Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Different Year Stickers on Plates, Self-Service Terminals at DMV, Pulling Over for First Responders, Driving with the Flow of Traffic + MORE

June 19, 2017 14:00 pm · 46 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: Lately, I’ve noticed two types of year decals for California plates. One has all four of the year digits and the other just the last two digits.  What is the difference between the two?

–Jim in Martinez

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Awesome question, Jim! The answer could be very helpful to Claycordians. It turns out that the two types of stickers are manufactured differently, Jaime Garza of the DMV explained.

One type is made by California prison industries and has all the markings when shipped. The other is blank stock and the message on the sticker is printed along with the information on the registration card at self-service terminals at DMV offices.

This was news to the Jammer – yes, there are self-service terminals at certain DMV offices! There are three such terminals in the East Bay, Garza said.

The three East Bay DMV offices with the self-service terminals are in Pittsburg, the Oakland Coliseum and – ta da! – Concord. Nifty, eh?

COMMUTER: Today on the way to work all three lanes on Clayton Road into downtown Concord were lined with cars bumper-to-bumper for miles.  I heard a siren and saw behind us the lights of an ambulance.

I was in the far left lane and the cars in the two lanes on my right were not pulling over to the right curb. It was very upsetting.

I pulled over to the left curb but the cars behind me stayed in the middle of the lane. Since the ambulance could not get through anyway, I kept going, taking the next left turn.

What do you do when the other drivers on the road do not pull over to the right curb?

–Stressed Out in Concord

TRAFFIC JAMMER:  Luckily, as you know, Claycordians, we have our own police officer, Officer Leo, to answer the question and give us an insider look at what’s like driving an emergency vehicle. Here’s what he has to say:

“The law for approaching emergency vehicles is pull to the right AND STOP.  (Emphasis added).  Drivers often forget the second part and it makes right turns (especially at intersections) harrowing during emergency driving.

As for the scenario in question, the first thing I will advise is NEVER move to the left.  This typically adds to the complication, is unexpected by emergency responders, and is technically against the law.

As a lights-and-siren driver, I understand gridlock traffic.  Although it’s more dangerous, the law actually allows me to drive against traffic (opposite direction and often counter-commute).  Assuming those drivers follow the law, it should provide an open lane for me…

Finally, don’t stop either.  Again, it just adds muck to the mire.   Proceed slowly, signal right, and move over if and when you can.  You can only control your own driving. Concentrate on that.

I appreciate how frustrating it can be when you’re only one following the rules.  But that’s your job … mine is to navigate the rest of the way.”

COMMUTER: Please, Traffic Jammer, for the love of all that’s holy, explain to people that if they are not going to keep up with the speed of traffic around them, they should move to the right.

–Pushed to the Limit

TRAFFIC JAMMER: PTTL, the Jammer fears you and I are preaching to the choir; the folks who read Claycord are a very smart and law-abiding bunch. But for the sake of your sanity, I’ll publish your plea: Yes, slower traffic should move right.

Incidentally, June has been declared Lane Courtesy Month by the National Motorists Association, so your timing is good. The folks at the association say that slow-moving traffic moves to the right, this helps prevent road rage and its scary consequences.

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

Kentucky Derby June 19, 2017 at 2:29 PM

I agree that slower traffic should keep to the right. I’m also well aware that people don’t drive the speed limit. They drive the speed they’re comfortable with. Just because you’re comfortable going 85-90, doesn’t mean the rest of us who are driving SAFELY should move over just because you’re a moron.


WhoDat? June 19, 2017 at 2:31 PM

I drive around the limit (never too far under or over), and usually stay right, but to those creeps who glare at me when I’m in the left lane it’s because I’m going to make a left turn shortly and you should slow the F down now and then.

How fast is too slow June 19, 2017 at 2:55 PM

I agree with Kentucky Derby. If I’m doing 85 (an example, not that I do) and some idiots wants to do 100, I gotta move for the moron? June 19, 2017 at 2:59 PM

I agree with #1.

I was traveling south on Hwy 5, yesterday at 79 mph, passing trucks, semis and lots of campers and cars pulling trailers. I was 9 mph over the legal limit and there was intermittently somebody on my tail pushing me down the freeway.

Sorry, not moving over for someone who rides my bumper. There were some people who as they came up slowed down to my speed, didn’t ride my bumper and I did move over for them.

RunnerDope June 19, 2017 at 3:03 PM

Another point I’ve never seen mentioned here is that during commute hours, the 2nd lane from the left becomes the “fast” lane.

For example, I-80 South from San Pablo to Berkeley has 4 lanes.
From 4 – 7 PM, there are people driving 60 MPH in lane 2. I suspect they’re oblivious to the fact that they’re in the fast lane.

NoMoreFreeRide June 19, 2017 at 3:53 PM – You’re then breaking the law. The left lane is a passing lane. If you’ve completed over taking the car in the right lane and it’s clear you are by law required to move over if someone is behind you. Your actions can also lead to more accidents than the person driving faster than the speed limit. Those are facts. When you become a police officer you can right citations until then follow the rule of the law.

Big Ass Truck June 19, 2017 at 3:58 PM


You are all a danger to others on the road, MOVE OVER IF YOU ARE SLOWER THAN OTHER TRAFFIC IN THE FAR LEFT LANE. Regardless if your already over the speed limit, thats how to law is written, if you bogging down the far left lane by your thinking, your making a dangerous situation more dangerous, and thus making the freeway slower. MOVE OVER TO RIGHT!!!!!!

Randy June 19, 2017 at 4:01 PM

in Oregon the law is that the left lane is used for passing only.

Think about it.

ClayDen June 19, 2017 at 4:17 PM

@Kentucky Derby

Driving slower does NOT mean you are driving safely. It could mean you aren’t capable (or comfortable) of driving faster, so perhaps you are “driving over your head” while driving at the speed limit. Or, you could be in a less capable car. Or both. Or you could be texting or talking on your phone. Or “chemically impaired.” I see so many apparently timid drivers that appear to be afraid to use the power they have available to properly merge onto the freeway, it upsets me significantly (or you could say really p*****s me off).

The licensing requirements are a very bad joke. They need to rename the “Driver License” to what it really is: a transportation appliance operator’s permit. There should be a DRIVING test required to get your license. The test should measure your driving ability, including the ability to respond to emergencies. It should be required upon initial issuance and then every few years (maybe 10-15) until you reach a certain age (maybe 60-65) and then every 4-6 years after that. Maybe they could then raise the speed limits to something more reasonable. I would also be in favor of lower speed limits in certain urban areas or during certain “high traffic periods” in those areas and perhaps 5-10 MPH lower at night.

Cowellian June 19, 2017 at 4:19 PM

One thing Tennessee does that I really like is to print the Plate number on the bottom edge of the year sticker. It can still be stolen, but a cop can see if the sticker matches the plate.

Tennessee will also give you a ticket for blocking the fast lane, even if you’re driving the speed limit. A buddy in the CHP told me that someone who is trying to enforce the speed limit by blocking a lane can be pulled over for aggressive driving, which is the equivalent of road rage.

Kitty Kiss June 19, 2017 at 5:14 PM

Right off the bat comes the entitlement crew with their “safe” driving delusions. You are creating a hazard if people are trying to get around you and you refuse to move! You are forcing speeders to dart in and out of slower traffic to get around you, putting everyone at risk due to your passive aggressiveness and their over aggressiveness. You are not in charge, stop being a turd in the pipe! And no, I am not a speeder, I am one of the ACTUAL safe drivers in the CORRECT lane.

anon June 19, 2017 at 5:15 PM

If I’m soon to be making a left turn and doing the speed limit, it would be stupid to move right and take the chance I would miss my left turn just so some bozo could speed past me. It doesn’t make sense. On a stretch of road or freeway, I will move right if I’m doing the speed limit and others aren’t, but if I’m about to turn left, I believe that is asking a bit much.

Pleasant Jenny June 19, 2017 at 5:24 PM

@ClayDen, you and I have been around here a long long time. This is the first time you’ve ever said something that kind of “bugged” me. You refer to “timid” drivers merging when getting onto the freeway. I am one of those. It honestly scares the hell out of me as in my later years of driving I don’t trust anyone to help me out to merge safely and no one wants even ONE MORE CAR ahead of them. So I will give an analogy. I was trained in public speaking. I have no problem in front of a microphone reading or simply talking. I have been to many weddings and funerals in the past few years (am in sandwich years – young adults getting married and dying elders in the family and friend’s families). I don’t judge or get “pissed off” when someone who doesn’t feel comfortable at the microphone who I can barely hear or says “Um, um, um,” one hundred times. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses and/or comfort levels. It just feels like no one has any patience for basic human flaws anymore. I have a stellar driving record. My dad taught me the rules of the lanes, etc. But to merge onto the freeway has been noticeably stressful these past few years.

joe June 19, 2017 at 5:30 PM

Kentucky derby, you seem to think that everyone that does not drive just like you is a moron. You really need to read the LAW. Slower traffic is to keep right, there is no exemption for people who think they are driving safely. Unless you have a badge and a ticket book, it is NOT your job to control traffic. Also for everyone else, just because you are adhering to one law, does not make alright to forget about all the rest.

joe June 19, 2017 at 5:37 PM

# 3 YEP ! unless you have a badge

Winston June 19, 2017 at 5:38 PM

Speed cameras would make speeding a thing of the past and eliminate a lot of road rage. If you were guaranteed a $20 ticket for every mile you drove 5MPH over the speed limit, you would do it a lot less.

joe June 19, 2017 at 5:41 PM

#4 you ever had someone try to get around you, and flip you off? more and more people are unstable, and carry guns. I bet you will move over when someone takes a shot at you. Just move over and let the jerks go by, odds are law enforcement will get them eventually.

Lambie June 19, 2017 at 5:56 PM

I tend to have a lead foot, sometimes I appreciate the driver in front of me taming my need for speed. They are usually speeding too, but less than me 😉

Drivers should move over for faster drivers, later when you see them pulled over, you can laugh at them.

Definitely pull over for emergency vehicles, someone’s life may depend on it.

ClayDen June 19, 2017 at 7:05 PM

@Pleasant Jenny

It sounds like we are pretty close to the same age, so I understand how you feel. However, merging doesn’t bother me; I just make sure I’m in the proper gear (usually 3rd in my 5 speed manual), keep my head on a rapid swivel and then accelerate as necessary to safely merge. Several years ago my Mom quit driving on the freeway because she didn’t feel comfortable merging or driving in traffic at freeway speeds. Perhaps that is a solution to resolving your fright about merging. If you aren’t comfortable with your accelerator pedal on the floor briefly once in a while, it may be time to quit driving on the freeway; you and everyone else will be safer for it.

Dk June 19, 2017 at 7:17 PM

For those stating that the left lane is passing only one you are incorrect. In California the left lane is not a passing only lane.

Pony June 19, 2017 at 7:25 PM

Are the “self service” units at smog shops? When I got my car smogged the tech asked if I wanted to get my registration and tabs right there. If I had heard of this I would have taken that option. As opposed to hoping I get to my mail before someone else does.

Original G June 19, 2017 at 8:51 PM

Number of hyper idiots on the road is a factor in deciding to be at or slightly below the limit. Was on highway 4 from Pittsburg to Antioch and it musta been a full moon. Was doing limit in slower lanes and being passed by people doing 80. Take Kirker Pass twice a day five to six days a week. Coming home in afternoon am very content to be in right lane doing under the limit to let racers and those on their cellphones having trouble keeping it between the lines go by. Would rather have them ahead of me than beside or gaining on me. Several times a week get passed by vehicles doing 70 plus up Kirker Pass toward Concord.

Always a good idea to let a speeding tailgater go by. If they are willing to be bait for the cops, get the speeding tickets and plow the road ahead why should I to deprive them of that opportunity?

Silva June 19, 2017 at 9:00 PM

Pleasant Jenny, I’ll happily allow you to merge into my lane when I see you coming and you need in. That is an important part of merging I think a lot of people don’t seem to know about. A little bit more courtesy out there really wouldn’t kill anyone.

Dr. Jellyfinger June 19, 2017 at 9:18 PM

I call those guys “Trail Blazers” they can go full speed ahead & locate the radar gun positions for me.

fred June 20, 2017 at 3:23 AM

“A buddy in the CHP told me that someone who is trying to enforce the speed limit by blocking a lane can be pulled over for aggressive driving, which is the equivalent of road rage.”

name the vehicle code section for me…..

AnonZ June 20, 2017 at 6:10 AM

I find idiot drivers in every lane – nobody ever moves to the right any longer and it’s so frustrating. DOH!! As for trying to move to the right when an emergency vehicle is coming from behind, stop being a cop and take care of yourself. If you can’t move over in bumper to bumper traffic, you can’t move. Let the emergency vehicle do it’s job and maneuver around.

adingoatemybaby June 20, 2017 at 7:20 AM

DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336] ( Division 11 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )
CHAPTER 3. Driving, Overtaking, and Passing [21650 – 21759] ( Chapter 3 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

ARTICLE 1. Driving on Right Side [21650 – 21664] ( Article 1 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )

(a) Notwithstanding the prima facie speed limits, any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(b) If a vehicle is being driven at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time, and is not being driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb, it shall constitute prima facie evidence that the driver is operating the vehicle in violation of subdivision (a) of this section.
(c) The Department of Transportation, with respect to state highways, and local authorities, with respect to highways under their jurisdiction, may place and maintain upon highways official signs directing slow-moving traffic to use the right-hand traffic lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn.

How fast is too slow June 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

@#27. Excellent! “normal speed of traffic” = speed limit for that street/freeway. I.e. 65mph, not 85, but being bumper ridden by a jerk wanting to go 100.

Retired LEO June 20, 2017 at 8:37 AM

Some appropriate sections of the law….

CVC 21753 – Except when passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall safely move to the right-hand side of the highway in favor of the overtaking vehicle after an audible signal or a momentary flash of headlights by the overtaking vehicle, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle. This section does not require the driver of an overtaken vehicle to drive on the shoulder of the highway in order to allow the overtaking vehicle to pass.

CVC 21654 is applicable to slow moving vehicles other than bicycles, such as cars and trucks. California Vehicle Code section 21654 states that all slow moving vehicles must stay as close to the right side of the roadway as possible while driving slower than other cars and trucks on the road. In other words, pull to the right if you’re holding up traffic.

CVC 22400 – “No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is . . . in compliance with the law.”
Theoretically, you could get a ticket for driving the speed limit in the fast lane if you are holding up traffic. But, practically speaking, an officer would first pull over the speeder who is trying to get around you before going after you.

California PC 245(a)(1) – ADW – If you use a car as a weapon, you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Assault with a deadly weapon requires that a person commit an assault upon the person of another through the use of an instrument (in this case, a car) with enough force that it is likely to produce great bodily injury. You would therefore have to prove an assault to be charged/convicted of “road rage” – and, to my knowledge, there is no “road rage” law in the vehicle code.

All this being said, it seems the correct response is left to your own sense of proper freeway etiquette. But my advice is that you pull over because–let’s admit it–many of us drive like yahoos when we are in a hurry, and some of those other yahoos are armed and crazy.

Rollo Tomasi June 20, 2017 at 8:38 AM

@ Fred #25:

CA vehicle code 23103(a) gives law enforcement a large umbrella under which a driver can be charged with reckless driving.

Rollo Tomasi June 20, 2017 at 8:41 AM

Unless you are actively overtaking another vehicle, you shouldn’t be driving in the far left lane of any highway or freeway. Surface streets, or highways with intersections, are a different story.

Rollo Tomasi June 20, 2017 at 8:47 AM

@ how fast is too slow #28:

Look up the definition of the very first word of 21654(a).

dogbertt June 20, 2017 at 8:50 AM

Sorry, Jenny, but one of the key lessons from driver’s ed was the need to approach freeway speeds when merging onto a freeway where traffic is moving at speed. Merging at a slower speed is actually more dangerous because first, it decreases the space between each car on the ramp behind you, creating a clump of cars that will have difficulty merging, and second, the drivers on the freeway approaching you from behind cannot accurately predict your actions, i.e., will you continue to attempt to merge at slow speed, or will you suddenly speed up.

Ming June 20, 2017 at 10:06 AM

Very grateful to ALL of our First Responders specially Fire station #8 and AMR who helped save my life when I had a heart attack) on Oct. 21, 2015, Wed, approximately around noon. With this, I thank those drivers who pulled over and stopped to let the ambulance I’m in go by, as they zapped me 5 times and rushed me to John Muir. I pray everyday for All of you.
So to be respectful when on the road is a good thing. Life is precious. Oh and btw, ever seen drivers who go the opposite direction of their turn signals? just sayin’:) Great topic thank you.

Shoulda Coulda June 20, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Like grandpa said-
Everyone that goes faster than me is a maniac.
Everyone that goes slower than me is an idiot.

And the right has it June 20, 2017 at 12:17 PM

On Contra Costa last week in the middle of the day, a fire truck was blowing its horn because people were not moving over. I was at a stop light, but noticed that someone was trying to turn left instead of pulling over, like it was no big deal! The fire truck repeatedly honked at this person, who could have gotten over, and they stopped for a bit in front of the truck with the way ahead of them totally clear! I cannot believe that people are so incredibly self centered and oblivious!

Kirkwood June 20, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Seems like a lot of upset people on this thread. Why?
My pet peeve, albeit a minor one is people who apply their brakes for no logical reason. Since I strategize continuously while in traffic I can allow the distance to close a bit while the situation works itself out, perhaps a couple of seconds or touch my own brakes which I hate to do because it costs me money. Most of my life has involved racing in some form so I no longer feel the need for speed or to beat anyone, and no use beating up the machinery.

Jeepers June 20, 2017 at 3:44 PM

The examples all say on a highway (I assume freeways too). But what about Streets like Treat or Ygnacio. I don’t stay in the right lane unless I am planning on making a right turn. And if I plan to go left, I stay in the left lane. I drive with the flow of traffic. People who want to do 70 down those streets are not my concern. They end up weaving back and forth anyway.

So really Traffic Jammer are you saying on normal city streets everyone but speed demons should stay out of left lanes?

mtones June 20, 2017 at 9:15 PM

What frankly still amazed me, even though by now it should not, is that there are still so many people complaining about the speed of other drivers and problems changing lanes, yet neatly neglect to ever freaking signal. People just need to stop that crud. Expecting everyone to read your mind and SLAM on their breaks because you decide to cut into a 1 inch gap at the last minute right in front of someone else is what causes problems all the time. Many people do the same dang commute day in and day out, so you know that they know when to get ready to turn. Please USE A SIGNAL. – rant off.

Keep all 3 Barrels Up June 21, 2017 at 8:52 AM

I would love to hear why people don’t want to use their turn signal!!!

Lambie June 21, 2017 at 11:56 AM

People don’t use their signal because when they do, the person in the intended lane speeds up to prevent the lane change.

Concernicus June 21, 2017 at 2:19 PM

People who don’t–clearly CAN, but DON’T–pull over for first responders should have their cars marked. Then once they make an emergency call, the responders take their sweet time getting there, because who cares who needs help if it means pulling over for a minute, right?

Keep all three Barrels Up June 21, 2017 at 3:03 PM

Lambie if that’s why you don’t I appreciate your honesty.

jaime June 21, 2017 at 4:34 PM

in response to kentucky derby’ s comment…. although i dont drive 80-90 like the other “morons” but i do believe in what’s called the “passing lane” and/or “fast lane” aka the left lane and if you payed attention to the signs on the freeway you would notice quite a few of them say “Slower traffic merge right” nothing more frustrating than getting into the PASSING lane so as to PASS slower traffic i.e. semi’s work trucks and those who think speed limit is still 55 and get behind someone who thinks 40 is a safe speed. go with the flow of traffic is driving 101 especially on hwy 4 where most if it is only 2 lanes. so if YOU feel its too much to be curtious to other drivers then expect dirty looks, horns blaring, etc

jaime June 21, 2017 at 4:39 PM

right on keep all 3 barrels up!!!! my biggest pet peeve is not using indicators. i don’t know about the rest of the drivers on the roads but i failed telepathy twice in high school. i’m convinced that at least 40%-50% of accidents could have been avoided if indicators were used. it doesnt take that much effort if any at all to push up or down on that thing sticking out of the steering column try it people its fun

Lambie June 21, 2017 at 7:50 PM

I use turn signals a majority of the time, but notice other drivers speed up to prevent my lane change. So frustrating!

Turn signals are essential when traveling to 680 north, going from Monument entrance to 680, cutting across traffic trying to get to 242 north. That section is stressful.

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