Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Bumper-to-Bumper Etiquette, Seat Belts, Running Reds + MUCH MORE

June 9, 2014 14:00 pm · 40 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: I was driving in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic on a connector street, Central Avenue in El Cerrito, to get to the freeway and I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for the motorcycle behind me. He let out several loud blasts from his exhaust pipes, startling the dickens out of me, and passed on the right, at one point driving on the sidewalk.

Do I have a responsibility to stay close to the car ahead of me in a bumper-to-bumper situation?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Oh, dear, Wondering, sounds like this was one of those motorcyclists who gives all the others a bad name. Here’s what our resident Claycordian law enforcement officer, Officer Leo, has to say about the situation:

“Your responsibility is to drive with your safety and the safety of those around you in mind.

Some people can operate in relative safety at a closer interval in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Others leave a large safety gap between themselves and are subject to others constantly filling that space. Both methods are legal and acceptable if no one crashes.

It’s pretty obvious in your case that this motorcyclist was in a hurry. The loud pipes and passing on the right aren’t a big deal, but when he/she went on the sidewalk … C’mon … we don’t need instant-replay to know that foul.”

COMMUTER: People wearing a seat belt are at times severely injured during an accident. People wearing a seat belt are sometimes killed during an accident. It is time for you to step outside your box and start looking at the whole issue.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Peter’s remark was made in a discussion of seat belt use in the comments section of last week’s column.

In the interests of accuracy, Peter’s comment is true. Seat belts aren’t perfect. “It is true that sometimes the force of a crash is so great that nothing could have prevented injuries,” according to the website of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.

It is also true that 53 percent of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in the U.S. weren’t belted, according to statistics cited by the Centers for Disease Control. Buckling up reduces your risk of death by 45 percent and risk of injury by 50 percent, according to a January report from the centers at

An interesting datapoint: Folks at agencies like these say “crash,” instead of “accident,” because they maintain that almost all traffic accidents could be avoided.

COMMUTER: I was racing to get through an intersection and just managed to zip under the traffic light as it turned red. Isn’t there a rule that if you clear any pavement markings before the light changes, you won’t get a ticket?

–In A Hurry

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Beloved Claycordian, your question, and your traffic light technique, trouble me. Believe me, the Jammer knows how easy it is to get caught up in the rush to get to work, pick up the kids, get groceries in time for dinner. However, there is an uncomfortably direct connection between your viewing the intersection as a sort of video game to be defeated and the possibility that you might end up in the hospital.

Please remember what our pal Leo always says: Slow down. And to answer your question, once you have entered an intersection on a yellow light, you are legally in the intersection. That doesn’t mean you have to do it every time, of course.

COMMUTER: I was wondering who I would speak to about having traffic patterns monitored for possible additional stop light/stop signs around the Clayton Valley Charter High School area in Concord. The traffic is so horrible, especially coming off Academy Road on to Alberta. Also, what about crosswalk lights?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer has shared your question with Concord’s Traffic Czar, Ray Kuzbari, Questioning. Watch this space for answers!

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 I totally understand. June 9, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Very few things are as annoying as somebody who leaves 12 car lengths in front of them when traffic is moving at 1mph. How about people who fall way back from the car in front of them going through a traffic light so it turns red after like two cars? That’s pretty annoying, too.

2 ANON June 9, 2014 at 2:36 PM

“The loud pipes and passing on the right aren’t a big deal”

They are both illegal & the pipes make a poor quality of life-unless yo like being a low life who does not have to abide by the rules of society/law.

3 Idiocracy June 9, 2014 at 2:37 PM

The bottom line is there are too many people clogging up the freeways. Most have no concept of the fast lane. 65mph in my opinion is too slow, its 2014 not 1947. All 5 lane freeways should be 70 to 75. I like how Germany does it = no speed limit on their autoban. In fact you will get a ticket for driving too slow there! It would be nice if police pulled over slow pokes here since they are the number one causes of traffic. I’d tell you who the worst drivers are but I don’t need the heat.

4 Unhappy Neighbor June 9, 2014 at 3:08 PM

The traffic around Clayton Valley Charter High School is going to get worse. The school plans to increase enrollment by 500 students over the next few years. All 500 will come by car because they will all be from outside its attendance boundaries.

5 @ANON June 9, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Passing on the right is perfectly legal under some circumstances. Please read the vehicle code before pontificating about the rules of society and law.

6 Aspirin June 9, 2014 at 3:53 PM

When is excessive motorcycle noise going to be dealt with?

7 Aspirin June 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

@Idiocracy: People driving 75 mph are only wasting gas and putting excessive wear on car parts. Unless one is driving a great distance there is little time advantage. Slow down and relax a bit. You’ll be able to better control your blood pressure and stress levels, and be healthier in the bargain. I’ll drive 5 mph over the speed limit sometimes but never under. Anyone behind me is free to pass but don’t expect me to care if you are late too work.

8 Aspirin June 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Correction: That SB “to” work.

9 Lies, damn lies and statistics June 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

The stat of x% of people killed in auto crashes weren’t wearing their seat belt doesn’t really mean anything other than some number of people that were killed in auto crashes were not wearing seat belts. It doesn’t talk to survivability. What they should say is that x% of people killed in auto crashes would have survived if they had worn their seat-belt. I fully agree that all people riding in a motor vehicle should be belted in. What I’m saying is statistics don’t tell you anything and don’t really mean anything.

10 Dorothy June 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

“An interesting datapoint: Folks at agencies like these say “crash,” instead of “accident,” because they maintain that almost all traffic accidents could be avoided.”

Totally agree. Crash or wreck, whatever, it’s usually not an accident often because one or more vehicles were not driving in a legal or safe manner. Speeding, DUI, red light running, etc. & et al = crash – wreck – dead too maybe.

A tree falling on a vehicle can be an accident.

11 RunnerDope June 9, 2014 at 4:34 PM

>> And to answer your question, once you have entered an intersection on a yellow light, you are legally in the intersection.


A traffic school instructor beat this into my head about 20 years ago: to avoid a red light violation, the rear bumper of your vehicle must be at least half way through the intersection when the light turns red.

12 The Closer June 9, 2014 at 4:42 PM


Please cite the passage of the vehicle code where passing on the right including the sidewalk is acceptable. I can’t seem to find it.

13 Neverceasestoamazeme June 9, 2014 at 4:49 PM

Peter, as a former healthcare worker and one who worked in emergency situations I can tell you firsthand that overall wearing a seat belt will save a life and/or minimize injuries from those patients that I had assisted with coming into ER… I realize there are always exceptions…..Just like a cop wearing a bulletproof vest -majority of time will stop a bullet…unfortunately if bullet goes in right trajectory will make it thru that one susceptible area…….but overall a bulletproof vest will help save a life or minimize injury to the chest.

14 Nelson Muntz June 9, 2014 at 5:20 PM

>>He let out several loud blasts from his exhaust pipes, startling the dickens out of me, and passed on the right, at one point driving on the sidewalk.<<<

@Anon #5,

Where in the Vehicle code does it allow motorcycles to drive on a sidewalk?
Please read the entire sentence and comprehend its meaning before pontificating about the rules of society and law.

15 @12 June 9, 2014 at 5:27 PM

I never said riding on the sidewalk was legal, but the VC section pertaining to passing on the right is 21754.

16 @7 June 9, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Driving 55MPH on the freeway is MUCH worse for my blood pressure than driving 75MPH. And since I don’t ask you to maintain my car, I’m not sure how the extra wear and tear is relevant. You’re free to drive as slowly as you like (within the law) but stay out of the left lane so that those who want or need to go faster can get around you.

17 Longtime commuter June 9, 2014 at 6:21 PM

100% agree with Idocracy – “Slower traffic keep right”

Lane splitting by motorcycles should be illegal like it is in 49 other states.

Why is it that the smaller the vehicle the more rights they have? I like the law of the sea where the bigger vessel has the right of way.

18 Ven Exeter June 9, 2014 at 6:32 PM

Nothing worse than “gappers” in bumper to bumper freeway traffic. If people would pay attention to the road instead of their cell phones we wouldn’t have nearly as many traffic jams. Be a part of the solution and do everything you can to get where you’re going and off the freeway as quickly as possible. If you truly feel laws don’t apply to you and you are entitled to text or talk on the phone because traffic is slow, please do so in the right lane.

19 P_Hill June 9, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Last Wednesday I was on 680 traveling from San Ramon to Walnut Creek. It was bumper to bumper traffic. We were all doing 80 mph! Woohoo!!!

20 Oh Please, Alberta Is Not Bad June 9, 2014 at 6:47 PM

@Unhappy Neighbor –

If you’ve lived near Clayton Valley (Charter or Pre), you know that for 15-20 minutes in the morning and 15-20 minutes in the afternoon, there are kids and traffic. Plan for it, not a big deal. I live in the neighborhood next to campus as well and have had kids to get to Silverwood and Pine Hollow for years – you accommodate. We were never late because of traffic near the high school.

Can it be improved? Sure. They could remove the clump of bushes/trees on the corner of Alberta & Academy to improve sight lines and have the city of Concord regrade Academy so there’s not such an uphill slope into the intersection.

Minor changes rather than inconvenience all neighbors and travelers during that 40 minute combined window every day. Problem reduced. Another stop sign would just be a pain in the butt.

And, if you have followed the growth saga with the charter, you would know that growth may happen and maybe NOT at the current campus. They have looked at several alternatives to try to be good neighbors so as a community, let’s work with them to find a happy solution for all of us.

21 Momo June 9, 2014 at 6:48 PM

I always maintain at least a 3 car distance between the car in front of me. No matter where I am driving. I’ve been rear ended and I have rear ended someone in the past from not keeping that distance. By doing it now I have avoided several accidents. Sorry if it bothers you. But my safety and those around me are more important than your impatience to get where you are going 5 seconds sooner than me.

22 Atticus Thraxx June 9, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Three car lengths is over doing it and your likely cause more issues than your addressing. Why are you people so stubbornly static during a dynamic activity? If your that afraid have some drive you. No reason to take it out on the rest of us.

23 Jerk June 9, 2014 at 7:26 PM

Even the CEO of Harley issued a Statement telling the loud pipe clowns to knock it off before you ruin it for Everyone. Too late.

Regarding freeways:
When I’m passing people in a 4 cylinder 4Runner (total gutless) and you are driving a V8, turn in your keys and get off the road – You’re too scared and frightened to be on the roads.

24 Anon June 9, 2014 at 9:18 PM

Dear Questioning,
Do not hold your breath for any improvements to our streets near schools. By the lack of police presence at ANY schools in the area, even after multiple complaints, I have come to the conclusion that CPD really has put student pedestrian safety at the very abysmal bottom of their priority list. Someone’s child is going to have to get killed before CPD starts cracking down on idiotic drivers in school zones.
The city claims they are too back logged, or are lacking funds to make any safety improvements in the near future.
Sad state of affairs.

25 Unhappy Neighbor June 9, 2014 at 10:17 PM

#20, adding 500 more students to CVCHS will be a nightmare. That’s increasing he enrollment by 25%. And that’s on top of the additional students they’ve already added. All of the 500 will be driven to school, unlike the current population that has a lot of kids within walking distance. Conservatively, traffic will increase by 1/3. Not to mention the fact that the school doesn’t have any parking for the additional students or teachers.

26 Peter June 9, 2014 at 10:21 PM

#13.You should read last weeks column.I was responding to a suggestion that insurance companies should only pay for injuries incurred had someone been wearing a seat belt.The unbelted injured party would pay the difference.I was challenging the poster to explain how to calculate financially injuries to someone wearing a seatbelt versus injuries to someone not wearing a seatbelt.If you read last weeks column,you will see that the poster was unable to do so.

27 Momo June 9, 2014 at 10:21 PM

That’s why almost every day driving on 680 I see rear end accidents because of people like you that are impatient to get to their destination a fraction of a second sooner.

28 Teacher Wannabe June 9, 2014 at 10:58 PM

Most defensive driving programs teach the 3 sec. rule. May piss some people off, but helps avoid a rear-end collision.

If you have to punch it to make the red light, you have a problem. I was told by Concord PD, they’ll cite you (happened to me) if you enter the intersection on the yellow. He may have been wrong, but still had you going to court to clear it.

29 Cowellian June 10, 2014 at 6:24 AM

I can count to three much quicker since I took AARP’s mature driver class.

30 anon June 10, 2014 at 6:49 AM

I can tell you that I’m enjoying a six minute ride to school now that cvhs is done for the summer instead of the usual 20, so yes, the traffic does impact people in the area! And the speed they drive down valmar road in the mornings is awful, any cop sitting there could write a month of tickets in an hour.

31 AnoN June 10, 2014 at 7:12 AM

3 second rule in bumper to bumper traffic going less than 15mph? No defensive driving class teaches that. It teaches it if you are doing 55 mph or more. In fact. That’s a good way to have people cut in front of you thinking that you are letting them in.

32 confused June 10, 2014 at 9:07 AM

What happened to the “no big trucks” rule for Farm Bureau Rd? Was turning left from Willow Pass onto Farm Bureau at 7:00 this morning (tues) and the 3 big semi’s in front of me all turned left onto Farm Burear too. Two were double semis, the one in front of me was a single, license plate: YF9715.
Guess they haven’t been told to find another route????

33 Kirkwood June 10, 2014 at 10:06 AM

When southeast bound on Clayton near Farm Bureau there is a tiny sign on the shoulder (three lanes over) that reads “no trucks on Farm Bureau” – or something like that. Nobody who plans to turn left is ever going to see it.

34 Mayflower June 10, 2014 at 10:16 AM

The signal at Fry Way and Willow Pass has become a very busy intersection, constant vehicular and foot traffic crossing the light, not forgetting homeless challenging cars waiting to turn.
Janis, would you please ask Traffic Czar, Ray Kuzbari the possibility of putting in dedicated left turn signals only for cars ? Left turn exiting Park and Shop onto Willow Pass and left turn from Willow Pass into the Petsmart shopping area. Thank you.

35 @confused June 10, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Maybe they were making deliveries on Farm Bureau.

36 3 seconds at 5mph June 10, 2014 at 10:21 AM

is about 22 feet. Barely over a car length.

37 Janis Mara June 10, 2014 at 1:26 PM

@Mayflower #34, sure, I’ll touch base with our Traffic Czar about it!

38 Big Al June 10, 2014 at 7:54 PM

Mayor Jean Quan needs noze stripps on her eyes while driving.

39 Tony June 14, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Yday I was driving along pine hollow road when right in the middle of the street, two teenagers were skateboarding and weaving. I honked my horn when I crossed in front of my car and this other kid gave me the “finger” on both his hands!
On the way back from Lucky’s on Alberta Way, in front of Clayton High School, here he was again, now with another friend and again he gave me the finger…
What is happening to our youth and how do we protect ourselves from these undisciplined, uneducated scoundrels.
I called the concord police and reported but they never got back to me.
We just cannot have these kids get their way and disrespect rules and people and something needs to be done by every community that encounters this kind of action otherwise what awaits us in our future.

40 Kirkwood June 14, 2014 at 2:02 PM

@Tony – There will always be a few kids out there who find it fun to challenge strangers. Ignore them and move on.

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