics hang a rosary and cross from the mirror, and some pot smokers hang their feathered accessories, etc., well maybe those with dream catchers are trying to tell us they are of Native American heritage?

36 Z-Man February 18, 2014 at 8:47 PM

Janis, You always end with “See you next Monday”

I guess your column is not exempt from Banker’s Holidays?!

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