Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Bad Timing, Falling Debris, Insurance Claims + MUCH MORE

August 25, 2014 14:00 pm · 21 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: Last week there was a line of 10 cars stopped on Concord Boulevard and Sixth. When the light turned green, only three or four could get through before it turned red again because a car showed up on Sixth.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer responded to RunnerDope’s concern two weeks ago by notifying Concord Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari, who said he fixed the problem by making a signal timing adjustment. However, numerous Claycordians advised that the problem wasn’t fixed:

COMMUTER: The problem at Concord Boulevard and Sixth Street has NOTHING to do with trip sensors. The light, if tripped from the Sixth Street sides after 7 p.m., switches WAY TOO FAST, as noted, often only three or four cars get through, and it turns red again. I would assume Concord Boulevard would be the main artery, and have more time “green,” than that of a side street


TRAFFIC JAMMER:  Here’s the latest from Kuzbari: “We have adjusted the green time for Concord Boulevard and will continue to monitor this intersection accordingly.” Claycordians, please let the Jammer know if the problem has been corrected now. Thanks for your patience!

COMMUTER: Last week, a sheet of material flew off of a work truck in rush hour traffic and struck my vehicle. It would have caused an accident to have swerved out of its way. It looked like a strip of Masonite, and I have encountered debris much worse on our freeways.

It turned out to be a one-inch-thick sheet of plywood that cracked the front valence, grille and dented the front bumper. I was unable to catch the offending truck. My question is: How are these types of incidents enforced on the road, and is the loose load driver required to pull over and provide their insurance information?


TRAFFIC JAMMER:  Damaged, the Jammer is so sorry to hear about this! Few things are more annoying, and the cost of body work is enough to make a grown person cry. Here’s the word from California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill:

The CHP aggressively enforces violations of California’s litter and safe loading laws. All vehicles are required to secure their cargo.

If a member of the community observes a vehicle that is loaded unsafely, or sees a vehicle depositing debris or litter on the roads, they can call 911. The roadway hazards caused by these situations often cause collisions, which can potentially result in injury or death. The CHP needs the make, model and color of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel, and the license plate number if possible.

A vehicle which loses its load is required by law to stop and report it. If the debris causes property damage or injury, the driver is responsible and must provide his or her information just as if it had been a collision. Unfortunately, motorists don’t always realize they have lost their load. In these cases, the affected motorists should record the make, model and color of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel, and the license plate number if possible.

COMMUTER: Someone apparently whacked my car with a shopping cart in the parking lot when I was inside shopping. I came back to find a nasty dent. If I file a claim, will my insurance go up?

–Parking Lot Victim

TRAFFIC JAMMER: My sympathies to you, PLV! Whether your premium goes up depends on a number of factors, including which company you have your insurance with. Typically, often your premium will go up by a specific percentage every time you file a chargeable claim above a certain dollar amount. The percentages and ceilings vary from company to company.

A “chargeable claim” means one that the insurance company believes is primarily your fault. Since someone opened their door into you, it doesn’t seem as though this would affect you – though you never can tell with insurance companies.

These increases generally stay on your premium for three years following the claim.

“We always recommend a higher deductible so you don’t file a lot of small claims,” said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, a national organization. “Most people only file a claim every eight to 10 years, so you will save a lot of money over time.”

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 from pleasant hill August 25, 2014 at 2:41 PM

hi traffic jammer, what about if the truck in front of you shoots up a rock which cracks your windshield. are they required to stop and give you their information, or is that just considered a hazard of the road?

2 kw August 25, 2014 at 2:54 PM


Before you inquire about having your insurance fix the dent, I would suggest you look into a painless dent removal. I’ve had multiple dings removed from my cars and it’s typically cost me around $80 to $300 (the larger amount was to fix multiple dents at once). Even at the highest cost, it was still less than the $500 deductible I would have had to paid if I went through insurance. If you’re in East Contra Costa, there is an excellent dent removal guy if you’re interested in his info.

3 kw August 25, 2014 at 2:56 PM

would have had to pay…

4 RunnerDope August 25, 2014 at 3:03 PM


Last Thursday after 7 PM, I drove through that intersection and saw a car waiting on Sixth St. for the first time in over a year. I think it may finally be fixed. Thanks for sticking with this. Dealing with the government often takes the patience of Job.

5 @kw August 25, 2014 at 3:05 PM

What about the painless dent removal? Don’t want to fix that?

6 ClayDen August 25, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Another hazard on the freeways is truck tire treads that have delaminated. Back around 1997, I was driving north on I-5 at the I-5/U.S.-99 split just north of the Grapevine when the car in front of me ran over one and it flew up and smashed the front of my car. It sort of wrapped around the front, taking out both headlights, the grill, front bumper cover and hood in addition to damaging one front fender that was repairable. Fortunately it didn’t take out the radiator and the car was drivable, as well as it being early enough to get home before dark. If it had been a little higher it would have taken out the windshield and possibly me. The total damage back then was about $2,600. That was pre-cellphone, so I pulled off as soon as I could and called my insurance agent from a pay phone (remember those?). As I started to talk, but before I told her anything about what had happened, she said “you sound really shaken up.” It was frightening.

7 kw August 25, 2014 at 3:46 PM

@ #5

Funny, funny. Unfortunately dent removal is never painless, but PAINTLESS dent removal can be less of a pain than going through insurance.

8 That's All Folks! August 25, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Caltrans: or call 510-286-5806 to file a claim.
Caltrans may be liable when debris on the freeway causes damage to your vehicle.
If you want to know if your insurance premiums will go up, call your insurance company and ask them.

9 Cananyone August 25, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Recommend a good custom automobile paint shop? I’m looking for a shop that can remove all the trim pieces carefully, perform just a little minor body work and do a dazzling, high quality paint job on a 45 year old classic car.

10 La Ducha August 25, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Thanks! Very informative!

11 Julio August 25, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Cananyone I hope you have a big bank account. It might help if you were willing to sand it down before you hand it over to them. Good Luck

12 neverceasestoamazeme August 25, 2014 at 7:12 PM

I have encountered several trucks on highway 4 carrying cargo that is flying out of the bed as it has not been properly covered and secured. I have seen several CHP cars drive by these trucks and they do not seem to be chasing anyone or in a hurry or looking at these trucks.
I have had a few close calls with some of this flying debris.

13 Keep this in mind August 25, 2014 at 7:14 PM

If an object on the road hits YOU (running deer, flying plywood, etc.), it’s covered under your comprehensive insurance and generally will not cause your rates to go up. If YOU hit a stationary object (ladder in the road), it’s covered under collision, which WILL increase your rates.

14 Janis Mara August 25, 2014 at 7:46 PM

@kw #2, I got a huge kick out of your post! I think your helpful information could certainly help ease the pain of PLV’s repairs. Please feel free to share the name of the body shop you mentioned. I think that would useful for many who read this column. I sure feel for PLV, it’s just too bad that he has to pay for something that isn’t even his fault.

@from pleasant hill # 1, based on your description it sounds as though there was a problem with the roadway. As @That’s All Folks! #8 kindly shared, there is a program by which you can be reimbursed for damage caused by such things as potholes or loose rocks that Caltrans is responsible for.

@runnerDope, you’re welcome! I’ll be sure to tell Traffic Czar Kuzbari his efforts have succeeded.

15 kw August 25, 2014 at 9:10 PM

This is the name of the dent removal company I use. The owner’s name is Tim and he’s the one who does all the work. He’s a mobile service, but may (I don’t know for sure; I suggest double checking) only work out of East Contra Costa (Brentwood, Oakley, Antioch). Either way, if I lived anywhere else in CoCo County, I’d still drive to east county for him to do the work (he’s that good).

16 RunnerDope August 26, 2014 at 12:07 AM


I want to retract my previous assessment that the problem is fixed. I drove through tonight on Concord Blvd. and got stopped at 6th. I was car #5 of 5. When the light turned green for us another car drove up on 6th. The first 3 cars went through the intersection but the light turned yellow before car #4 got into the intersection. #4 was a little slow getting moving and left a small gap of about a second or two.

My experience at other intersections on Clayton Rd. and Concord Blvd. after 7 PM, is that if I’m on a side street I will get a green when there are no cars for about 5 seconds. I’m wondering if the sensor might be dead on Concord Blvd eastbound.

17 RunnerDope August 26, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Definitely not fixed. A string of cars was crossing tonight and when a car arrived on 6th it immediately turned yellow, before all the cars had cleared the intersection.

18 Tree Farm August 27, 2014 at 10:48 AM


I am losing faith in our “traffic czar”. The light situation for northbound traffic on Galindo St (Headed towards downtown) at the Clayton Rd/ Concord Blvd intersections is abysmal. I live in the area and almost always head west (turn left) on Concord Blvd , to get to 242. A driver almost always has to wait at both lights, in order to turn left on to Concord Blvd. I have been told numerous times by the “traffic czar” they are conducting surveys, have fixed it, are going to fix it, everything is fine, etc. Very frustrating….

19 Janis Mara August 27, 2014 at 1:03 PM

I’m so sorry to hear the frustrating news! I’m continuing to pass along your reports, faithful Claycordians. Let’s hope that close attention to the matter over time will result in a correction. At least we know Concord’s traffic manager is trying.

20 Antler August 29, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Excellent work and an honest shop:
Bay Auto Body. (owner is Todd)
on Arnold Industrial Hwy. in Concord

And that puts you in the Englund’s Cafe area……do it! Do it!

21 anon August 29, 2014 at 8:57 PM

so you need to go to downtown Oakley for a vet emergency. I’m not all that familiar with the area, but I know I’m going to Oakley, main st. So you’re on hwy 4 the sign to the right says ‘sacramento’. I get that it means i’d be heading over the bridge. I don’t want that. The sign on the left is hwy 4 bypass ‘Oakley’. Oakley, I want that. So I take that route and the next 4 exits are names of Antioch streets. Not a word about Oakley. Now ten minutes late after asking someone for directions. I come out on the opposite end of Oakley, finally got to the vet 20 min late.
The exit that I needed was the ‘Sacramento” exit. The vets office says the signs are wrong. This is an absolute confusing mess.

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