Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Driving in School Zones, Polite Hand Gestures, Honking When the Light Turns Green + MORE

August 21, 2017 14:00 pm · 19 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: When I drive past a school on weekdays when school is in, I obey the sign that says, “Speed limit 25 mph when children are present.” But that’s not necessary on the weekends, is it? What about weeknights? If I can see a child, but they’re on the playground and not in the street, does that count?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Confused, your timing couldn’t be better. The first days of school in Contra Costa County are mostly today, Tuesday and Wednesday in districts including San Ramon, West Contra Costa, and Mt. Diablo. The Jammer would like to take this occasion to remind beloved Claycordians to be extra careful when driving this week as children return to school.

Your question comes up often, because “when children are present,” is not very specific. Drivers must go 25 mph when approaching or passing a school building with a warning sign or its grounds while children are going to or leaving the school, either during school hours or during the noon recess period. Also, you must drive 25 mph anytime you’re driving by school grounds with signage and no barrier separating children from the roadway when children are on the grounds.

COMMUTER: There is one thing that drives me into a rage: I’m stopped at a traffic light, it changes from red to green and one nanosecond later, the car behind me blasts the horn. Often I respond by flooring it and speeding off at twice the limit. How can people be so rude?

—Road Rage 101

TRAFFIC JAMMER: RR101, the Jammer feels your pain, or to be more precise, your anger. The person behind you is wrong to honk in an effort to get you to jump hastily into action. Jackrabbit starts waste gas, and they’re not safe. Taking off immediately after the light changes means you might collide with a red-light runner.

However, your response is also dangerous, for the same reasons. While the rude behavior isn’t your fault, getting angry and flooring it isn’t a good idea.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has some good suggestions on how to avoid road rage:

  • Allow plenty of time for each trip. Don’t allow the shortest possible time for a trip and then race the clock. This makes it more likely you’ll be stressed out and get angry at someone who slows you down.
  • Instead of trying to make good time, try to make time good. Play soothing music or a book on tape. (The Jammer adds: Sip some chamomile tea – not Red Bull or a triple venti.)
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. (For more tips:

COMMUTER: I was approaching the Hopyard Road entrance to Interstate 580 westbound in Pleasanton one afternoon. The metering light was red. I stopped at the light and waited, and waited, and waited. I could see that traffic was speeding along on the freeway at the speed limit, and there was one car behind me. The light STILL didn’t change. I looked in the rearview mirror and threw up my hands helplessly, so the driver behind me could see.

She in turn threw up her hands in a gesture of commiseration. I decided to run the light and as I started forward, she gave me a grateful wave. The exchange made me feel good and I wondered if there are other universal, positive signals people use on the road?

—The Anti-Road-Rager

TRAFFIC JAMMERThe Jammer is happy that you shared this moment of solidarity between motorists. Clearly, you are a driver with good karma – because you didn’t get a ticket for running the red light, and you were able to establish a good relationship with another motorist through gestures.

The Jammer is glad you didn’t get a ticket, because running a red light incurs a whopping fine, easily in the $400 range. Edging up a little closer to the light in case your car hasn’t tripped the switch embedded in the road is one way to nudge it to change.

Gestures can be one of the most incendiary things you can do while driving, and AAA and other experts say to avoid them. But it looks like you, ARR, succeeded with gestures. Beloved Claycordians, what do you say? Have you successfully used positive gestures on the road?

TRAFFIC JAMMERThat’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

Dorothy August 21, 2017 at 3:28 PM

I was in the lane next to the left turn only with light. The light for that lane turned green and the dingbat at the wheel was too busy on her cell to even notice. That one turned red just as my own turned green. I’m willing to bet this person is the kind that would honk at RR101 as soon as she noticed the light turn from red to green.

Re hand signals. Since other drivers can’t hear you, sometime a good thing, I usually do a open hand wage to say thank you to the nicer drivers.

RunnerDope August 21, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Has anyone else noticed that the traffic light signal timing has been changed at many Concord intersections?

For example, at Clayton and Treat, the left hand turn lanes on Clayton now stay green for a long time after all traffic has passed through. Very annoying.

RunnerDope August 21, 2017 at 4:29 PM

“…one nanosecond later, the car behind me blasts the horn.”

OK, you’re off by a factor of a few billion, but the timing of some lights surely contributes to this. Turning left from Clayton to West St., if there are more than a few cars in front of you, you won’t get through. If anyone isn’t paying attention, it’s game over.

Cowellian August 21, 2017 at 4:33 PM

Maybe the honk came a nanosecond after the light changed, or maybe it came a nanosecond after you finally noticed that it had changed. It has been my experience that many people who only check their text messages at a stoplight, only notice the light change when someone honks.

Kentucky Derby August 21, 2017 at 5:33 PM

I just drive and listen to really good music. I don’t get caught up in the timing of lights, nor do I get honked at. I pay attention. I occasionally honk lightly at someone in front of me, but give the person a chance to notice the light change before coming across as a rude psychopath – laying on the horn like there’s no tomorrow.

Uptonogood August 21, 2017 at 8:27 PM

I don’t dawdle at traffic lights, but if a scum bag behind me honks the second the light changes, I look in the mirror, hunch my shoulders in a “what the ___?” gesture, look both ways to see if they were warning me of an emergency, and then drive off slowly. I’d like to ask them why they didn’t start earlier if they need to be somewhere.

Uptonogood August 21, 2017 at 8:35 PM

Runner Dope:

Yes, I have. Olivera at PCH stays green far too long outside of a narrow band of commute hours. I know because I sit and wait for the green on PCH and no cars cross on Olivera Road for 15 to 30 seconds. I’ve also noticed the proliferation of left turn arrows (which delay movement around town) at intersections where you have over a quarter mile line-of-sight (i.e., Cowell at Coventry; Willow Pass at North 6th; North 6th at Concord Blvd.). So many “newcomers to driving” have no clue about how to make a left turn, especially when there’s a car turning left from the other direction. It’s on the damn DMV test, folks; if you can’t handle routine driving situations, GET OFF THE ROAD!

Dr. Jellyfinger August 21, 2017 at 11:07 PM

So…… maybe I should start waiting a couple maybe 3 seconds before I honk?

jjshawk August 22, 2017 at 1:18 AM

With all the stupid red-light runners on the road, how can anyone trust a green-light, anymore, without giving it 3 seconds before stepping on the gas? Not paying attention or sleeping at a green-light is a different story,…that is low-class, but not a big enough deal for me to hit my horn. The only times I have used my horn, was to avoid being hit, if I had nowhere else to move. I think, many people want an excuse to exercise their “honk-fetish”? Save “horny” for the bedroom, backseat, or……well,… you get the picture.

I think the same! Some people, late for “whatever” are arrogant enough to think their bad planning, is somehow, our emergency! How rude!

AnonZ August 22, 2017 at 5:21 AM

RunnerDope: The light at Treat & Clayton is not fixed yet due to construction. Believe me, I’ve been in contact with the City because this is the most annoying, ridiculous situation ever. Each direction gets the max amount of time for green regardless of any vehicle or pedestrian being there or not. I was told this should be complete by mid-August, so they are already LATE!

SORRY but I honk after 2 seconds and that’s all you’re ever going to get from me. I spend too much time at red lights with morons on their phones, not paying attention when the light turns green. Most times, those idiots use up half the time of the green signal to get going. When I’m driving, I’m DRIVING; not texting, talking, shaving, eating, putting on makeup or playing with my dog. I’m paying attention. My other peeve is the people who have to leave a football field between cars. Do you realize how much space you block when you do that? Do you realize how many folks could pull into the turn lanes if you just moved up a few feet?!!

ConcordRes2 August 22, 2017 at 5:40 AM

Ok honking at a driver waiting at a green light has started to become the only way you can get the driver to put down their phone. It would appear that drivers feel once the light turns red it is time to start texting and they never look up to see the light has turned green and all the cars in front of them are gone. Please put down the phone and drive it is the law.

Frank, too August 22, 2017 at 6:52 AM

I hope that you are forwarding the comments about signal timing to our illustrious leader of all things traffic related, the great Kuzbari.
I have noticed since the completion of the road work @ Clayton & Treat that there are lots of new sensors embedded in the pavement. Ray’s boys obviously not reset the timing at that intersection as the traffic flow is now worse than before the “upgrade” work. Get with it fellas. And while you are at it, PLEASE take care of several seemingly stuck pedestrian crossing buttons such as at Clayton/canal xing. Concord B/Harrison, Concord B/Market. & piss poor timing on Concord B from Willow Pass to I 680 esp @ Bisso Ln where Corp Yard traffic seems to get priority over a major thoroughfare. Way too much unnecessary stop ‘n go.

Crazytech58 August 22, 2017 at 6:54 AM

The left turn signals at treat and clayton are malfunctioning, ever since road work on that corner, the east bound left turn signal stays green at the same sequence as the double left west bound lane, so nobody’s in the lane, but stays green as long as the busy double left turn light, so you wait forever when nobody’s there.

Kirkwood August 22, 2017 at 11:24 AM

Re: Honking at other drivers – ever notice that male drivers honk “beep” while females honk “beeeeeep”! I guess it’s because females are more communicative.

Kirkwood August 22, 2017 at 11:31 AM

@uptonogood – I suspect that signals are timed for longer greens at Olivera due to potential pedestrian traffic from the nearby schools.

Silva August 22, 2017 at 12:48 PM

Aw, claycord, I bet Dr. Jellyfinger would’ve taken my comment in his normal spirit of good humor.

Antler August 22, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Frank, too at #12 ~~~
Are you perhaps meaning to type “Concord A” (for Avenue) rather than “Concord B”? 😂
(That’s all right, Jammer….. if he gets you lost when you’re trying to trouble shoot this one, give me a call and we’ll meet for lunch!)

Steve August 22, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Ugh! This is so perfect! A couple weeks ago, I was behind a guy who appeared to be looking down toward his lap, im assuming cell phone…the left turn arrow changed to green and I patiently waited at least 2 full seconds. Then at the exact same time that I honked, the person behind me honked also. The guy looked up and drove off. However, when I pulled up next to him at the next light, he flipped me off before turning to get on to 680S. What a jerk! He probably thought it was just a nanosecond after turning green that we honked, but it was way longer…AND, honking should not automatically earn you a middle finger! People are losing their minds!

anonnnnaannoonn August 22, 2017 at 5:01 PM

A colleague told me this summer how to remember the difference between Concord AVE and Concord BLVD:
AVE is the one by the AIRPORT
BLVD is the one by the schools with BOYS and girls

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