Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Blocking a Lane While Waiting for a Parking Spot, Free Right Turn, Texting Cops + MORE

October 17, 2016 14:00 pm · 17 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 had a conversation with a driver who blocked the only lane going in that direction for a minute or two to wait for a parking spot. I thought it is not just bad manners, but illegal. Is it?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Wondering, the Vehicle Code says you can’t drive so slowly as to impede or block traffic unless it’s necessary because of safety or the law. Also, “No person shall bring a vehicle to a complete stop upon a highway so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the stop is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”

Our pal, Claycord Law Enforcement Officer Leo, explains further:

“Presumably, this lane is a public roadway and not in a parking lot.  If that is the case, the stopped driver is impeding traffic.  There is no forgiveness whether there are multiple lanes in the same direction or what the reasoning is…

The phenomenon of people stopping and blocking traffic seems to be increasing with the rise of contract drivers (Uber, Lyft, et al.) picking up and dropping off riders. They seem to think if their four-way/emergency/ hazard flashers are on, they can stop almost anywhere. Now, if the driver is stopping for a traffic related matter (a vehicle exiting a parking stall, for example), that could be construed differently.

Remember, the vehicle code generally does not apply in parking lots, so blocking can be an unresolved issue here.

As the reader suggests, it’s just good form that if a few cars are stopped behind you, drive around the block or lot and find another spot.”

Commuter: What are the rules when you find yourself at a four-way intersection with a right-hand turn lane that’s separated from the other lanes? What I mean is that the lane is on the far right, separated from the other lanes by a raised island, and bends to the right.

—Turn, Turn, Turn

TRAFFIC JAMMER: TTT, it sounds as though you are describing what some people call a “free right turn.” In these scenarios, the right-hand lane is typically differentiated from the other lanes by a raised triangular island, as you said, and there’s a Yield sign on the right. If this is the case, and if there is no traffic approaching, the driver can legally make a right on red without stopping.

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: This question ran in an earlier column, and the Jammer replied that yes, police officers are allowed to text while driving, and there are many good reasons for this. These include needing to make a confidential call or contacting another police department.

To the Jammer’s surprise, some retired law enforcement officers posted comments expressing a different point of view:

COMMUTER: 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). 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

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Up until now, the Jammer saw this issue differently, but after hearing from law enforcement officers, she is beginning to change her mind. Claycordians, what do you think?

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

Hmmmmm October 17, 2016 at 2:21 PM

If blocking the only lane going in that direction is illegal, then would someone PLEASE go to Monte Gardens Elem in the morning or afternoon and get the cars MOVING! Parents show up early to drop their kids off, and sit blocking the road, reading their phones etc while waiting, and make it IMPOSSIBLE to get to the District office for meetings etc! Concord could make a fortune on tickets/fines for doing that! Called the police once, and was told, “oh, yeah, that’s a problem at a lot of schools.”

ANON October 17, 2016 at 3:04 PM


Like they care about other people..look at the scum they are raising

Claycordian October 17, 2016 at 3:17 PM

There’s a whole lot of this illegal activity going on in front of Silverwood School on Claycord Avenue every afternoon. Traffic is at a standstill EVERY afternoon!!!

HELP, Janis! or Officer Traffic October 17, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Ignoring my concern.. how do I get my grown kids (27 and 25) to understand the importance of using their parking brakes each time they park their car? They have no worries, believing that with the car in “park” all will be fine. Please tell them otherwise whether they’re parking on a hill or a flat surface. Thank you.

Pork chop=no stop October 17, 2016 at 3:46 PM

Janis you are correct. At a raised triangle island, we used to call them pork chops, no requirement to stop but there is one to yield. Otherwise all the rules of the road still apply.

Blocking traffic October 17, 2016 at 5:12 PM

Lets talk about those very smart individuals who open their car door, driver side, to traffic and those who keep their car doors open to traffic blocking the lane and creating a dangerous situation. That to me is far more dangerous, rude and illegal than someone blocking the lane for a minute or two to get a parking spot. Lets not forget lots of parking areas are only one way traffic and developers make traffic lanes narrow to build as many parking spaces as possible.

teri October 17, 2016 at 6:47 PM

After many years providing child day care, doing school drop-offs and pick-ups, and always seeing cars driven by parents lined up on public streets, I agree there needs to be a solution. Parents can’t just drive around the block; that would just make more streets congested. I think the schools need to figure out how to accommodate all of those cars in their parking lots or on their fields. If they created paths to follow on their fields, they could get all of those cars off the streets.

Cautiously Informed October 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM

Many people do whatever they want on the roads because they know that there is little to no enforcement of the traffic laws by PD.

Jerk October 17, 2016 at 8:44 PM

There’s something to be said about the Lack of Patrolling just by looking around and seeing that 80% of vehicles on the road are “driven” by someone with a cellphone in hand.
Compare that to 15-20 years ago where seatbelt enforcement was zero tolerance, I even had a CHP motorcycle pull up next to me on the Bay Bridge and check to see that I was wearing a seatbelt.
Time to get on it especially when there is already a hands free law – Too many nonsensical “accidents” from these distracted drivers.

Dan October 17, 2016 at 9:01 PM

People stopping traffic for all sorts of reasons is epidemic now, whether it’s to wait for a parking spot, or to change lanes, people just don’t care about anything going on around them

Dan October 17, 2016 at 9:03 PM

Also, this confusion on right turns is a constant problem at the entrance to NB680 from WB Willow Pass, people turning right onto the freeway do not yield to people making the left turn from EB Willow Pass, when the left turners have a green arrow… People will bust right turns right in front of a line of oncoming cars. Have been run off the road several times this way

RunnerDope October 17, 2016 at 10:02 PM

Same thing at El Monte Elem.
It’s even worse at pickup time because the school keeps all cars out of the school’s traffic circle until the kids are let out. So cars are backed up in both directions on Barbis Way which feeds into the school.

If you happen to try going the back way to the gas station on Clayton around this time, you’re stuck. No going forward or back.

WhoGivesUpTheirParkingSpot October 18, 2016 at 7:55 AM

Really 1-2 minutes and you can’t wait for someone to park? Either you or the people behind me would pull in shortly after I give up “sorry I’m being rude and blocking traffic for 1-2 minutes let me move for you guys” NOPE.

Anon October 18, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Thanks for the laugh -Wondering….. Seriously? You would also wait a minute or two if you wanted that parking spot! Now as for a REAL EXAMPLE of this PROBLEM, please just go sit in front of Silverwood Elementary between 2:30-3pm. Cars line up 30 minutes ahead of time down Claycord Avenue to pick up their kids and it blocks me from entering my street. People will NOT pull over and park, they just sit in a line blocking traffic.I am going to start calling police every single day.

JAMMER: Do you think they will actually DO SOMETHING? Unfortunately, I already know the answer is not NO, but HELL NO.

As for the police and emergency vehicles texting/talking, IT’S LEGAL! Sheesh how many times must that question be answered?

Anon October 18, 2016 at 10:01 AM

Sounds like a lot of us need to be calling CPD every single day if nothing more than to piss them off enough to start patrolling!

JAMMER: show your cop friend all these responses from folks sick of school traffic blocking our streets. IT’S TIME SOMETHING IS DONE!! I agree with another poster above, open the field and create a drive through, something, ANYTHING!!

Rob October 18, 2016 at 11:27 AM

If you are blocking a lane while a car is in the process of leaving a parking spot – I’m ok with that…

But just waiting for someone to come along to leave – no that’s not ok.

Rob-PH October 18, 2016 at 11:50 AM

When I went to elementary school many years ago, there wasn’t a traffic problem because most kids walked to school or took the bus.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: