Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Crossing a Double Yellow Line, Loud Stereos & Mufflers, Sudden Braking + Much More

April 21, 2014 14:00 pm · 45 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: Driving down California Street near Trader’s Joes, I see people both making left turns into the Trader’s parking lot and coming out of the lot making left turns on to California. There is a double yellow line there, which is not separated to allow turning. Is it not a violation to cross a double yellow?

–Walking The Line

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Beloved Claycordian, the Jammer understands your confusion. She blushes to admit that once upon a time, she actually honked (well, it was just a very short blip) at someone for turning left across a double yellow line. It just seemed, well, wrong.

To her surprise, upon researching this years ago, the Jammer discovered that in California it is perfectly legal. Those seeming miscreants in Trader Joe’s are not doing anything wrong. Drivers can make a left turn either across two parallel solid lines or across two parallel lines, one of which is broken. This is set forth in California Vehicle Code section 21460(c).

When you brought it up, WTL, the Jammer turned to our beloved Officer Leo to make sure nothing changed since she last researched the matter. Here’s the officer’s verdict:

Double yellows can be crossed for left turns.

This is often confused with two set of double lines (that’s four lines total). This is covered by

2.   Divided Highways (Section 21651, Vehicle Code)

It is unlawful to drive over, upon, across, or to the left of the barrier, double parallel lines, or dividing section of a divided highway.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Controversy arose in the comments section of the last column regarding noisy mufflers and stereos. For those of you who didn’t catch La Ducha’s comments, or even those who did, the Jammer feels it is her duty to share:

COMMUTER: 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. … A tuner car is a lowered Honda, aftermarket wheels, a spoiler and cut coil springs. … 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.

–La Ducha

COMMUTER: (Responding to La Ducha:) Actually, they don’t play tubas in Hell, they play accordions.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: So, Claycordians all, as you can see, last week’s column was one of the most amusing on record. The Jammer thanks La Ducha and Kirkwood for their contributions. Obviously, it is beyond my ken, indeed, my Barbie and my Skipper, to divine whether it is tuba or accordion music that torments the ears of those who find themselves consigned to the Lake of Fire. (“Dammit, Jim, I’m a commuter columnist, not a theologian!”)

However, let’s see what we can discover when it comes to loud mufflers and loud music. There was quite a bit of debate as to what is and isn’t legal when it comes to noise. Once again, Officer Leo has come to the rescue. Here are his insights:

Yes, loud vehicle stereos are covered under Section 27007 of the Vehicle Code. If I can hear it from 50 feet away, it’s too loud. The average lane is 10-12 feet wide. And I put cars and trucks at roughly the same length. You can do the math.

Here are the sections on exhaust noise.  Rather than go by the decibels, the average street cop goes by the following rule: “Is it louder than when it rolled off the show room floor”?

If so, it had been modified. If it’s been modified to be louder than stock, then it can be construed as excessive and/ or unusual. This is the argument we use and it’s upheld in the courts.

Muffler shops, mechanics and car-guys (or girls) will argue the decibels as reported or recorded by themselves or manufacturers.  I’m telling you from courtroom experience.

Vehicle Code section 27151:

(a)    No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle so that the vehicle is not in compliance with the provisions of Section 27150 or exceeds the noise limits established for the type of vehicle in Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 27200). No person shall operate a motor vehicle with an exhaust system so modified.

Vehicle Code section 27150.   Adequate Muffler Required

(a)    Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.

COMMUTER: “…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 brake 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.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer is unsure whether VB was being sarcastic in this comment, which appeared in last week’s column. Another reader responded seeking Officer Leo’s opinion: “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 overruled by you causing the accident by abruptly breaking for no reason.”

Here’s Officer Leo’s input:

I am compelled to address the comment about inducing a collision by needlessly and abruptly braking. This is flat-out dangerous and illegal. One cannot control nor predict how a driver that is already arguably traveling faster than you or following closely will react. The handbook tells you to tap your brakes, move over, or (as a last resort) slow until they pass.

Vehicle Code section 22109.   Signal When Stopping

No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle on a highway without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give the signal.

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 Gross Polluter April 21, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Well, If it’s a Rice Rocket aka Ricer with a fart can exhaust with a bunch of “AEM” stickers it can also be assumed that they’ve removed cat converters to enhance performance. If you are ever around any of these cars and they smell bad like an old 70’s Nova, then they most likely have modified the emissions. Feel free to get their license plate and:

Help Fight Smog!

To report polluters, please call the ARB’s Vehicle Complaint Hotline at 800.END.SMOG or 800.363.7664.

For additional information, check the ARB air pollution complaints web page:

Your support for clean air is greatly appreciated!

2 Dan April 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Here is a CHP memo regarding exhaust noise enforcement. “Louder than stock” is not against the law, and any officers and/or judges enforcing it this way are either being lazy or simply flouting the law as written.

And here are the laws, as written in the California Vehicle Code

CA. V.C. 27151 No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle so that the vehicle is not in compliance with the provisions of Section 27150 or exceeds the noise limits established for the type of vehicle in Article 2.5(commencing with Section 27200) of this chapter. No person shall operate a motor vehicle with an exhaust system so modified.

This shows that there are other characteristics that the exhaust system must conform to truly show a violation. This also shows that other vehicle codes must be considered when in violation of this vehicle code.

CA. V.C. 27150 (a) Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device.

(b) Except as provided in Division 16.5 (commencing with Section 38000) with respect to off-highway motor vehicles subject to identification, every passenger vehicle operated off the highways shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and proper maintained so as to meet the requirements of Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 27200), and no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass, or similar device. (c) The provision of subdivision (b) shall not be applicable to passenger vehicles being operated off the highways in an organized racing or competitive event conducted under the auspices of a recognized sanctioning body or by permit issued by the local governmental authority having jurisdiction.

Part (a) states that the muffler must suppress any excessive or unusual noise. This refers to part (b) which states that the muffler must meet the requirements of Article 2.5, which refers to noise levels. Part (a) and (b) also refer to a cut-away, bypass or similar device commonly known as a “dump.”

And finally, a clearly defined limit
(1) Sound Level Limit. The exhaust noise shall not exceed 95 dB(A).

Check my link for yourself. Modified exhaust is not illegal.

3 Dan April 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

And if Bob’s Mufflers doesn’t sound like a credible source, then maybe the California Bureau of Automotive Repair is…

4 jbelkin April 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Yea, if that guy is not being sarcastic, he’s clearly an *** and needs to grow up. The bottom line is driving is a social function. Sure, you can drive with your left turn signal on for 5 miles because you intend to turn left 10-minutes from now, should you? Yes, it’s your car but yea, that does not mean you should pump your brake every 2 minutes just to prove you can. If you want to drive 55-65 do so in the right lanes where people can/should pass you on the left – as the driver’s handbook clearly staates, the left lane on a freeway is intended for faster traffic. Just as you can walk down a sidewalk swinging your arms wildly- should you? So, don’t arbitrarily change lanes just because you can …

5 anon April 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Some of these tailgaters just don’t have any patience to wait for the car to move over until it’s safe to do so. When it’s safe to do so I let these jerk have the lane.

6 ClayDen April 21, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Yesterday I was driving south on 680 in Fremont in the restricted lane (the car pool/FasTrak lane) at something like 75-77 with an SUV riding my bumper. After a while I tapped the brake while also accelerating slightly and he backed off for a few seconds, but then resumed sitting about a car length from my bumper. I would have pulled over to let him go, but did not want to cross the broad white line “barrier.” Since I was already almost 15 over the speed limit, I didn’t want to speed up. Finally, he crossed over the “barrier,” passed me and then pulled in front of me and pulled away at about 85mph.

Any advice?

7 BDuns April 21, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Exhaust noise must be less than or equal to 95 decibels…..I know, because in college a couple CHiPs pulled me over for that reason as I left a liquor store one night. Went to the BAR referee, tested it on his “official” equipment. That was a FUN win in court :)

And @ Gross Polluter – you know what they say about those who assume. Please explain how the “modified the emissions.” Removed the catalytic converter? No problem, very easy to add back to your car, plenty of people only hook ‘em back up for smog checks. But really, they aren’t the problem when they’re still getting 25-30mpg.

You want to play busy-body policeman smog monitor? Burn your energy on anything pre-1975. Horrible gas mileage and NOT required to get smog checks.

8 Patty April 21, 2014 at 3:25 PM

I would like to talk about another topic – Tailgaters. I commute long distances every day to work. At times, certain drivers follow dangerously close. If I am going 50-60 mph or more, and I am NOT in the fast lane, I should not be able to see the face of the person behind me. If I can, they are following too closely.
So, when this happens, I put my hand up and indicate that they should back up. At this point, many realize what they are doing and they back-up. No problem. But some jerks actually shake their head – no. So, I just slow down. Alot. What are they going to do? Hit me? At that point, they always go around me and speed off. Officer Leo probably doesn’t like that idea either. Oh well.

9 DrDuran April 21, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Dan, I read that page as well but it doesn’t spec out how the test is done like the page I posted.

10 the Shi ite April 21, 2014 at 3:46 PM

The 65 mph speed “limit” has been touched on in the past and from law enforcement. It came down to a Flow of Traffic issue not an arbitrary “every car must set their cruise control at 65 or else”.
I think there should be a minimum speed limit as well ~ some of you are downright scary and have no business on Any Freeway.
And yes, 65 mph in the left lane = You deserve a ticket for creating a Hazard.

11 Cowellian April 21, 2014 at 3:53 PM

My `70 Barracuda was a pre-catalytic converter car, but it sure sounded nice once I replaced the stock exhaust with headers and glasspacks.

12 mutts April 21, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Loud mufflers and motorcycles, so offensive. We get it, you have a small penis, loud vehicles don’t compensate!

13 @mutts April 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM

Your insight is interesting, on what do you base
your diagnosis, experience?

14 Gross Polluter April 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM

It’s as easy as taking down a plate and filing a complaint, if you want to ride dirty and take your chances removing cats good luck with that $10,000 fine.
No energy loss on my part.

15 ClayDen April 21, 2014 at 4:47 PM


I have a ’67 Barracuda with the 273 V-8 and four barrel carb. I didn’t put headers on it, but did put glasspacks with the exhaust exiting on both sides, just in front of the rear wheels. It sounded wonderful, especially when kept between 4,000 and 6,000RPM (or a bit more) in the twisties while accelerating, decelerating and blipping the throttle on my double-clutched downshifts. I wish my Mazda 3 had a raspier exhaust.

16 mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Loud pipes saves lives. Mutts & Gross polluter. Motorcycles do not have catalytic converters nor do 1970 novas. You hippies are proud of govenor brown in the 70’s. He ruined the hot rods. Emisions did not come into play till 1975. Govenor Brown had a brother in law that came up with the airpump.. Learn a little before you post on here. Don’t look stupid. OOps to late.

17 busted knuckle April 21, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Loud pipes at least on motorcycles save lives. Just ask any motor officer, in every bike shop i ever worked at the first modification that we did was to install louder than stock exhaust system on all the PD motorcycles. This was at the request of the depts officers as they found that the sound gets drivers attention and prevents m/v collisions with inattentive or distracted drivers. This works. If I have offended you with the sound of my bike then at least I know your looking at me and not running me over.

18 anon666 April 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM

@ mwo1859

You’re wrong. Most new motorcycles do come with catalytic converters and it’s been that way with Harleys for many years. I have a Honda dual sport (converted to a supermoto) and it came with all kinds of smog crap on it from the factory.

19 mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 6:13 PM

I have never seen a harley with a cat. Not even the vrods.

20 ClayDen April 21, 2014 at 6:15 PM


Emission controls came into place before 1975. As I recall, the first PCV controls were required in 1962. They started to tighten up emissions in 1967, and most (GM and Ford?) used air pumps. The big concern initially was unburned hydrocarbons. Chrysler used a different approach that didn’t require an air pump; they ran their engines lean and modified the distributor advance curve below about 1,500 RPM. Then they found out that NOx emissions were greatly increased due to the higher combustion temperatures resulting from the methods used to reduce the unburned hydrocarbon emissions, so they increased the emission requirements. The auto companies didn’t have adequate technology to reduce emissions AND produce good power, so power suffered, primarily from the early 70s until the mid to late 80s. Performance started to return in the mid 80s, initially with catalytic coonverters, the beginning of computer controls and turbocharging. This is the era of the Dodge Colt Turbo, Mitsubishi Starion Turbo and Tredia Turbo. I bought a new Tredia Turbo in 1984 with a 1.8 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder that produced 116 HP and went 0-60 in about 8 seconds. That was very quick in those days. The Mitsubishi adds touted “Suddenly, four doors and a trunk have a new meaning.” A 1979 Corvette with the 5.7 liter V-8 only produced 195 HP. I replaced my ’84 Tredia Turbo with a new ’91 Mazda Protege with the same size engine, without a turbocharger that produced 9 more HP and got better gas mileage. Improved technology is a wonderful thing.

21 alright smog police calm down April 21, 2014 at 6:19 PM

I’m all for saving our precious environment, but I think the whole smog pass requirements in California are silly and set up to generate money for the government (ie fees, fines, etc) In other states they have a safety inspection that your car must pass to register, not a smog requirement. They check your brakes, seatbelts, horn, and other things that impact safety like a cracked windshield, etc. This makes way more sense to me!!

So to all you smog taddlers, I think you need to get a life. Just saying!

22 mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Thank you busted knuckle

23 mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 6:27 PM Show me the cat on that bike!!!!!!!!!!!!

24 After a... April 21, 2014 at 7:03 PM

triple latte, on an often empty stomach makes
for an edgy driver, add the fact they are always
running late( long line at Starbucks d/t), and
it’s a recipe for disaster.

25 La Ducha April 21, 2014 at 7:06 PM

Thanks, Claycord! Glad to have amused, but it really is a nuisance. I really enjoy the column!

26 mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 7:11 PM

actually airpumps started in 75. Govenor Brown’s brother in law invented it. Thank you. I have been selling auto parts for over 20 years. Plus I am a gear head

27 DrDuran April 21, 2014 at 8:18 PM

Mwo, stop being an Ass. My ’66 caprice had an air pump from the factory.

28 DrDuran April 21, 2014 at 8:21 PM

“Secondary air injection (commonly known as air injection, or colloquially smog pump) is a vehicle emissions control strategy introduced in 1966, wherein fresh air is injected into the exhaust stream to allow for a fuller combustion of exhaust gases.”

29 RANDOM TASK April 21, 2014 at 8:22 PM

wow the DMV hand book is printed in 35 languages and displayed prominently for you to take and get informed ……obviously the manual in the language of lazy still needs to be printed as you are the reason for pissing off the drivers who know the laws ……like who has the right of way a person pulling out of a parking lot or the person in a turn lane pulling into the lot ……..well most think they can pull out whenever they want and by doing so the person pulling in or making a u turn with the right of way gets stuck in the middle of the street while the person illegally pulling out gives em the finger and screeches off. If the DMV actually did its job by putting only certified drivers on the road we would have no congestion and no road rage …the DMV is a money grubbing agency that takes your money and gives you a license regardless of how well they drive or even if they are legal in the country ……..nice ……..yay

30 @mwo1859 April 21, 2014 at 8:42 PM

Google “Harley catalytic converter” and you’ll get a surprise. Just because they’re well-disguised, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

31 funny man April 21, 2014 at 8:53 PM

“They check your brakes, seatbelts, horn, and other things that impact safety like a cracked windshield, etc. This makes way more sense to me!! ”
Sorry, common sense was outlawd in clownifornia years ago
with all the jalopes on the road, id rather see safety inspection then smog inspections
more stringent(sp?) driving test requirements too… way too many unsafe drivers behind the wheel too!

32 Mark April 21, 2014 at 9:11 PM

A lot of drivers know the laws. Some people study the DMV handbook and memorize the laws verbatim.

Well educated people anyway. They study everything closely.

33 crazytech58 April 21, 2014 at 10:24 PM

@mwo1859 Harley’s started putting cats on their bikes in 2008 on some models, and all of them have them in 2010, they are built into the pipes or mufflers, so you don’t SEE them like a car exhaust, but they are there. Google “do harleys have catalytic converters”, or go to hd forums .com

34 @funky man April 22, 2014 at 4:42 AM

Be careful what you wish for. I’m sure you think safety inspections are great until you have to start paying for them, and for all the unnecessary repairs.

35 ANON April 22, 2014 at 7:56 AM

“If so, it had been modified. If it’s been modified to be louder than stock, then it can be construed as excessive and/ or unusual. This is the argument we use and it’s upheld in the courts.”

That is all the violators need to read– but they do not care—they should know that the public hates them & hopes they do not sleep at night as we don’t get to.

36 Connie Dobbs April 22, 2014 at 8:42 AM

#6 Clayden, my advice is to be happy that you have clearly have more control over your personal life than SUV boy has over his. Also be grateful that he has chosen to attract the attention of the CHP, thus allowing you to keep moving along at a brisk 72mph.

37 Aspirin April 22, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Harleys are all show and no go so loud pipes make then seem fast, but they are not. The Harley “image” is the tough guy who is not concerned about keeping the neighborhood awake at 2:00 AM but is more concerned about playing the part that Marlon Brando played in The Wild One. The Official Harley “look” is black mini-helmet, black jacket, pants, mustache, goatee, and boots. Obviously this precludes any semblance of a rebel, rather it is one of a follower of fad and fashion. Hardly the tough-guy.

The most cited excuse for loud pipes is safety, the theory is that noise causes other drivers to be alerted to the presence of a MC. This is true but the degree of loudness doesn’t have to be such that the MC can be heard accelerating up the Ignacio Valley Road hill from over a full mile away.

I am hopeful that excessive exhaust noise is cited whenever possible. I cannot imagine the mentality of someone taking pleasure in creating such racket.

38 Retired Cop April 22, 2014 at 9:46 AM

“:I am hopeful that excessive exhaust noise is cited whenever possible. I cannot imagine the mentality of someone taking pleasure in creating such racket”

If you met them– you would understand. The amount of additude & anti-police hatred is all you need to hear. Please sign here as you are making 3 copies.

39 Substance over image April 22, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Aspirin-….it’s “Ygnacio”….that insignificant error aside, you’re 100% spot on with your analysis. It’s shame too. I’d love to support an American made product.

40 James H April 22, 2014 at 10:09 AM

A subject I’d like to see covered in a future column is colored LEDs on cars, specifically red and/or blue lights on the front. I’m pretty sure that these are illegal (red and/or blue on the front is reserved for emergency vehicles) but somehow I see people get away with using them. They’re usually on the tuner cars or lowered pickups. Am I correct that these are illegal or is it only against the law if they flash?

41 Kirkwood April 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Calif. DID have a safety inspection program back in – I think the 70’s. They were done like the dui inspections of today. I remember getting a warning for my trailer hitch ball partially blocking the license plate. I was told to have the ball upside down when not towing.

42 ANON April 22, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Am I correct that these are illegal or is it only against the law if they flash?

43 ANON April 22, 2014 at 12:44 PM

“Am I correct that these are illegal or is it only against the law if they flash?”

They are illegal– but to be enforced a cop must get out of their car & write the ticket– like loud pipes.Its all that simple.

44 Janis Mara April 22, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Okley dokley, I hear and obey – will look into the ins, outs, ups and downs of your question and try to shed some light. (Get it? Light? Flash? Uh … never mind.)

45 Antler April 22, 2014 at 10:43 PM

Holy exhaust pipes!!! You’re running with a pretty excitable crowd on here Janis! ;-)

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