Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – School Zone Speed Limits, Year Old Dealer Plates on a Car, Balancing Traffic Signals + MORE

August 15, 2016 14:00 pm · 22 comments


Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every first and third Monday at 2 p.m. on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every first and third Monday of the month at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.

Email your questions to

COMMUTER: I am the person who drives 25 mph in school zones, seemingly to the irritation of many fellow drivers. One thing confuses me about school zone speed limit signs. Most say “25 mph  When Children Are Present.”

What the heck does that mean?

Is it when children are walking on the sidewalks in the zone? If there’s a child walking down the sidewalk Sunday afternoon? When children are in school doesn’t  make sense because there is no hazard to them then. If it’s 11:30 p.m. and there’s a child in the school parking lot do I need to slow down? 


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Ah, Confused, you are not alone. Those six words are a perennial source of perplexity. Our pal Officer Leo, the Claycord police officer, offers guidelines:

“I believe the intent of the “when children are present” reminder is as such:  Your school might be on a street that has a higher speed limit around the school.  So, the sign reminds you to slow down.

The highest enforcement time for this rule would generally be when students are coming from/going to class.  However, it is also enforced throughout the school day – particularly if it is an “open campus.” Also, our schools still have (albeit to a lesser degree) all kinds of after school activities – from after-school care to sports to other groups.

I have been known to also enforce the speed limit in the evening hours (if there was a well attended school function, such as a dance) or the weekends when there was a large event such as a fund-raising fair or sporting event.

So, as a general rule… slow down any time there appears to be an organized event at the school – and most especially as students head to class in the morning or go home in the afternoon.”

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And, as Officer Leo reminds us: Some schools in Claycord have already started, so  slow down and watch out!

COMMUTER: There is a car in my complex that still retains its dealer plates and it has been well over a year and a half. How can I make a complaint and to whom?


–Tired of Cheaters

TRAFFIC JAMMER: TOC, it’s very timely that you raised this issue.

First, some general background: For a long time, in California, when you bought a new car, you had 90 days to get permanent license plates – even though in many other states, drivers usually have only a month or two.

However, this is going to change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will require all new and used car buyers to have a temporary license plate on the vehicle before they leave the dealer lot.

The law is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2019. Unfortunately, TOC, this doesn’t help you in the short run, but at least you know a change is on the way.

COMMUTER: In Clayton, the first stop light at Oakhurst Drive and Eagle Peak has a very responsive stop light trigger. As soon as a car approaches the light, while driving on Indian Wells Way, the lights immediately change in their favor. However, the Eagle Peak lights do not have similar responsiveness. Can you find out if it’s possible to balance the responsiveness of these lights?

–Waiting on the light to change

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer contacted the city, and workers from the county, under whose jurisdiction the lights fall, checked out the lights. They found a stuck detector and corrected the problem – hooray! WOTLTC kindly let the Jammer know:

COMMUTER: I tested the lights from all streets and they are much more balanced. Thanks much!


TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm on the first and third Mondays of the month for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART, County Connection or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to

Bob Foo August 15, 2016 at 2:11 PM

Mr. Jammer:

I’ve been meaning to ask you this. So it’s my understanding that it’s every driver’s responsibility to secure and cover their load. But lately I’ve been seeing signs on backs of work trucks that say something like “stay back 100ft, not responsible for broken windshields.” Isn’t that a lie, or does having that sign really release them of liability?

Any response is appreciated, thank you.

@ Bob August 15, 2016 at 2:40 PM

The sign is a lie, but still a good idea. It doesn’t release them from liability. Most companies pay those broken window claims upon receipt. The sign is probably an attempt to reduce the amount of claims the company pays. And yes VC 23114 requires loads to be covered.

–Retired fuzz

The only one who cares. August 15, 2016 at 3:05 PM

I’ve commented on this before. Nothing has been done, and the problem is getting worse. Ok, picture this. The driveway going between the Safeway gas and Burger King on Contra Costa Blvd. there is an opening on the right. That is a exit ONLY. Markings ot the street are the same as a cement divider, and arrows point out. People constantly turn right into the Nordstrom lot/gas station. There have been many close calls and who knows how many collisions. There needs to be a K rail or something there. End of rant.

ANON August 15, 2016 at 3:15 PM

The sign means nothing–sue them

Steve August 15, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Hey, Tired of Cheaters, why does it bother you when someone keeps their dealer plates on for too long? I’m just curious – I never really thought about that issue.

mary f - ph August 15, 2016 at 3:50 PM

@Steve, because then they can evade tolls and red-light cameras.

mary f - ph August 15, 2016 at 3:51 PM

@Steve, plus they can hit and run more easily.

Mrs. Z August 15, 2016 at 4:09 PM

Those rock trucks have cracked 2 of our windshields. The sign on the back makes me so mad. You can’t stay 100, 200, some say 300 feet back on the freeway. I think to prove a certain truck did it, you would need a dash cam… probably cheaper than a new windshield.

TrentM August 15, 2016 at 5:24 PM

I slow down if I SEE children. Although the definition of “children” is debatable too. At a high school, those children might be driving next to you.

whats up? August 15, 2016 at 5:43 PM

Can anyone explain the new soon-to-be-painted lane markings on Concord Blvd between the Sunset/Concord Blvd blend and Parkside? If they actually paint the road like the markers indicate, it’s going to be a horrific mess!!! Going toward N 6th, it looks like the left lane must turn onto Parkside, then we have 2 lanes for a block, then they blend back into one! ARGHHH!!!

You think there's traffic problems now... August 15, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Just wait until the new Starbucks opens at Treat Blvd. and Clayton Road. I’ll say it now before it opens…this will be one of the most unsafe intersections in Concord. Claycord will be doing overtime listing this mess waiting to happen.

J. August 15, 2016 at 8:10 PM

@Bob Foo
All open bed truck loads are required to be covered; most are not. When you see those disclaimer signs on gravel trucks on the highway, take note if they are covered. If not, call the CHP immediately with their license plate number as they are a rolling hazard. Dialing 911 from your cell phone will put you right into CHP. Best policy would be to program the CHP non-emergency toll-free number into your cell phone speed dial or address book.

J. August 15, 2016 at 8:20 PM

@Mrs. Z
The proper following distance is 3-seconds. Trucks are limited to 55 MPH, so 3-seconds is 240 feet. That is the bare minimum for safety.

We used to say one car length for each 10 miles an hour. That was based on a 20 foot car, so the old rule at 55 was only 110 feet. This was found to be bogus and unsafe.

To judge 3-seconds, watch when the truck passes a marker, then start counting off your alligators. Modulate your following distance until you are at least 3 gators back.

Bob Foo August 15, 2016 at 8:28 PM

@2 and others:

Thanks for the clarification. I figured that was the case. But as one pointed out it would be hard to prove anything.

Mika August 15, 2016 at 8:40 PM

@Traffic Jammer- – you didnt answer TOC’s question! How, who do you report it too!

Pay your share August 16, 2016 at 12:11 AM

@ Steve

Know of a guy who keeps paper plates
on his old truck. He commutes across the
bridges and hasn’t had to pay a single toll.
Glad to see the governor is finally getting
wise to this scam. Too bad it will not take
effect until 2019. Another year and a half
of free tolls. Other scammers will use a paper
plate so the police will not see an expired
license plate.

Chef Curry August 16, 2016 at 8:32 AM

@TOC and mary f-
Don’t be a tattle-tail and worry about yourself. If you are worried about lost revenue from toll evaders a better target would be corporations that ditch out of paying billions in taxes. Also are you really assuming that most people involved on accidents would flee the scene if it wasn’t for that pesky identifying plate on their car? There are bigger issues to get your knickers in a bunch about.

Mrs. Z August 16, 2016 at 7:00 PM

I dream of the day I can leave almost a football field’s space behind a vehicle. I know are right, though.

Barlie August 17, 2016 at 3:12 PM

I’ve had 3 windshields broken over the years. ALL from rocks kicked up by cars not trucks. A rock kicked up from the road is a road hazard. It’s not the car/trucks fault. That’s why we pay insurance.

Rodney King August 17, 2016 at 3:22 PM

Come on people…

Tree Farm August 17, 2016 at 8:09 PM

Doesn’t really work for paper plates, but this is for out of state plate cheaters.

Hubby Jo August 18, 2016 at 6:54 AM

Ok… I had an associate who drove a Georgia-plated vehicle here for 4 years. I asked him about this. Here was his answer:

1. The car was joint-titled to him and his dad, who resides in GA.
2. The registration address makes it exempt from emissions testing.
3. He paid the registration fees to Atlanta, and all his dad did was forward the registration card and tabs to him in CA.

Sneaky, if you ask me, but a legit loophole.

Btw, if you see out-of-state plates with a Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security sticker on the front window, you’re likely looking at a US military/Coast Guard member. They are allowed to maintain registration from their home state while assigned to another on active duty.

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