Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Loud Exhaust, Speed Limit, DMV, No Trucks on I-580 + MORE

April 14, 2014 14:00 pm · 35 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: Since you seem to have such a fabulous connection to officers, maybe you could once and for all clear up the confusion and frustration regarding posted speed limits.  You just referenced the towing rules:

 Most drivers in passenger vehicles who are towing are unaware of this law, despite the signs all over the freeway that say “All Vehicles When Towing 55 Maximum.”

I wanted to again bring up the inconsistency between the “posted speed limit” and the “slower traffic keep right” signs. I can get a speeding ticket if I drive over the posted speed limit, but I can also get one if I drive it and the rest of the public decides that they’d rather drive 75-80 mph.

If THEY set the speed much faster, then I am obligated to move over so they can break the law and endanger others on the road.  Someone, somewhere, needs to deal with this. Either the speed limit is 65 on the freeway, or it’s not. If it is, then I should be able to drive that speed in any lane I choose.

Please get some official input on this once and for all!

–Speeders vs. Road Boulders

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Actually, SVRB, the Jammer has addressed this more than once in the past, and has included comments from law enforcement.

Since the question does seem to keep popping up, much like a Bozo Punching Bag (remember those?), Leo, our resident Claycord law enforcement officer, kindly agreed to respond. Here’s what he had to say:

It would be incredibly rare to receive a citation for going the speed limit when “the flow of traffic” is going faster. However it is just as inherently dangerous to maintain your position in lanes you know are moving faster than you. Unless you’re employed like I am, it’s not your job to slow people down.

Traffic history: the maximum speed limit was 55 mph. Both for safety and fuel economy.  It’s been changed. And still there are select areas within the state that are higher.

When the signs were new and shiny – when the roadway was flat and free of imperfections, vehicles did not have the performance capability they do today. It took longer to accelerate, longer to stop, and sometimes it took more effort to maintain high speeds.

With this in mind, slower traffic moved right.

This little lesson might help explain the inconsistency.

So, what shall we do?

I reiterate the words of my esteemed colleague from the CHP.

With respect to the HOV laws, or any laws for that matter, it is up to the individual as to whether he or she chooses to live within the laws or violate them. The role of law enforcement officers has never been to guarantee obedience to the laws. Society in general creates a system of laws which we all are expected to follow, and we as peace officers are tasked with maintaining order and dealing with those who choose to violate those laws.

No matter how many officers we employ and have on the streets, we as law enforcement cannot guarantee a completely law-abiding society. We are the stewards of the law, but we cannot force someone to obey the law. The decision to do something legal or illegal rests squarely upon the shoulders of the individual.

Many people make negative comments about traffic enforcement, in many cases due to a citation they received.

Or in this case, one they anticipate.

What can you do? Vote.  I strongly advocate voting. You can make a difference.  You can create laws or change them.  It takes time, energy and effort but it is possible.  I’ve been a part of it.

If you have time to blog, you have time to make a difference.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Our beloved Mayor already ran an item about this, but the Jammer figures it won’t hurt to put up another reminder: The DMV office located at 2070 Diamond Boulevard in Concord closed  n for renovations on Friday, April 11, 2014, and will reopen in September. Thanks to the helpful reader who conveyed the information!

COMMUTER: I am in utter sympathy and solidarity with the Claycordian who has posted about the inverse relationship between loud exhaust on motorcycles and certain portions of the anatomy. Is there a law against those thrice-damned exhaust blasts? What about car horns?

–Noise Complaint

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Why yes, NC, as a matter of fact, there is. Motorcycles manufactured after 1985 are legally restricted to a top end of 80 decibels, which is approximately equivalent to an alarm clock.

And you are right – there are laws placing noise limits on other vehicles, too. One example is that mufflers must be maintained “to prevent any excessive or unusual noise.” Law enforcement officers do indeed enforce this, NC.

COMMUTER: Someone pointed out to me that there apparently is some sort of gentleman’s agreement that big trucks drive on Interstate 880 but not Interstate 580 between Oakland and Hayward? 

–Gentleman Jim

TRAFFIC JAMMER: As a matter of fact, GJ, it’s more than a gentleman’s agreement. It’s actually against the law, which dictates that no vehicle weighing 9,000 pounds or more can be operated on I-580 between Grand Avenue in Oakland and the San Leandro city limits.

Buses and paratransit vehicles are allowed to drive the 8.7-mile-long stretch of road, and sometimes the ban is relaxed for practical reasons.

This is actually one of the Jammer’s favorite bits of traffic history in the Bay Area. In 1951, trucks weren’t allowed on MacArthur Boulevard, then a major artery because I-580 hadn’t yet been built. The ban arose to save the pavement from wear and tear and the residents from noise and pollution, and was extended to the freeway in 1962.

Speaking of another favorite bit of traffic history, Beloved Claycordians, what role did a Rancho Cordova firm play in one of the major traffic events in the Bay Area? We’ll all know if you googled or not by the timestamp on your response J

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And now, continuing on the subject of quizzes: The Jammer recently ran a quiz, asking, “When is it illegal to go on a green?” The responses were awesome, as they always are; and not one of them was wrong.

However, as is so often the case in life, some were more right than others, and three winners were chosen by Officer Leo on the basis of how much they corresponded to the spirit of the question. Which gave rise to this follow-up comment:

COMMUTER: So in reading the “supposed” correct answer to the quiz, you can drive “straight through” when your light is green even though you may block the intersection when the light turns red? Need clarification here, please.


TRAFFIC JAMMER:  Our beloved Officer Leo quickly, as in the very day the column appeared, advised the Jammer thusly:

In today’s column, someone asked for clarification about the quiz.  And the response is “no.” A driver cannot enter an intersection on a green signal knowing that he/ she cannot get to other side. It was only in the spirit of the quiz and question that the more accurate answers were chosen.

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 J. April 14, 2014 at 2:14 PM

C.C. Myers did the MacArthur Maze Repair in record time.

2 GT April 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

CC Myers from Rancho Cordova rebuilt the EB 580 overpass in the MacArthur Maze after a truck fire melted it several years ago.

3 VB April 14, 2014 at 2:26 PM

“..Either the speed limit is 65 on the freeway, or it’s not. If it is, then I should be able to drive that speed in any lane I choose…”

Sure — always drive slowly in the fast lane. Let them pass you and get pissed off. Another good trick is to break abruptly from time to time. If the person behind me does not keep the distance, he will rear-end me, and it will be his fault.

4 @VB April 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

I would like to get Leo’s input on this, because sudden braking for no apparent reason might be considered reckless driving and the results of your rear ender may not be as pleasant as you think. Your argument of they were following too close may be over ruled by you causing the accident by abruptly breaking for no reason.

Maybe road boulders should be thinking about courtesy. Yes the posted speed limit is 65, but if you know you are driving slower than the flow of traffic, be courteous and move to the right. Being self righteous in your adherence to the posted speed limit just makes you an A*@hole not a good driver.

5 Props to Leo April 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Leo answered the question about blocking traffic in the left lane perfectly. Let’s just hope that Captain Road Boulder (brilliant term, BTW) finally figures out that speed enforcement is not his job.

6 Killjoy April 14, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Actually VB, it will be your fault for purposely hitting your brakes and causing an accident.

7 Killjoy April 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Speaking of noise levels, is there a law against those obnoxious thumping stereos?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for their right to listen to whatever they want. It’s just that I don’t want to have to hear it.

8 Cowellian April 14, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Intentionally blocking traffic, at any speed, is a form of aggressive driving.

9 cvhsgradclassof80 April 14, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Killjoy, I believe there is, I think it’s 50 or 100 feet from the vehicle

10 Fred April 14, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Killjoy– you bet there is a law against the loud stereos – it should be enforced more often…BUT the M/C offenders are by the millions & they are rarely stopped & tickets handed out… bicycle riders do whatever they want & rarely get stopped & feel they are above the law…also ask any hot rod with Flowmasters which raises the muffler noise a lot–they will say it is legal–they are wrong. I wish the cops had time to make our standard of living nicer.

11 slagheap April 14, 2014 at 4:06 PM

motorcycle noise laws are enforced??? since when? the hell they are!!! on the road anywhere in concord you drive for two minutes without being subjected to ugly EAR SPLITTING racket from motorcycle exhausts, 95% of it from big-twin cruisers and/or choppers. these bikes ALL have illegal, modified, gutted exhaust systems, and the cops are obviously too busy to stop them & issue citations. there not hard to pick out, it’s not like the miscreants can just throttle back when they see a cop, these things are freaking LOUDER THAN HELL. i pity the poor people that live along the main streets like willow pass road, etc. these illegal pipes must obliterate all other sounds, such as tv or conversation, in their living rooms. why can’t we bust these fools?

12 @Fred April 14, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Get a life !

13 BDuns April 14, 2014 at 4:20 PM

@ VB – you are an ass. You don’t have anything better to do than just purposely piss people off? Sure, most of the time speeders don’t have a reason, but who are you to judge? If I came across you purposely blocking me from driving 80mph on 680 because my wife has gone into labor…may God help you.

14 Fred April 14, 2014 at 4:26 PM

I enjoy a nice lifestyle– you probably are a law violator or a jerk M/C or bicycle punk….when you get woke up every night like I did when I lived on Clayton Road on the 80’s-you might get a clue–but- you are not that smart.

15 La Ducha April 14, 2014 at 4:28 PM

In the Monument area, the tuner cars with the coffee can exhaust are the biggest nuisance. That booming fart bass will make one mad, combined with a gargling with razor blade style exhaust note. I’ll take Harley noise any day, the tuner guys like to loiter and subject you to their listening preference. At least the bike moves down the road.

16 BagsFlyFree April 14, 2014 at 4:31 PM

@VB you really think you could play road defense and win in court?? Wrong… Keyboard fencing at its finest.

17 @Fred,again April 14, 2014 at 4:58 PM

After sixty years on earth, I have learned that
some people, perhaps most, have a pet peave,
that pathologically drives them nuts. I think loud
noises heard could be yours. I have gotten to
a point that , although very near , the noise of
Bart trains don’t bother me anymore. Yes I ride
both motorcycles( with stock exhaust ), and
bicycles. But deny your claim I am a ” punk”.
Instead I will say your use of the word punk,
suggests your a crotchety old fart.

18 justice April 14, 2014 at 5:34 PM

i agree.. I see and hear WAAAAYYY too many motorcycles with extra loud exhausts.. and I also see motorcycles driving extremely recklessly as well.. all the time.

19 @justice April 14, 2014 at 5:54 PM

And of course you never see car or truck drivers
acting as you say motorcycle riders do,right?
Whiny whiners, this is the piddily crap that bugs
you, good lord!

20 Rose Garden April 14, 2014 at 6:11 PM

I don’t let loud music, motorcycles, etc. bother me. I tune it out.

People are still questioning the green light question? I answered it correctly, only because I’d just renewed my license.

I read the DMV handbook, and took a few sample tests online. It helps!

21 buttocks April 14, 2014 at 6:24 PM

this is hilarious…”la ducha”… that’s classic.”fart bass”….too funny.
what’s a tuner car?

22 La Ducha April 14, 2014 at 7:53 PM

A tuner car is a lowered Honda, aftermarket wheels, a spoiler and cut coil springs. So the rear wheels are out of camber/tilting to the sides. Usually have a club logo sticker on the side window-the ones seen in the Monument area says “Simply Queer”. Listen to hours of ranchero music against your will and the tuba resembles a fart, I am convinced this is what they play in hell.

23 Teacher Wannabe April 14, 2014 at 9:04 PM

@Fred. I agree with you about the noise, but take exception to your bicycle comment, lumping ALL riders together. Granted there are a few bad apples, but I, and the majority, follow the rules, ride safely and don’t interfer with traffic. My opinion is that there a too many drivers who go out of their way to make honest bike rider’s lives rough, encroaching on the 3 foot margin ( Cal. State law) and not paying attention to the road.

24 Cuzzzzzzz...... April 14, 2014 at 9:34 PM

La Ducha #22,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,gave me the best laugh of the day. But… are sooooo correct. The Mexican Polka music is part of the plan to take over California……….And God forbid they are made to have cars that are street legal and keep the stereos turned down. Goes with the Ghetto sheet metal rattlers that we are importing from Richmond and Oakland…………Ain’t Concord grand?????

25 Janis Mara April 14, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Oh, my beloved Claycordians, I laughed until tears welled up in my eyes at @La Ducha #22. “I’m convinced this is the music they play in Hell.”

As for my question I thought was so tough, @J and @Gt #1 and #2 nailed it instantly. Love C.C. Myers!

26 Bike party noise! April 14, 2014 at 10:35 PM

Why didn’t the police cite the bike partiers the other night as they traversed from Lafayette to concord for hours blaring their amplified music? It took them 20 mins to get by any single house at a tine with their loud obnoxious music blaring from amplified speakers. People in cars trying to the same thing would never have gotten away with that

27 @killjoy April 14, 2014 at 11:10 PM

But what if I saw a small kitten or something in the road that made me suddenly press on brake.I swear I saw something in the road! Who’s fault is it then? It’s better to not tailgate and deal with it until you can pass than explain to the insurance company why you rear ended someone doncha think!

28 Tahiti Mike April 15, 2014 at 3:22 AM

For all you old timers, how many of you had a hot rod or a Harley when you were younger to impress the ladies with your loud exhausts hmmm?
Don’t get me wrong some exhaust are way too loud and most of those with the loud exhausts do receive tickets, I had 3. :) All I did was have an officer write it off and pay $10 to the court. The problem will not go away any time soon, just have patience and the noise will pass (unless its your neighbors car haha).

29 ANON April 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

” I think loud noises heard could be yours.”

No– the M/C noise is illegal & wakes people up -its really that simple…not sure what is wrong with you. Probably one of the violators. Yes– you are a punk.

30 buttocks April 15, 2014 at 8:14 AM

this is too much. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. Thanks for filling me in. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the tuners.

31 Jay April 15, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Rarely are excessive noise tickets written. If your contact at CHP says they are I would like to see the numbers, it just doesn’t happen. One of the main reasons is the courts rarely uphold the law, citing “excessive” to be an opinion and no officer I know of carries a meter to prove the output is greater than 80db. I love motorcycles (riding over 40 years) but when my (and everyone within 1/4 mile) peaceful Saturday afternoon around the BBQ is shattered by one or two egotistical motorcycle riders who have no consideration for others then I think it is about time for the cops and courts to start enforcing the laws.

32 Kirkwood April 15, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Actually, they don’t play tubas in Hell, they play accordions.

33 Anon April 15, 2014 at 12:08 PM

“All I did was have an officer write it off and pay $10 to the court.”

The Officer was to make sure you modified it back to legal –if you got 3 tickets –he did not do that. If you woke me up – I hate you.

34 Anon April 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

“One of the main reasons is the courts rarely uphold the law, citing “excessive” to be an opinion ”

I wrote dozens– never had to go to court..when you modify it from factory to make it louder–it was illegal. Never had an issue. It was a no brainer & I got majot additude from those who cared less who they woke up.

35 DrDuran April 15, 2014 at 4:12 PM

@anon -34

That’s just not true, state law does not say anything resembling “when you modify it from factory to make it louder-it was illegal”.

The standard is 95dB max when measured under specified conditions at 3/4 max engine RPM for cars & light trucks under 6000lbs.

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