Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – The Most Dangerous Things You Can Do While Driving, Cops Texting & Driving, Motorcycles with Handicap Plates + MORE

October 3, 2016 14:00 pm · 24 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

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, Beloved Claycordians! The Jammer recently ran a quiz, “What are the three most dangerous things you can do while driving?” and the answers were hilarious. In addition to your expertise on subjects ranging from the Vehicle Code to the drive shaft, many of you could easily carve out second careers as stand-up comedians.

In fact, you were so busy coming up with witty responses, all but one person missed the No. 1 most dangerous thing. Let’s put our hands together for Melanie, the only one who nailed it: Driving under the influence. Hip hip hooray!

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the majority of traffic-related deaths are caused by drunk drivers. The Jammer has a hunch Claycord readers wouldn’t think of drinking and driving themselves, and that’s why almost everyone missed this one.

We will, however, give J. partial credit for listing “taking tequila belly shots” as one of the most dangerous activities.

The No. 2 most dangerous: Driving while tired. That was a surprise to the Jammer, too. Finally, the No. 3 most dangerous thing to do while driving is speeding.

The Jammer awards a shining Honorable Mention to I’m the Urban Spaceman, who posited “engaging in carnal relations, talking to one’s mother-in-law” (not at the same time, one hopes) as two of the most dangerous activities.

The No. 1 funniest response has to go to John Pope: “Mooning the solo driver in the carpool lane.” The Jammer would have given the award to Atticus Thraxx for “clipping your toenails,” but this image is so horrifying, I. Just. Can’t.

COMMUTER: We were driving behind a Concord Police officer yesterday. He/she was swerving while coming to a stop and obviously texting while driving. We made sure to stay well back from the car because we were afraid they would hit another car. Are police officers allowed to text while driving?

–Chuckie the Troll

TRAFFIC JAMMER: In a word: Yes. Every so often, a reader notices a law enforcement officer texting or talking on a cell phone while driving and asks whether it’s legal. It is, and there actually are good reasons for this.

While officers often communicate over the police scanner, this is highly public. Most newsrooms have one, for example, and individuals listen to them as well. So an officer might use a cell phone for a confidential call.

Different police departments work together often, but they may not have the same radio channel, so the officer uses a cell phone. These are just a couple of examples.

Chuckie, also, the Jammer is interested to know: How could you tell the officer was texting? You couldn’t tell the gender of the officer, so it doesn’t sound as though you had a very good view. The Jammer is asking out of curiosity and hopes the question doesn’t sound accusatory.

This is one of the reasons police have problems enforcing the no-texting rule: It can be very difficult to actually catch the person in the act. The motorist might be looking down, for example, but it’s hard to actually see the hands on the phone. Thanks, Chuckie, and a big thank-you to Cowellian, who furnished a link to an attorney blog that also gave the answer.

COMMUTER: Last week I saw a motorcycle with a handicap license plate. I wonder what his handicap is?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: If a person has difficulty breathing – emphysema, for example – they can get a disabled plate, if authorized by certain medical professionals. Breathing problems can make it hard for you to walk, even talk, but not sit on a motorcycle and drive. Same goes for those with heart problems that make them so ill it’s hard to walk more than a few feet. The loss of a lower extremity also qualifies a person for a disabled plate. For more examples, here’s the DMV application for a disabled plate.

Australian motorcyclist and racer Alan Kempster lost his right arm and leg when his motorcycle was struck by a drunk driver, but he continues to ride his motorcycle. Here’s the story.

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

anon666 October 3, 2016 at 2:17 PM

There are a couple of guys on a local motorcycle forum that are disable and ride. One lost an arm (he still does track days) and another is paralyzed from the waist down (he has a custom outrigger setup on his bike for stops and low speed). Just because someone is disabled it doesn’t mean they can’t ride.

Blue Fan October 3, 2016 at 2:19 PM

“Mooning the solo driver in the carpool lane.” Yeah, ‘specially those damned Prius drivers…

Cops and texting October 3, 2016 at 2:44 PM

Absolutely right when cops are exempted from the hands free and texting law. However the exemption applies only “while in the course and scope of their duty”. Of course there’s no way to tell if the call/text is business related or personal.

Just because they are exempt, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea however. Cops have a lot of distractions while driving–looking for crooks/bad people, observing for violations, reading dispatches from their computer terminal (also exempt for doing this) and on and on. Talking or texting is just one more. It also is a bad example for the public because most aren’t aware of the exemption for LE, so it adds to the negative outlook on cops, which we have too much of already anyway. I think some of my police brethren take too much advantage of this exemption (personal opinion only). When I was a training officer, I used to advise my trainees NOT to use their phone while driving unless absolutely necessary and then pull over to a safe spot as soon as possible to finish the call. Same with the computer terminal. I had a few near misses almost rear ending cars myself looking at that damn terminal–thankfully the Big Cop in the Sky was looking out for me and I was lucky.
–Retired LE

Old Otis October 3, 2016 at 2:48 PM

Driving with a dog on your lap!
I know it’s your “comfort animal” , but if it would jump out of the window after a cat or something, WHAT would happen?!

Concord Mike October 3, 2016 at 3:19 PM

I would like to point out that DUI is not just drunk driving. It includes all forms of chemical intoxication such as marijuana and cocaine.

Worth noting that states like Colorado and Washington who have legalized pot smoking are now observing significant increases in DUI and related fatal accidents.

chuckie the troll October 3, 2016 at 3:27 PM

The Troll and his wife could see the officer looking down at his/her lap with head at a slight angle just like the other texters we see on the road. At one point I think the officer didn’t have a hand on the wheel, based on the way their car drifted to one side. These days, the Troll doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions about the gender of an officer and I wasn’t about to pull alongside the car and ask.

The larger issue is that the officer was not in complete and safe control of that vehicle. They need to pull over and put their vehicle in PARK if they need to type on any kind of electronic device. However, I have been told that the E on the license plate stands for exempt, as in exempt from the vehicle code.

ClayDen October 3, 2016 at 4:00 PM

I disagree with the third most dangerous: speeding. I can agree with “not observing the basic speed law.” However, that opens a “new can of worms.” For some people, driving at the speed limit when conditions are good could be in violation of the basic speed law (due to their lack of skill); for others, driving faster than the speed limit in a “proper” car could easily be within the basic speed law. For example, during the second Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, Dan Gurney won in a Ferrari Daytona and never exceeded 175MPH. I would consider that speed by that driver in that car to be within the basic speed law.

Turn and burn October 3, 2016 at 4:10 PM

@ #4 Besides the possibility of the dog jumping out the window. What about if the air bag were to open in a collision? Could you imagine the impact you would sustain between the airbag and your dog hitting you in the face!

@ Retired LE #3 October 3, 2016 at 4:11 PM

Even though the law applies while on duty.. Do you really think we believe any cop is going to ticket an off-duty one who is using his or her cell phone while driving? Not going to happen. The cell phone texting/hands free law only applies to the rest of us.

couch tomato October 3, 2016 at 4:28 PM

Concord Mike #6 said “…Colorado and Washington who have legalized pot smoking are now observing significant increases in DUI and related fatal accidents.”

In Colorado the trend is down not up:

Rumplestiltskin October 3, 2016 at 4:38 PM

Getting pulled over seems to be dangerous while driving.

Oh wait, no, that’s not doing what the police say afterwards that gets you shot.

Missy October 3, 2016 at 4:40 PM

I have a motorcycle with handicap plates and have been questioned by ignorant people on occasion. I have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy which makes it very difficult to walk, but I can get on and off my motorcycle with no problem and I have no problem holding it up when at a stop. Riding is one of the few things I can still do and enjoy without help from others. It gives me a sense of freedom I normally would not have.

And yes, I know there are risks involved. But considering that I could fall, hit my head and die while going to the refrigerator, I consider the risk worth it.

bobinWC October 3, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Good for you Missy #13!

Cowellian October 3, 2016 at 5:08 PM

Somebody lied to you, Chuckie!

TIFOKCIS October 3, 2016 at 5:28 PM

I know several bikers with disabled plates for valid reasons like one guy is missing a leg, one gal has just two fingers and others that can ride but cannot walk very far and I’ll repeat myself for the big thinking JO pukes: VALID REASONS

With the exception of you awholes using your grandmas placard and doctors abusing their powers so their wife and kids can park up front disabled placards and plates don’t fall from the sky.

Yee fricking haw October 3, 2016 at 5:55 PM

Congrats to melanie.
Just ignore clayden’s whining…he’s used to getting his last place trophy.

Atticus Thraxx October 3, 2016 at 6:53 PM

Rock on Missy. Good for you. 🙂

You forgot.... October 3, 2016 at 7:31 PM

to give me my award. The most dangerous thing to do, or I shall say to receive while driving is…to get/give a bl0wj0b. Have you ever rode in a tall car and see it happen? I have. It was very late at night so there was not much traffic but he had that car swerving all over the place. Gross! Passengers can also be at fault for an accident.

give me a break October 3, 2016 at 7:59 PM

As a retired cop, I can vouch that there is little justification for cops to be driving and talking on a cell phone or worse, texting.
Cell phones should also not be used, in lieu of the radio, in most circumstances. The conversations, which may have a bearing on a criminal prosecution and thus a defendant’s fair trial right as well as civil litigation are not recorded. Additionally, the use of cell phones, in lieu of the radio, potentially deprives other officers and supervisors of key details about an incident.
If the above circumstances are not applicable to the officer’s cell phone use, then why is he or she using the phone at all? Is it being used lawfully in the course and scope of duty (while driving)?
In fact, 90% of cell phone calls, by cops while driving, are probably for personal use.
Many cops are also stupid enough to use department issued phones for personal business. Of course the records of the calls are actually public records and the costs of the calls are an expenditure of public funds.
But this gets back to what is wrong with law enforcement today- cops don’t realize and won’t accept that they are supposed to be held to higher standard. And their supervisors don’t hold them to a higher standard either.

Mom-in-Concord October 3, 2016 at 9:00 PM

While we’re on the subject of disabled plates – what about the folks I see every time I am at the Lafayette Reservoir?

The waters of the reservoir must have some sort of miraculous healing power because, after driving up in their car with disabled plates on it, and parking for free in one of the handicapped spots, these folks manage to walk out of their car without any assistance. They then continue walking around the reservoir on the 2.75 mile trail without the aid of any cane, walker or wheelchair.

Wow, if word gets out about the healing powers of the reservoir, people will come from around the world to be a part of this.

And, kudos to the folks who have managed to enjoy their motorcycles after debilitating injuries. You are an example to the abusers.

@give me a break October 3, 2016 at 9:40 PM

Great attitude. We need more like you.

anon October 4, 2016 at 1:01 PM

“Could you imagine the impact you would sustain between the airbag and your dog hitting you in the face!”

True that– no sympathy for them at all if they are that STUPID

Mama Cowell October 4, 2016 at 1:29 PM

Someone in traffic control needs to revisit all of the street lights from treat /cowell all the way down to at least oak grove they are all off again and causing major delays all along treat Boulevard every morning between seven and 8:30 AM

It should not take an hour to drive from Cowell Road down Treat to Oak Grove every morning….stop lights seem very short and completely repetitive

TeacherMan October 5, 2016 at 12:01 AM

@#25. That’s why I leave my house at 615. To avoid some of the rush. God forbid I should be running late.

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