Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Can You Use CA Disabled Placards in Other States? Drivers Smoking Pot, Should You Report Them? + MUCH MORE

March 21, 2017 14:00 pm · 30 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:  Do you know if California disabled placards are valid in other states? Mainly interested in Nevada.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: What an excellent question! The Jammer is sure this will be helpful to other Claycordians as they plan summer vacations. In most locations, including California, disabled placards and plates from other jurisdictions are honored by law enforcement – including those from other countries.

Regardless, it’s probably a good idea for those traveling to other states to check the websites or call the Department of Motor Vehicles in those states, just to be sure.

Here’s the word from the Nevada DMV: “You may not park in a handicapped space without disabled persons plates or placards issued by a government agency. Out-of-state valid placards and plates from another state or country may be used in Nevada.” So, looks like you’re good to go, Questioning!

COMMUTER:  What action, if any, should a person take upon observing the driver of a vehicle smoking marijuana? Does this warrant a 911 call, similar to a driver consuming alcohol, or perhaps a non-emergency police call?

–Mary Fouts

TRAFFIC JAMMER: As we all know, Californians passed Proposition 64 in the November election. To a great extent, this legalized recreational marijuana. However,  this doesn’t mean it’s OK to do it anywhere, anytime – just like with alcohol.

With that in mind: Ingesting marijuana in a vehicle or getting high and driving are not legal. Drugged driving laws still apply and, as with alcohol, it’s not legal to have an open container of pot in a car. Just as when you observe a driver who appears to be drinking and driving, if you see someone who is apparently smoking pot and is swerving all over the road and endangering others, call 911.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And now, an interesting proposal from frequent poster Cowellian, who is endorsing the idea of the Zipper Merge:

COMMUTER: Nothing brings out the worst in drivers like a merge. And there will be two separate kinds of jerks messing things up for everyone. 

The first jerk is the self-righteous one who immediately changes lanes, and then won’t let anyone else in from of him, especially near the merge point. The second jerk is the self-important one who just has to be in front of everyone.  He insists on zigzagging back and forth, trying to get to the head of the line.

The solution is to prohibit all lane changes before the merge point.  If everyone would just stay in their own lane, traffic would continue to move.  Then, the point of the merge is the only place a lane change is needed. A car from the right lane goes, followed by the next car from the left.  Give one, take one, like teeth on a zipper.  The benefit of the zipper merge is that traffic continues to roll without inducing nearly as much stress.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: What do you think, Claycordians? Many law enforcement officials agree with Cowellian’s idea. The Jammer is intrigued by the idea, though a little uncertain about adding another law to the existing pantheon in the Vehicle Code.

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

JazzMan March 21, 2017 at 3:04 PM

Another merger issue. Don’t think there are many in Claycord area, but where I work in San Leandro there are metering lights with 2 lanes. Inevitably I’ll stop at the red, and she MY light turns green the other guy takes off too, obviously running HIS red light. Or if one lane has a few cars and the other is empty, when my light goes green, a car will come flying up in the empty and blow through the light with no attempt to slow down. At the Davis St on ramp to N880 there have been many collisions, probably because of these selfish idiots. CHP could make up any budget shortfalls by camping out on these curious if CoCo county has the same problem, or is it Alameda drivers?

Anne Noise March 21, 2017 at 3:11 PM

I see people smoking vape pens and joints on a daily basis on my commute home on 24. If they’re not driving erratically, I leave it to the police to sort out.

Anonymous March 21, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Attention URfullofhotair.

Let’s do notify us when and where you are going to smoke pot in your car. Give us your car descriptions. Then we will make my “pathetic day” when I summon the police on you.

Sound good Mr Addict?

Nutcreek Frontier March 21, 2017 at 3:31 PM

URfullofhotair is a poster child for the dangers of daily pot smoking. The writer has lost the ability for critical thinking. Because the writer feels entitled to drive while impaired, nothing; not the social contract; not legal consequences; and certainly, not the danger to others will stop this person from driving while high. Yes the rest of non-addicts are “pathetic” for not wanting our loved ones to be harmed or killed by this idiot.

RunnerDope March 21, 2017 at 3:32 PM

Cowellian’s idea sounds good on paper, but it requires that all drivers are paying attention, so it will never work.

I have a similar idea, that also will never work. If people are passing you on the right, no matter which lane you are in, move over one lane to the right.

Just me March 21, 2017 at 3:32 PM

Obviously someone who’s never smoked pot.ya addict.

mary f - ph March 21, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Hi, I am going to be running a website about handicap parking. I am sort of an expert and have a placard myself.

You can use your validly-owned CA placard or disabled license plate in any other state or country, except in NYC on public roads. The person to whom the placard or license plate is issued must be in the car or nearby and have ID (like you just dropped the placard owner off at his doctors). You cannot use it on public streets in NYC, but you can use it in NYC in private lots, such as in front of a store. (NYC DOT issues their own rectangular laminated disabled dashboard sign for on-street parking, and allows you to park in no parking or doctors only zones, for example, and without paying the meter I believe. Their placard is hard to get, as they have their own in-house doctor examine you in addition to your own doctor. They do not want abuse as parking is so tight in the City, except on Sundays. If you attempt to park in a public handicapped zone on the street in NYC without their permit, even if you display a NY state placard, you will be ticketed. Anyone from anywhere can apply for the NYC DOT placard, even if you are just visitng, but it expires once a year I believe, and you have to make an appointment to see their doctor beforehand in NYC. The NYC DOT permit is not valid in any other jurisdiction.)

Likewise, CA honors all foreign placards according to the CVC. “Foreign” in this case means “foreign to California”, i.e., out-of-state or out-of-country. I’ve saw a German placard used once in California, lol. They don’t specify that the NYC DOT placard is banned, but NYC DOT says itself their placard is not valid in any other jurisdiction.

mary f - ph March 21, 2017 at 4:09 PM

“If you attempt to park in a public handicapped zone on the street in NYC without their permit, even if you display a NY state placard, you will be ticketed.”

NYC is currently being sued for this by other placard holders, both in an out of state, who say they shouldn’t be required to get a second permit and have to go all the way to the City to see the DOT’s doctor once a year. I believe they are suing under the federal ADA law and Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

Hoofnagel March 21, 2017 at 4:17 PM

Does anyone who has a citation to the law that states that it is “not legal to have an open container of pot in a car”?

Or is this something just made up?

mary f - ph March 21, 2017 at 4:17 PM


California does not offer handicapped placards due to mental illness, but some other states do if the mental illness prevents a person from being able to use public transportation (like they are scared of people) or causes other problems like panic attacks if they have to walk too far.

The most common reasons for placard issuance are inability to walk 200 feet without resting, low respiration/lung air volume, use of a cane or other walking device, loss of one or both limbs, and total blindness. Loss of a limb is the only condition that does not have to be verified by a doctor.

Schmee March 21, 2017 at 4:23 PM

Mary- most of those stoned drivers still drive better than you lol

James March 21, 2017 at 4:35 PM

It’s really sad to see how many people don’t understand how a merge works. I’ll be in the left lane behind someone in the right lane and as those lanes become one, a wild car appears along my right side trying to force their way past me. I really don’t understand that mentality. If everyone understood where their position was in the merge and acted appropriately, everyone would have a much easier time. Which is why adding law’s won’t help since it relies on people actually doing what they’re supposed to.

mary f - ph March 21, 2017 at 4:41 PM


California is strict in that it issues you only one placard. But other states issue you as many as you want, within reason. For example, when I was in Maine I had two placards:one for my car, and one for my purse in case it was someone else’s car. Or if you park you car in handicapped parking at your apartment complex or airport, but then need another after your flight for whatever car you will be using then in the city you are visiting.

Factoid 2:

Some states have disabled spaces designated for just handicapped vans with wheelchair lifts. If you park in one of those space without a van lift, even though you have a valid placard, you could be ticketed. Nevada is one such state, although most signage does not comply the with the Nevada Revised Statutes, and any ticket should be thrown out in court.

Factoid 3:

It is hard to get a placard in California as only an MD or DO can certify you. In many other states, PA’s, NP’s, DC’s, etc. can certify you.

Factoid 4:

California is the only state that allows disabled placard or license plate holders to park in “residents only parking” as if they had such a permit. If you try that in another state with a California placard, you will get a ticket. Your CA placard or plate is valid in other states, but you must comply with the state’s own laws regarding handicapped parking. So Nevada does not extend free meter parking to placard holders,, unless you are a disabled veteran and have that plate.

Factoid 5:

California and some other jurisdictions like in PA and parts of NY (it goes by local municipality law there) do allow free meter parking for disabled placard or plate holders. The reasoning is not that they cannot afford it or cannot reach the meter, but that it will be too hard for disabled people to have to walk back to feed the meter every hour or two. Note: in some states it is illegal to feed a meter.

WhoDat? March 21, 2017 at 4:50 PM

There’s a zipper merge at the Southbound 680/242 junction – a nice long straightaway with a very wide, solid white line indicating no lane changing. Naturally, the many jerks in our society feel they’re better/more important/ more privileged than everybody else, so they dash across the solid line at their earliest convenience and I’ve never seen a CHP officer pull anyone over for that violation.

KAD March 21, 2017 at 5:21 PM

I drive to Redwood City about once a month driving back during commute time and I can tell you not many people pay attention to the solid white line. Drivers mostly ignore them to get into the lane they want making it dangerous.

Rollo Tomasi March 21, 2017 at 5:35 PM

@ 1URfullofhotair:

Will do. Knock yourself out.

Rollo Tomasi March 21, 2017 at 5:58 PM
Rollo Tomasi March 21, 2017 at 5:59 PM

@ Hoofnagel again:

Sorry about that. Page 58 of the link.

RunnerDope March 21, 2017 at 6:02 PM

@KAD and WhoDat?

I’ve seen contradictory statements about whether it’s illegal to cross a solid white line. Mostly, from what I’ve read, it is legal to cross them.

Rollo Tomasi March 21, 2017 at 6:04 PM

Cowellian forgot to mention the third jerk. This is the individual that refuses to play along with the zipper concept, so he or she tailgates the vehicle in front of them, thus preventing the vehicle from the other lane from merging properly. One fewer cars in front of them must make a huge difference in their lives.

WC March 21, 2017 at 6:25 PM

I get to a merge I leave space for 2 – 3 cars to get on the freeway. Helps keep you from stopping. It’s rush hour. You’re crawling. What difference does it make who’s in front of you or behind you for that matter? Relax and let ’em go.

Cowellian March 21, 2017 at 7:10 PM

There will always be jerks on the road, but if everyone stays in their own lane, we will all be better off.

WhoDat? March 21, 2017 at 9:00 PM


Statements mean diddly! The DMV handbook, however, indicates it’s not illegal to cross a solid white line. It denotes traffic moving in the same directions. Thanks, CalTrans: who would have thought that the merging of two southbound freeways (or formerly “free” ways) meant traffic was moving in the same direction!

Live and learn. My apologies to all the speeding, selfish jerks who drive over that line as soon as you can, rather than merging smoothly like everybody else.

Chicken Little March 21, 2017 at 9:00 PM

I believe you are correct. There is nothing in the Vehicle Code that prohibits crossing a single white line. But I’m sure mary f will be along shortly to straighten us out. I hear she’s an expert.

Justyfiable Languor March 22, 2017 at 7:47 AM

Regarding the zipper merge, I always give way to merging traffic on the right but sometimes I have to make a judgment call that entails speeding up or slowing down.

As to the reverse situation I do the same. However, if someone trys to pinch my space or simply refuse polite behavior I will again make a judgement and force the a* hole doing 65 in the slow lane while a string of mergers are trying to zipper, into slowing. This is a real problem at the clover exchange of 680 and HWY 4. I always slow down in either lane. It’s safer for everyone if we are all doing 55mpr, AND spacing for emergencies.

AnonZ March 22, 2017 at 7:51 AM

Driving while high is nothing like drunk driving. If you’ve ever been drunk or high, you’d understand. Driving while high instantly decreases my road rage. I don’t speed, I’m more careful and less apt to care if you cut me off. It’s not like when you are drunk and your ability to think and react are much slower and sloppier. I wouldn’t suggest people run out and try it; but for a lifelong burner, it’s actually better for me and FOR YOU.

As for the zipper merge, it won’t work. Too many people are too scared to wait until the end; they feel they’ve got to get over “right now” because the signs say so. I agree that it would help traffic immensely, but I don’t see it happening.

old-school guy March 22, 2017 at 10:56 AM

The merge signs in New Zealand use broken lines merging together (like a zipper) instead of the solid black lines used in the U.S. Maybe Caltrans should adopt that style of merge signs. The zipper method works well there because everyone knows what to do.

Smooth Operator March 22, 2017 at 2:28 PM

I think smoking and driving is a very complex issue because majority of drivers who get high are very paranoid and drive at the speed limit or lower.. Its not anywhere near the dangers of texting or getting drunk and driving. Calling the police when people are smoking[weed] in cars might not be the best way to flex your citizen superhero powers but maybe when that person is in the fast lane swerving at 80 trying to send a group chat! And please stop calling everyone who smokes pot addicts, you ppl sound like Scientology recruiters lolol

anon March 22, 2017 at 4:10 PM

AnonZ @26

That’s what they all say.

last hurrah March 27, 2017 at 12:54 PM

@ mary f – ph
What happens when a person has a handicap license and then the spouse requires one as well. Since you can’t have two license plates, do you hang a placard for the second person if they happen to be alone in the car.? Or do they use continue to use license plate as their permission?

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