ca.driving FAQ

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David Levine

Aug 15, 1993, 11:19:19 PM8/15/93
Archive-name: ca-driving-faq
Last-modified: $Date: 1993/08/16 03:19:09 $
Version: $Revision: 1.13 $

Below are some recurring questions about driving in California. Some answers
are extracted from net postings. Answers include the name and email address of
the author unless anonymity was requested, in which case no author is listed.
Please send any additions, corrections, or suggestions to the update address
listed in an answer, or to the Reply-To address in the header of this message.

Many FAQs, including this one, are available via FTP on the archive site in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers. The name under which
this FAQ is archived appears in the Archive-name line above (ca-driving-faq).

Disclaimer: any information contained herein may be incorrect and/or may
simply be an expression of opinion. No guarantee of suitability for any
purpose is offered or implied. No responsibility is assumed for any use, or
for any consequences resulting from any use, of information contained herein.

the questions:

Laws: general
1.I got a ticket for XXXX. Can I beat it in court and how?
2.There's a mistake on the ticket I just got. Does that invalidate it?
3.How do I get a copy of the California Vehicle Code?
4.What are some noteworthy or peculiar California Vehicle Code laws?

Laws: driving
5.Is it legal to change lanes in the middle of an intersection?
6.Is it legal for vehicles (usually motorcycles) to share a lane?

Laws: driver's licenses and vehicle registration
7.What is the grace period for getting a driver's license after establishing
residency in California? What is the grace period for vehicle registration?
8.Do I have to have my driver's license with me when driving?
9.Do I have to have any identification with me while not driving?
10.What information is in the driver license mag stripe?
11.Are there special license plates of Yosemite's Tunnel View?
12.How often can I be cited for expired vehicle registration? And is it always
or never a fix-it ticket?
13.Does my vehicle have to be registered, even if I don't drive it?
14.How much will it cost to import to CA and register an out-of-state vehicle?

Laws: vehicle equipment
15.Is window tinting legal? What about pull-down blinds and window stickers?
16.Do I need chains in the mountains if I have snow tires? If so, what kind?

Laws: enforcement (see also "Radar and speed trap" section)
17.Can a local cop cite you for speeding on an Interstate?
18.Can a CHP officer write a ticket for an offense not committed on a freeway?
19.What's the difference between the CA Highway Patrol and the CA State Police?

Radar and speed traps
20.What are some locations of speed and carpool lane enforcement traps?
21.Are radar detectors illegal in CA, or just not popular for some reason?

Traffic court, traffic school, and DMV
22.Am I entitled to a jury trial for my traffic ticket? Can I have counsel
appointed at public expense? Can I be sent to prison if found guilty?
23.Why can't I both argue my case in court and use traffic school to keep
the points off my license if I lose?
24.I've heard about "comedy traffic schools". Has anyone tried one of these?
25.Do tickets dismissed by traffic school attendance appear on my DMV record?
26.Do out-of-state tickets appear on your California DMV printout, and
can insurance companies can find this info out if they don't?
27.Does the DMV find out about tickets received from Federal authorities?

28.How much insurance must a driver carry?
29.Do insurance companies have to be licensed in CA? How can I tell if one is?
30.Can my insurer legally ask me for my roommates' names and license numbers?
31.What's the net.recommendation for motorcycle insurance?

32.When you see a sign "Litter removal next two miles by organization XXX",
what exactly does XXX do?

33.How much are the gasoline taxes in CA?

34.Can I get a ticket for a traffic violation while I'm riding a bicycle?
35.Will such bicycle traffic convictions go on my DMV driving record?
36.I had to slow down because of a bicyclist and then cross the center line to
pass. Aren't those damn fool lycra-butts supposed to ride on the
sidewalk/in the gutter/in the bike lane/etc?
37.Oh? So what are these bike lanes for, then?
38.One of those gangs of a dozen neon-shirted lycra-butts was taking up a whole
lane the other day, don't they have to ride single file?
39.I'm a slow, occasional cyclist and I feel a lot safer riding the way I walk,
against the traffic. Is that OK?

For further information . . .
40.What are some useful phone numbers and/or addresses?
41.What are some recommended readings?

CHP radios and scanners
42.What is a "CHiPs detector"? What's the complete story on CHP radios?
43.But aren't most citizens prohibited from using mobile radio scanners?

and the answers:

Laws: general

1.I got a ticket for XXXX. Can I beat it in court and how?

It's hard to answer that question generally. Some random suggestions:
-- Pick up a copy of Nolo Press' _Fight_Your_Ticket_ (see the recommended
readings question for ordering information and a review).
-- Read the text of the law that you were cited for. It's usually a CVC
citation, see the question on getting a copy of the California Vehicle
-- In some counties, if you go to court you waive the option to choose
traffic school. See the question on traffic school attendance for more
information. And call the clerk of the court where you got the ticket
to find out what your options are.

2.There's a mistake on the ticket I just got. Does that invalidate it?

from (Chris Calley) on 25 mar 93:

Should you decide to fight the ticket, you might be able to argue that since
the cop was not observant in writing down the correct state on your
citation, that he/she might also have not been observant regarding your
speed. I do not believe that the simple fact that an error exists on the
citation automatically gets the ticket dismissed.

from (Jeff Makey) on 26 mar 93:

About 5 years ago I got a speeding ticket in Maryland while driving a rented
car. Everything on the citation was correct but my driver's license number
(the cop wrote down some other number that was on my license). I paid the
fine rather than travel back to Maryland to fight it, and my insurance
company *did* eventually find out about it. I assume that the ticket showed
up on my California driving record, but never checked to be sure. So don't
expect a wrong license number to keep your record clean.

3.How do I get a copy of the California Vehicle Code?

Go to any DMV office and pay $3.00. Many libraries carry it or a privately
pulished version with interpretations and case references, such as West's
Annotated California Codes and Deering's California Codes.

4.What are some noteworthy or peculiar California Vehicle Code laws?

Disclaimer: these are paraphrased, and therefore may be wrong. If
you need to know exactly what the law says, please look it up!

-- both license plates issued for a vehicle must be displayed [CVC 5200]
-- a seller of a vehicle has 5 days to notify the DMV of the sale [CVC 5900]
-- a new owner must apply to the DMV for transfer of registration within 10
days [CVC 5902]
-- an accident must be reported within 10 days to the DMV in Sacramento if
there is death, bodily injury, or property damage > $500 [CVC 16000]
-- U-turns are permitted on any green light unless signs prohibit[CVC 21451]
-- a driver may not stop IN the crosswalk for a red light [CVC 21453(a)]
-- right turn on circular red (not a red arrow!), and left turn on circular
red from a one-way street onto a one-way street, are permitted after
stopping and unless otherwise posted [CVC 21453(b)]
-- a driver may not turn against a red arrow for the indicated turn
regardless of signals shown for other movements [CVC 21453(c)]
-- curb markings [CVC 21458}:
red: no stopping, standing, or parking
yellow: stopping only for loading or unloading passengers or freight
white: loading/unloading passengers, or depositing mail in adjacent box
green: time limit parking specified by local ordinance
blue: handicap parking
-- a double parallel solid line may be crossed to make a left or U-turn,
or turn into or out of a driveway or private road [CVC 21460]
-- a two-way left-turn lane may only be used to prepare for and make a left
turn or permitted U-turn from or into a highway; a vehicle shall not be
driven in that lane for more than 200 feet [CVC 21460.5(c)]
-- a _pair_ of double parallel solid lines may not be crossed [CVC 21651(a)]
-- a U-turn can be made wherever a left turn can be made on a divided
highway [CVC 21651(a)(2)], although see references to 22102-3 below
-- notwithstanding the prima facie speed limits, a vehicle driven at less
than the normal speed of traffic must be driven in the right-hand lane
except when passing or preparing for a left turn [CVC 21654]
-- motorcycles can make use of high occupancy lanes unless explicitly
prohibited by traffic control devices [CVC 21655.5]
-- the descending vehicle shall yield to the ascending vehicle on a grade if
the roadway is of insufficient width for both [CVC 21661]
-- when preparing to turn, you must drive into a bicycle lane, if one, no
more than 200 feet from the intersection [CVC 21717]
-- pedestrians have right-of-way in crosswalks, but pedestrians shall not
walk or run into the path of a vehicle [CVC 21950]
-- right turns must be made into the rightmost lane except when turning from
a terminating highway with three or more lanes or from a one-way highway
at an intersection [CVC 22100(a)]
-- left turns may be made into any available lane [CVC 22100(b)]
-- U-turns must be made from the two-way left turn lane, if one, or
leftmost lane otherwise [CVC 22100.5, 22102]
-- U-turns are prohibited in a business district except at intersections or
through openings in a divided roadway [CVC 22102]
-- U-turns are permitted in a residential district only if no vehicle
approaching is closer than 200 feet or where protected by sign or
signal [CVC 22103]
-- turn signals are required for turns and lane changes which may affect any
other vehicle [CVC 22107]
-- signals are required during the last 100 feet before turning [CVC 22108]
-- vehicles shall be stopped or parked, where permitted, with the right-hand
wheels within 18 inches of the right-hand curb; if no curbs, right-hand
parallel parking is required unless otherwise indicated [CVC 22502(a)]
-- it is unlawful to drive a vehicle while under the influence of an
alcoholic beverage or any drug [CVC 23152(a)]
-- it is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight,
of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle [CVC 23152(b)]
-- During darkness, lights shall not project glaring rays into the eyes of
oncoming drivers when approaching within 500 feet. The use of low beams
shall be deemed to avoid glare regardless of road contour. Low beam
headlamps shall be used when following another vehicle within 300 feet.
In all cases, foglamps and/or auxiliary passing lamps may be used with
low beams if they are aimed so as to avoid projecting glaring rays into
the eyes of oncoming drivers. [CVC 24403-9]
-- The operator of a private motor vehicle is responsible for the use of
seat belts by him/herself and all passengers 4 years of age or over
[CVC 27315(d)]; in addition, passengers 16 years of age or over are
responsible for their own seat belt use [CVC 27315(e)]. The fine for
not wearing a seat belt is $20 for the first offense and $50 thereafter
[CVC 27315(h)].

from (Sharen A. Rund):
Effective 1 Jan 1993, you can be stopped and ticketed for _not_ wearing
your seat belt - currently, you can only be ticketed if the officer
stopped you for another infraction, then noticed that you were not
wearing your seatbelt.
-- a passenger seat restraint must be used for children under 4 [CVC 27360]
-- there doesn't appear to be a law giving right-of-way to either party in
a merge onto a freeway, although the Spring 1991 DMV California Driver
Handbook states "Freeway traffic has the right of way." [p. 48].
-- there is no law specifically prohibiting a lane change in the middle of
an intersecting, see FAQ below on that
-- there appears to be no maximum permitted number of lane changes per mile

Laws: driving

5.Is it legal to change lanes in the middle of an intersection?

from (Chuck Fry) on 25 Mar 1993:

There is no section in the CVC specifically outlawing a lane change in the
middle of an intersection. HOWEVER, many revenue ... uh, law officers will
ticket you under the blanket section generally known as "Unsafe Lane Change"
[CVC 21658(a)].

6.Is it legal for vehicles (usually motorcycles) to share a lane?

from (Sidney Markowitz) on 21 Jun 1993,
modified on 23 Jun after further research:

The motorcycle drivers handbook handed out by the DMV discourages lane
sharing (driving alongside cars in the same lane) because it is often a
violation of the Basic Speed Law (CVC 22350) or involves unsafe lane
changes. However, that statement in itself indicates that there is no law
against lane sharing, and that a rider can be cited only if the act violates
one of the other laws.

Many states other than California explicitly make lane sharing illegal.

California does make "lane splitting", occupying two lanes by riding the
line between them, illegal, I believe in CVC 21658(a):

A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within
a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such
movement can be made with reasonable safety.

The common response that I got from a query to on this
subject is that Bay Area cops do not ticket for riding a motorcycle slowly
(on the order of 10mph faster than the cars) alongside a line of cars
stopped at a traffic light or stuck in a traffic jam, as long as you are
within a lane (not on the shoulder). However, it also seems common
net.wisdom that police in Marin County and in Fremont do issue tickets for
that behavior. The important point is that the tickets are for violation of
the basic speed law or for unsafe lane changes, which are subject to the
judgement of the officer and so are pretty difficult to challenge in court.

Regardless of the warnings in the DMV handbook, I and many other people have
been taught in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's rider training course that
it may be safer for motorcyclists to slowly and carefully ride alongside a
line of stopped cars than to sit in line where they may be rearended by a
car that is not paying attention. Also, many motorcycles are air cooled and
will overheat in just a few minutes of idling while sitting still.

This is one of my major peeves: That so many motorists act like I'm doing
something illegal and unfair by riding where they can't drive when I lane
share at a light, and that there is absolutely no mention of the motorcycle
laws on the standard driver's license exam, so there is no reason for them
to know better.

There: Now a few more car drivers know about this. When you see a
motorcyclist riding by you when you are stopped or almost stopped, don't
swerve out to cut them off. They are legal (if they are being careful),
they may be acting out of safety considerations, and they are reducing
traffic congestion by getting out of the thick of it instead of being part
of it.

Laws: driver's licenses and vehicle registration

7.What is the grace period for getting a driver's license after establishing
residency in California? What is the grace period for vehicle registration?

The grace period for a driver's licenses is 10 days unless you are employed
for the purpose of driving, in which case there is no grace period [CVC
12505]. Application for vehicle registration is required within 20 days
[CVC 4152.5].

8.Do I have to have my driver's license with me when driving?

If you get hauled in for a traffic violation, yes. A licensee must display
it to a magistrate or judge upon request if brought before them for any
traffic violation [CVC 12952]. A charge of failure to have your license in
possession while driving is automatically dismissed if you produce it in
court [CVC 12951(a)], as long as it was valid, etc. After two such
dismissals, the court has the option not to dismiss. So, you shouldn't
make a habit of not carrying it while driving.

9.Do I have to have any identification with me while not driving?

Not if you don't break any laws. If you do break the law and don't want to
sit in jail, it helps to have positive identification: "Whenever any person
is arrested by a peace officer for a misdemeanor, that person shall be
released [...] unless [...] [t]he person could not provide satisfactory
evidence of personal identification" [Penal Code 853.6(i)(5)]. Note that
most traffic tickets are not for misdemeanors but infractions, and "all
provisions of law relative to misdemeanors shall apply to infractions"
[Penal Code 19d].

10.What information is in the driver license mag stripe?

(RISKS appears on Usenet as comp.risks. See any issue for information
on accessing RISKS DIGEST archives.)

In RISKS DIGEST 11.03, hib...@xanadu.UUCP (Chris Hibbert) wrote:

There will be a magnetic stripe on the back with three tracks encoded on it.
The middle track will be encoded in the same format as your credit cards,
and will therefore be readable with ordinary commercial readers. This track
will only contain 40 bytes of information, and will only contain the name,
driver's license number, and expiration date. The other two tracks will be
in a format that is incompatible with current commercial readers, and will
contain the rest of the information that is printed on the front: birth
date, eye color, hair color, height, weight etc.

The picture on the front will be an ordinary photo [color], with a hologram
of the state and DMV seals to make counterfeiting harder. There will
apparently be a different version for people under the legal drinking age:
the picture will be on the right instead of the left.

In RISKS DIGEST 11.63, a...@cory.Berkeley.EDU (Alan Nishioka) wrote:

Just for fun, I thought I'd try to read it. I had previously been able to
read bank cards (with help from sci.electronics).

Bank Cards -- conform to ANSI/ISO 7810-1985 ($10)
Track 1: 6 bit word with 1 bit parity. LSB first.
code offset 32 below ASCII code.
Track 2: 4 bit word with 1 bit parity. LSB first. Numbers only.

Driver's License --
Track 1: 6 bit word with no parity. Otherwise same as Bank Card.
Track 2: Same as Bank Card.
Track 3: ?

California Driver's License:
Track 2: (low density)
8 unidentified digits License Number Separator
Expiration Date (YYMM) Separator Date of Birth (YYYYMMDD)
Track 1: (High density)
Name Address City
Track 3: (High density. Can't reposition read head. )

It looks like there is space for a 58 character name [...], a 29 character
address and a 13 character city. I suspect the third track contains the
rest of the information from the front of the license.

11.Are there special license plates of Yosemite's Tunnel View?

from (David Lee) on 20 Dec 92

For those of you who are interested, the Yosemite Fund is working through
the DMV to create a special license plate with of a four-color design of
Yosemite's Tunnel View. The plate will be available to California drivers
for $50 plus their standard car registration fee. [According to the latest
CSAA Motorland magazine, the additional cost is $40 after the first year.
Much of the fee is tax deductible since it is going to non-profit groups.]

The proceeds will be divided equally between the Yosemite Fund (which
supports preservation and restoration of the park) and the California
Environmental License Plate Fund. The money raised by the Yosemite
Fund can only be used for preservation and restoration in Yosemite
National Park, not for Fund overhead and administrative expenses, nor
park operations.

The Yosemite Fund has already received 2000 applications for the new
plate and must collect 5000 before the DMV will begin processing.
Given the current demand, the Fund expects that plates will be
available by mid-1993. If you'd like to get an application for
plates, contact the Yosemite Fund at (415) 434-1782 or
The Yosemite Fund
155 Montgomery Street, Suite 1104
San Francisco, California 94104

12.How often can I be cited for expired vehicle registration? And is it always
or never a fix-it ticket?

from on 3 Mar 1992:

If I had gotten a ticket for an expired registration, I would have gotten it
taken care of very quickly. Here is an explanation I got from a police
officer whom I asked about expired registration:

He usually allows 1-2 months of padding before he pulls someone over. He
will write the ticket "ALMOST" all of the time because the first time is
usually a fix-it. If he pulls someone over, and they already received a
ticket for the expired registration within 5-7 days of the current day, he
will usually let it go. If it is longer than 5-7 days, he will always write
the ticket and not make it a fix-it. Fix-it tickets are always at the
discretion of the officer.

As for the officer stating that you had 6 weeks, there is nothing in the CVC
that states that. Once your registration expires, you should expect
receiving a ticket. Your registration is due the day the one from the
previous year expires.

13.Does my vehicle have to be registered, even if I don't drive it?

from (Dan Hepner) on 23 Dec 1992:

Normal registration fees are due if: The vehicle is parked on a public
street, or at any public parking facility once during the year in question;
the vehicle is towed once on a public street during that year; and of
course, if the vehicle is driven. One-trip permits allow for moving a
vehicle from one storage place to another, or to a repair facility, but
doing either without such a permit incurs the full fee. Off-highway fees
(usually far less than normal registration) are due if the vehicle is
operated, or transported, off-highway within the state of CA.

Once due, these fees do not go away with the next year; rather the opposite
occurs, the fees are delinquent, implying a penalty. The longer they remain
delinquent, the greater the penalty. Each year adds new fees, and a new
penalty. As bad as could be imagined.

There does appear the _option_ of waiving the fees and penalties to new
owners, but CVC 9562 suggests that this should not be expected if one buys a
vehicle with out-of-date plates. "Certificates of non-operation", which
claim that the vehicle never incurred the fee, are commonly used in
circumstances which would imply a massive liability, but one must be signed
by each of the previous owners.

14.How much will it cost to import to CA and register an out-of-state vehicle?

from (Al Clark), (Chuck Fry), (Dan Hepner), and (David Levine)
in Jan 1993:

Assuming it meets Federal emission standards, you can register it in CA,
but you need to pay:
1) Use tax (in lieu of sales tax) for it's value, unless you did not buy it
for use in CA. If you owned the car for more than 90 days before you
brought it into CA, you are okay. The use tax is reduced by the amount
of sales tax paid to the another state, if owned for 90 days or less.
The stated purpose is to reduce any advantage one might have in buying a
car in some other state "for use in California".

2) Smog impact fee, a one time fee of $300. If the car meets CA emission
standards for the year of manufacture, this is not applicable. It says
what emission standards it was manufactured to meet on a sticker under
the hood.

3) You'll need a smog check and certificate for most vehicles. Figure
around $40 for this.

4) Normal CA registration costs. Part of this is based on car's value.
This like a personal property tax, and this part is a deduction on your
Federal Income Tax.

For late model vehicles, the smog check is usually not a problem. First,
there isn't that much difference between "49-state" emission standards and
California's. Second, the smog checkers recognize that it's a 49-state car
and test it to the appropriate standard. Third, any well-maintained car
should have no problem passing even the stiffer California standards. A
modern catalytic converter-equipped car should be putting out air that's
almost as clean as it's taking in.

It's hard to generalize for older vehicles, such as those without catalytic
converters. The 49-state and CA emissions standards were quite different
way back when, and it's not unusual to be required to retrofit such items as
closed PCV systems and air pumps.

You don't have to bring a 49-state car up to CA tailpipe standards. The
stated purpose of the smog impact fee ($300) law is to fund checking up to
see if this was once a California car which was taken out of state and is
now being brought back in as a 49-state car not in compliance with CA's
standards. Many cars are "50-state cars", and have an emissions sticker
which claims that they meet the CA emissions standards, even if bought in
Maine. These cars are not subject to the $300 fee.

What you really do have to watch out for is removed smog control parts which
were perhaps legal, or quasi-legal to remove some places so long as the
emissions met local standards. In CA (and in many other states as well) the
smog test includes a visual equipment check: certain emissions-control
components must be installed and functional, regardless of the outcome of
the tailpipe test. This is because the tailpipe test is under very
restricted conditions (at idle and at one steady-state speed with no load)
and doesn't check all of the emissions species (just unburned hydrocarbons
and carbon monoxide). In contrast, the vehicle manufacturer had to
demonstrate compliance over a much more representative driving cycle, had to
meet standards for oxides of nitrogen and evaporative emissions, and had to
meet 50K or 100K mile durability requirements. More than one out-of-state
vehicle has met the recommendation "take it to Nevada and sell it" when the
cost of replacing such parts exceeded the value of the car.

Laws: vehicle equipment

15.Is window tinting legal? What about pull-down blinds and window stickers?

from (John Hunley) on 14 Dec and 15 Dec 1992:

The applicable paragraph in the CVC is 26708. It's too long to quote here
in full, but basically what it says (disclaimer: this is my own personal
interpretation, I'm not a lawyer, don't come running to me if you get
nailed) is that you may not operate with "any object or material placed,
displayed, installed, affixed, or applied upon the windshield or side or
rear windows." Side windows to the rear of the driver are exempted
(26708b4), as is the rear window IF you have mirrors on both left- and
right-hand sides (26708b8). Tinted safety glass is permitted by 26708.5b.
Therefore, the basic distinction is whether you have tinted glass or tinting
that is stuck onto the glass. There's no mention of "factory" vs. "third
party." A third-party tint job would be legal if it was done by replacing
the windshield and front windows with tinted safety glass, rather than by
sticking or painting something onto the existing glass.

An interesting side note is that 26708a3 specifically includes snow and ice
as an obstruction covered under 26708. So you can get a ticket for 26708
for having snow or ice on your windshield or front windows, as well as
stick-on tinting. Same violation.

The pull-down blinds are permitted ONLY if the driver or front passenger has
a signed document from a physician or optometrist (CVC 26708b10) stating
that they are required due to a medical or visual condition. CVC 26708b3
allows "signs, stickers, or other materials which are displayed in a 7-inch
square in the lower corner of the windshield ... [or] ... rear window
farthest removed from the driver, or ... in a 5-inch square in the lower
corner of the windshield nearest the driver."

Also exempted are such things as rearview mirrors, rear window wiper
hardware, rear trunk lid handles and hinges, destination signs on busses,
magnifying or wide-angle lenses on the passenger side window of a truck, and
of course the standard equipment sun visors.

16.Do I need chains in the mountains if I have snow tires? If so, what kind?

from a...@Xenon.Stanford.EDU (Alan Hu) on 10 dec 1992:

According to my memory according to a pamphlet put out by CalTrans a
few years ago, chain requirements come in three varieties:
1. Chains required. Four-wheel drive or snow tires OK.
2. Chains required. Four-wheel drive with snow tires OK.
3. Chains required on all vehicles, including four-wheel drive.
Usually you'll see #2, although I've seen #1 before. The pamphlet
said they'll usually close the road instead of doing a #3. Tires
marked M/S or M+S qualify as snow tires [CVC 27459]. Chains must be
installed on at least two drive wheels [CVC 27459].

The chain requirements used to surprise my non-CA friends. If you
haven't seen them enforced yet:
You'll see the Chains Required sign. Lots of people will be
pulled off the side of the road putting on chains. Various
people wander from car to car offering to put your chains on
for a fee (but they're not allowed to sell chains). Farther
down the road, a checkpoint checks EVERY car that tries to continue.
If you don't meet the chain requirement, they turn you back.
In short, if you're driving in the Sierra, they're very good to have.
Also, there's a toll-free CalTrans road condition number [see the
phone numbers question in this FAQ].

from (Dan Hepner) on 9 dec 1992:

Most people could indeed drive the passes when snow covered without
chains, IF the road were more or less clear of other cars. But in
stop-n-go driving, common in the Sierra during a snow storm, required
chains are what prevents total chaos.

-- And, if so, what would y'all recommend?

For infrequent usage, such as having the bad luck to hit snow on a
Sierra pass during a drought, consider the cable type. For frequent
usage, or maximum effect, use the real thing.

Watch out for oversized tires, or even maximally sized tires on front
wheel drive. The chains can extend wide enough to hit other front-end
components. Cables mitigate this problem.

Laws: enforcement (see also "Radar and speed trap" section)

17.Can a local cop cite you for speeding on an Interstate?

Yes. For felonies and public offenses (which include infractions and
misdemeanors) in the presence of the officer, or actions that could cause
great bodily harm or death, the sworn POST (Peace Officers Standard
Training) certified officer is empowered in the entire state [see Penal
Code 830, 832, 1523]. Furthermore, the authority of sheriffs, police
officers, etc., extends to any place in the state as to any public offense
committed (or believed to have been committed) within the political
subdivision which employs him or her [Penal Code 830.1].

18.Can a CHP officer write a ticket for an offense not committed on a freeway?

Yes [Penal Code 830.2(a)].

19.What's the difference between the CA Highway Patrol and the CA State Police?

The primary duty of CHP officers is enforcement of the vehicle code [Penal
Code 830.2(a)]. The primary duty of CSP officers is to "provide police
services for the protection of state officers, and the protection of state
properties and occupants thereof" [Penal Code 830.2(b)].

Radar and speed traps

20.What are some locations of speed and carpool lane enforcement traps?

entry format: zone, city or area, road, posted speed, submitter


Bay area
Central Valley
LA metro
N CA rural
S CA rural
San Diego metro

Certain fields omitted where not applicable. A ? indicates missing
data. Direction before the road indicates submitter specified that
direction of travel as the speed trap.

If you would like to add to or correct the speed traps list, please
(originally compiled by
(if you would like to maintain this list, please Reply!)
send entries in the format you see here. Please tell me
if you wish to remain anonymous. If you don't tell me, I will list
you as a submitter.

Bay Area, Atherton, Middlefield Rd, 25, jazzman
Bay Area, Santa Clara, E Montague @ Lafayette, 45, woolsey
Bay area, Cor?elia, I-80 near where it meets I-680, 55, muir
Bay area, Fremont, Grimmer Blvd near Blacow Rd--no speed limit sign, 35, marcb
Bay area, Fremont, Mission Blvd and Nursery Ave, 50, marcb
Bay area, Fremont, Paseo Padre near Covington Dr, 30, marcb
Bay area, Fremont, Paseo Padre Pkwy near Darwin Dr, 30, marcb
Bay area, Fremont, 5 Corners area (Fremont/Washington/Union etc.), 25/35, marcb
Bay area, Los Gatos, N Hwy 17 Summit Rd to Hwy 9, 50, marcb
Bay area, Milpitas, Milpitas Blvd S of Jacklin Rd, ??, owen
Bay area, Mtn View, Easy St access ramp from Central Expwy to CA 85, 25, Anon.
Bay area, Mtn View, US 101 north at CA 85, 55 (CHP hides under bridge), Anon.
Bay area, Mtn View, US 101 north of Moffett Field/Castro overpass,
55 (CHP hides way off road), jet
Bay area, Oakland, Mandela Pkwy (Cypress Blvd), 35, Anon.
Bay area, Oyster Point, US 101 between SF Airport & Candlestick, 55, lstowell
Bay area, Palo Alto or M. View?, San Antonio Rd by Sun PAL-1 building, 35, owen
Bay area, Palo Alto, Alma, 25/35 or 30?, owen
Bay area, Palo Alto, Page Mill Rd, 35, Anon.
Bay area, Pinole, I-80, 55, owen
Bay area, Redwood City, I-280 @ Farm Hill Road exit ramp, 30?, Anon.
Bay area, San Carlos/Belmont/San Mateo, I-280 @ Hwy 92, 55, lstowell
Bay area, San Jose, I-880 @ US 101 both directions, 55, Anon.
Bay area, Santa Clara, Lawrence Expressway, 50, Anon.
Bay area, Santa Clara, San Tomas Expressway, 45, Anon.
Bay area, Santa Clara, San Tomas Expressway, 45, Anon.
Bay area, Sausalito, US 101 over Waldo Grade, 55, Anon.
Bay area, Sunnyvale, Central Expressway--recessed portion, 50, dhepner
Bay Area, Sunnyvale, Lawrence Station Road between Elko and old
Mountain View-Alviso, 25, jazzman
Bay area, Sunnyvale, Wolfe Road between Evelyn and I-280, 35, dhepner
Bay area, Vallejo, I-80 just NE of Vallejo at top of hill, 55, muir
Central Valley, Auburn area, I-80 between Auburn & Alta, 55, muir
Central Valley, Bakersfield, I-5 near Bakersfield, 65, lstowell
Central Valley, Davis, I-80 @ Davis I-80 business loop, 55, muir
Central Valley, Los Banos area, I-5 near CA 152, 65, lstowell
Central Valley, Sacramento, I-80 thru Davis-Sacramento moderately bad, 55, muir
LA metro, Corona, CA 91, 55, mcgillis
LA metro, Grapevine area, I-5, 55, lstowell
LA metro, W of LAX, Vista Del Mar--Rosecrans to Culver Blvd, 35/40/45, stevea
Los Altos Hills, , I-280 Southbound at Magdelena Road (CHP hides off of
freeway), 55, jazzman
N CA Rural, , I-80 between Sacramento & Tahoe, 55, lstowell
N CA rural, El Dorado Co., US 50 from Placerville to Sac. Co. line, 55, Anon.
S CA Rural, Solvang, US 101, 55, lstowell
S CA rural, King City, US 101 in King City, 55, raveling


Bay area, Santa Clara Co, I-280 from Guadalupe Pwky to Foothill Expwy, , marcb
Bay area, Menlo Park, 101-S btwn Marsh & Willow @ Rlrd. Overpass, , gary.cook
Bay area, San Jose/Milpitas, Hwy 237 near Hwy 880, , owen & marcb
Bay Area, San Jose - Montague Expressway between Zanker and River Oaks/Plumeria
sometimes / Zanker and Trimble at others, , jazzman


21.Are radar detectors illegal in CA, or just not popular for some reason?

from (Chuck Fry) on 30 Jul 92:

They're perfectly legal. I think it's a combination of factors that
keeps their popularity down.

First, there seems to be a mistaken impression that the CHP is not
permitted to use radar. This is false; although for years the
Legislature shot down funding for radar equipment, local jurisdictions
have always been free to provide gear to the CHP for local trouble
spots, and I believe the CHP now has funding to buy a limited number
of radar units of their own. And remember that local police and
sheriff's deputies have never been reluctant to use radar.

Second is the fact that radar is essentially useless in heavy freeway
traffic, because there's no way to pinpoint one violator. And at rush
hour, much of this traffic doesn't ever see the speed limit anyway.

Third, I just don't think Californians have as much of an adversarial
relationship with police as residents of other states do. The CHP by
and large plays fair, and as a result most drivers here seem to feel
they deserved a ticket if they got caught.

I carry a radar detector and make frequent use of it, especially in
known radar speed traps (e.g. most of Palo Alto especially Alma St.
and Charleston, highway 17 through the mountains). I highly recommend
a good radar detector to anyone who drives, whether your foot is made
of lead or feathers, since most urban speed limits in California are
set well below the 85th percentile speed and are thus de facto speed

Traffic court, traffic school, and DMV

22.Am I entitled to a jury trial for my traffic ticket? Can I have counsel
appointed at public expense? Can I be sent to prison if found guilty?

No, no, and no [Penal Code 19c]. This only applies to infractions, of
course. You get the book thrown at you, and all resulting rights and
privileges, for misdemeanors and felonies whether or not committed behind
the wheel.

23.Why can't I both argue my case in court and use traffic school to keep
the points off my license if I lose?

from J05...@LMSC5.IS.LMSC.LOCKHEED.COM (Tim Irvin) on 7 Apr 93:

The only reason traffic school is even given as an option is to ease the
burden on the courts. If you could get traffic school by taking the case to
court, the county would have no incentive to even offer it as an option. It
sucks, but they would eliminate the traffic school option before they would
allow "ticket fighters" to go there, too.

from (Jimmy Kuo) on 26 Mar 1993:

When convicted, you are at the mercy of the court, within legal guidelines.
You may ask to go to traffic school and it may still be granted. But it is
no longer a choice to be made by you rather it is now a choice the judge is
to make.

from (Michael Gerhard) on 7 Apr 93:

A friend of mine got a speeding ticket in Fremont. He tried to fight it (he
WAS speeding) and after the officer testified, my friend took the stand and
realized he wasn't going to win. Instead of providing a defense, he asked
the judge if he could change his plea to guilty and take traffic school.
The judge thought it a bit odd, asked the officer if he had any objections,
and the allowed my friend to take traffic school.

It may not be a legislated action that if you fight then no traffic school.
In my friends case, it was the discretion of the judge.

from (David G. Paschich) on 7 Apr 93:

Note that it's possible to end up having plead guilty with traffic school as
your sentence and get the points on your record and everything. This is
_different_ from when you sign up for traffic school before the arraignment,
trial, or anything and don't get the points on your public record.

24.I've heard about "comedy traffic schools". Has anyone tried one of these?

from (Sidney Markowitz) on 10 Jun 1993:

I had such a good time with Improv, The Comedy Club Presents Traffic School
last weekend, that I wanted to recommend it to the net. The instructor was
Steve Verret. He claims to have been the most requested traffic school
instructor in California five years in a row, and he was good enough that I
can easily believe that. Besides being a lot of fun and two dollars cheaper
than any other school I called ($30 vs $32), he handed out to every student
a free pass for two to Improv Comedy Club in San Francisco.

The state lets you satisfy the traffic school requirement at any licensed
traffic school in the state, though some counties only recognize schools on
lists that they publish. Improv, The Comedy Club Presents Traffic School
has classes in several counties. I don't know which locations Steve Verret
teaches in addition to Santa Cruz where I took the class, but it would be
worth asking for him. Their number is 800-775-5233.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Improv, The Comedy Club Presents
Traffic School, other than as a satisfied graduate.

25.Do tickets dismissed by traffic school attendance appear on my DMV record?

from jor...@MooreNet.COM (Jordan Hayes) on 29 oct 1991:

Here's the scoop. Note: this changed recently, and I'll note the
differences between what's in effect now and what was before Jan 1, 1991.
There are two versions of your DMV record, what I'll call the private one
and the public one. The private one has all of your transactions, since the
establishment of your bits in their computer. This is a "write-only" type
of record. Nothing ever gets removed (except for incorrect information :-).

The public record is the one that you can get for a fee, and the one that
your insurance company can get. This has things dropped off after certain
time limits that vary with the charge (for instance, DWI events stay
longer). In addition, if you go to traffic school, moving violations do not
get transferred to your "public" record, and you don't get the "points"
involved added to your record -- get a certain number of points in a certain
amount of time (4 in a year, 6 in 2 years, 8 in 3 years [CVC 12810.5]) and
you can lose your license; you may have to check up on DMV to make sure that
they received your of certificate of traffic school completion. The right
time to do this is *before* your insurance comes up for renewal ...

Starting January 1, 1991, if you get another moving violation within the
first year after going to traffic school, the *original* violation gets
moved from your private record to your public record (so that insurance
companies can see it), but you don't get charged points for it. In
addition, you are ineligible for traffic school, so you'll now have two
convictions on your record.

from (Ed Evans) on 1 nov 1991:

I've been told that if you go to traffic school, and if you get another
moving violation within 18 months, then your original citation will appear
on your DMV printout. This information has been denied by DMV personnel.
However, Gov. Deukmejian signed a bill to this effect before he left office.
Before he signed the bill, the policy was for the citation to reappear if
the violator violated within 12 months.

Going to traffic school is an admission of guilt. The violator's citation
is not "forgiven" and it does not "disappear." It is "masked." This means
that it is kept in an informal holding area (of a computer) forever. To
wit: a violation within 18 months of attending traffic school causes the
citation to become "unmasked" and it remains unmasked until it has been
presented to the world for its 36 month tour of DMV abstract access. After
36 months, all citations are masked and do not reappear, except for PD's on
request, courts, and the National Security Agency on request. This is
important to know if you want to become a cop or need a top secret
clearance. Otherwise, it'll probably never matter, once the citation is

There's a lot of folk wisdom passed out by traffic violator school
instructors. I know, I'm one of them.

from optilink!wa...@uunet.uu.NET (Mark Walsh) on 16 Dec 91:

Lesson: make sure that your traffic school paperwork gets all of the way
through the system. I went through the traffic school, and sent the
paperwork in via certified mail, etc. A few months later, I was at the DMV,
and found out that I had a warrant out for my arrest! My paperwork had
fallen through the cracks.

26.Do out-of-state tickets appear on your California DMV printout, and
can insurance companies can find this info out if they don't?

from gor...@TASVAX.NSWSES.NAVY.MIL (Gordon C. Zaft) on 15 Nov 1991:
Well, it happened to me! I had two tickets from Texas and one from New
Mexico show up on DMV record last year (they were from almost 3 years ago!
I don't know why the delay) and my insurance went up $200!

from re...@leland.Stanford.EDU (Rezal Adzly Abdul Rahman) on 19 Nov 1991:
I friend of mine got a speeding ticket in Texas, two years ago, and when he
recently went to get a DMV printout for the insurance company, it was there!

from w...@worf.Rational.COM (Bill Baker) on 23 Nov 1991:
This is called "reciprocity". Basically what it means is that if you don't
pay an out of state ticket, the DMV of the state issuing your license agrees
to put it on your record and charge you for it when you go to renew your
license, the idea being that the other state will do the same for tickets
issued to their drivers in your home state. I've had a lot of experience
with this.

Most states do not have reciprocity with every other state. Most states
usually have reciprocity with neighbor states. However, home states can be
pretty lax about applying out of state penalties. I had my Washington
license "revoked" by California, Oregon, and North Dakota, but the Wash. DMV
renewed my license without complaint (as long as I paid those in state
tickets). I also once tried to skip out on a bunch of Wash. tickets by
applying for a new license in Oregon. I told the clerk I'd never had a
license, but when he ran my ID on the computer he came back with a list of
my many outstanding Washington tickets. Then he gave me a copy of the
written test and told me to return it to him when I was done. I mean, he
*knew* I was lying but apparently that didn't bar you from getting an Oregon
license. Sometimes state rivalries can have weird fallout.

You can probably find out from DMV what states California has reciprocity
agreements with. Nevada is almost certainly one of them. I'm not familiar
enough with CA DMV to know how seriously they enforce reciprocity. However,
whether or not your home state cares about out of state tickets, the state
issuing the ticket never forgets. If you get stopped in that state again,
they will almost certainly haul you to the local hoosegow and keep you there
until you pay the massive fine.

Insurance companies are a much bigger menace. They get data from
everywhere. It's very hard to hide tickets from them. However, most states
can't release a record of a ticket until the ticket is actually paid,
because you aren't officially guilty until you've paid the ticket or had a
"trial". My insurance company never knew about my out of state tickets as
long as I didn't pay them. Of course, had I been caught a second time in
one of those states and been "convicted" of driving on a "revoked" license
with unpaid tickets, my insurance rating would have become terminal

The bottom line is, if you're caught speeding next door, you'd better pay it
because there's a good chance you'll get stopped again in that state, which
would be a disaster. If you're caught out in Podunk State (say North
Dakota) and you don't expect to be back more than once or twice in your
lifetime, you can take a chance on skipping out on the ticket. Remember,
though, that the rural states are wise to this. They usually direct you to
drive to the next state patrol office and pay the ticket immediately. They
may follow you to make sure you do.

from optilink!wa...@uunet.uu.NET (Mark Walsh) on 16 Dec 91:
I got screwed by the city of Berkeley early last year. The police officer
was very polite, and he said that the ticket was merely a fine like a
parking ticket, and it would not go on my DMV record. Guess what? My
insurance went up! When I talked to my agent, he said that their (Farmer's)
computers talk to many local computers, and everybody shares info with
everybody else, and that the DMV was probably the only bureaucracy that did
not know about the ticket.

27.Does the DMV find out about tickets received from Federal authorities?

from (Stanley Tsu) on 19 Feb 1993:

OK, here's the scoop. I called the Denver Office of the US District Court
(800/366-5245) and the woman I spoke to said that the Feds do not give
traffic violation data to Cal DMV for speeding violations, provided that one
pays the collateral in a timely manner. She said that if I wanted to
contest the ticket she could set up a court appearance date over the phone.
Protests in the Golden Gate National Regional Area (GGNRA) are handled at
450 Golden Gate Ave, San Fran.


28.How much insurance must a driver carry?

from the Spring 1991 DMV California Driver Handbook:

and OWNER of a motor vehicle to maintain financial responsibility. There
are four forms of financial responsibility:

o Coverage by a motor vehicle liability insurance policy [of at least
o A deposit of $35,000 with DMV.
o A bond for the same amount (although generally bonds are unavailable).
o DMV approved self-insurance.

29.Do insurance companies have to be licensed in CA? How can I tell if one is?

from (Otha Stubblefield III) on Oct 24 1992:

Today's Los Angeles Times (10/23/92) carries an article on unlicensed
insurers in its business section on page D1. This article does not apply
solely to car insurance. Summary:

The unlicensed insurance business is booming in California, with sales
increasing by a factor of 30 since 1988. However, complaints have also
increased by a factor of 100. Many consumers are finding that they have
been paying claims to nothing more than a PO Box operation, and it is almost
impossible to have a claim processed, especially if the company has
surreptitiously folded. Insurers using state-licensed agencies are
protected from insolvency by a fund. Also, the state has no power over
unlicensed companies, that are often found to be based outside of the U.S.
State law prohibits unlicensed insurers from selling in the state, unless
the policyholder cannot find similar coverage from a licensed carrier. Only
certain brokers (surplus-line carriers) are authorized by the state to sell
out-of-state policies, and that those brokers should be checking these
companies solvency. The State does acknowledge, though, that some people
are not checking due to negligence or that they just don't care. You can
find out if a certain carrier is ok by calling the Ca Insurance Consumer
line at 800-927-HELP.

End Summary:

The article does not mention the penalties for using one of these companies,
namely suspension of your license if you are found to be using one for the
financial responsibility requirement (liability insurance). The state and
DMV will consider you uninsured for the period that you were using them.
They also do not mention that a companies' status (licensed to unlicensed)
may change without notification to the consumer.

30.Can my insurer legally ask me for my roommates' names and license numbers?

from (Bill Karwin) on 18 Mar 1993:

I called 1-800-927-HELP and the answer is yes, the insurance company does
have a right to ask for the id's of the housemates if they are to be
occasional drivers. The only alternative is to exclude these housemates
from coverage, by providing their names (not their driver's license #).

31.What's the net.recommendation for motorcycle insurance? (George Wu) received the following replies to this request
of 30 sep 1991:
Having just purchased my first bike (Yamaha SRX 250), I now need to get
insurance. Since it's not worth that much, I'm just going to get liability.
CSAA (California AAA) must think motorcycles are dangerous or something,
since they won't insure it.

from (Andy Philips):
McGraw Hill Insurance Services: 415-780-4841
Call Melody x3021 and tell her I sent you, she may or may not remember me.

from geo...@zimmer.CSUFresno.EDU (George Barbary):
The best deal I got on insurance was from Mcgraw-Hill. There is a startup
fee of approximately $40. Then the premium was $86 for six months. I had
minimum coverage. This rate is for Fresno. It may vary in the Bay area.

from (Ken chaney):
State Farm is reputed to have "best" rates for single males under 30. I
heard this from a AAA agent, who gave me a quote. Don't know why they won't
give you one. Perhaps I'm mistaken and the quote was for my car. At any
rate, it was higher than the premium I pay State Farm (single male age 25).

from ka...@brahms.AMD.COM (Karen Black):
I've insured my SR250 (and GB500) through State Farm. When I started, I was
paying about $250 for 100/50/100, uninsured motorist, comp and collision.
Now I'm in State Farm Mutual and paying $160 for liability and uninsured
motorist. I've been very happy with State Farm.

from (Walter Dryfoos):
I'd suggest that you give Coupin Insurance on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland a
call. They always found me the best deal on my bikes. They're an
independent agent, so they have lots of options.

from (Kevin Tiene):
I am about to buy a bike (Honda Hawk GT 650) and got the same response from
CSAA. They recommended getting insurance through the dealer.

from brad (Brad Whitaker):
Marketing Direct (800) 729-2537 MotorCycle Insurance

from (George Buzsaki):
Mike Felder Insurance (1-800-7-CYCLES) He specializes in motorcycle
liability insurance and is a good guy to boot.

from don...@ocf.Berkeley.EDU (Donald Ng):
I got the lowest quotes for insurance from Mike Felder in Concord. He's at
1-800-7-CYCLES, and gives discounts for taking the MSF courses.

from (George Wu):
Based on what the net recommended, I called Mike Felder and McGraw
Insurance. For just liability, Felder quoted $157. McGraw quoted $87. I
went with McGraw, naturally. Personally, I think the $157 is an error. I
definitely stated I wanted liability only, but I bet that's not what he

After I passed the MSF course, I called McGraw Insurance back to try and get
a discount. They don't offer one for the MSF course. The only safety
discount they offer is for "good drivers." One is a "good driver" if one
has held an M1 license for at least three years and has zero or one points
on his or her license.


32.When you see a sign "Litter removal next two miles by organization XXX",
what exactly does XXX do?

from r...@Ingres.COM (Roger Taranto) on 18 Jul 1992:

They are required by CalTrans to clean up their section of the highway at
least quarterly. They are told to park near the highway (on some side
street or something, not on the side of the highway), and they have to give
CalTrans and the CHP notice a certain amount of time before they go out
there. They are given safety instructions before they go. Finally, there
are two types of people you see picking up litter along the side of the
road: those with *white* hats are part of some group doing litter removal;
those with *orange* hats are doing "community service", e.g., someone who
got sentenced to do community service. Alternatively, sponsors can hire
cleanup crews.


33.How much are the gasoline taxes in CA?

14.1 cents Federal tax + 17.0 cents State tax + sales tax (up to 7.75


34.Can I get a ticket for a traffic violation while I'm riding a bicycle?

from wa...@optilink.COM (Mark Walsh) 24 May 93:

Yes. Go read CVC 21200 through 21211. Section 21200 basically states that
cyclists have all of the same privileges and responsibilities that other
vehicles have.

from (David Cortesi) on 22 Jun 93:

There is not a lot of enforcement of cycling violations, which is one of the
reasons you see a lot of bicyclists breaking rules. However, in a few towns
there is strict enforcement of traffic laws on bicyclists, among them
Woodside, CA, where cyclists are regularly ticketed for failure to stop at
stop signs.

35.Will such bicycle traffic convictions go on my DMV driving record?

from wa...@optilink.COM (Mark Walsh) 24 May 93:

Contrary to myth, these offenses can and will go on your California DMV
record. I know a fellow who suffered a dramatic increase in his insurance
rates after having been cited for running stop signs on his bike twice
within a year.

In rec.bicycles.soc, Bob Becker writes:

Even with a driver's license, a bicycle violation shouldn't appear on your
record. From the CVC section 1803 (b):

The following violations are not required to be reported under subdivision
(a) of this section:
(7) Violations for which a person was cited as a pedestrian or while
operating a bicycle

If they do show up on your record, contact the DMV and get them removed. I
know you can, I have done this.

36.I had to slow down because of a bicyclist and then cross the center line to
pass. Aren't those damn fool lycra-butts supposed to ride on the
sidewalk/in the gutter/in the bike lane/etc?

from (David Cortesi) on 15 Jun 93:

Bicyclists are "vehicle operators" in almost every sense under the vehicle
code. They are not restricted to particular lanes or parts of the road,
except that when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, or to
avoid unsafe conditions, they should ride as far to the right "as
practicable" [CVC 21202(a)]. On a section of highway that carries traffic
in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, bicyclists
may ride as near to the left as practicable [CVC 21202(b)]. They are also
subject to the law on two-lane highways that slow traffic must pull over,
wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, when 5 or more vehicles
are behind it and where passing is unsafe [CVC 21656].

So if the cyclist was riding as far to the right as practicable for the road
surface conditions and holding up less than 5 vehicles, he or she is within
the law, and motorists are responsible for passing the cyclist in a way that
is safe for all.

37.Oh? So what are these bike lanes for, then?

from (David Cortesi) on 22 Jun 93:

Primarily for cars not to drive in. The law says cars cannot drive in bike
lanes, except to park where permitted, to enter or leave a roadway, or to
prepare for a turn within 200 feet of an intersection [CVC 21309].

Cyclists are supposed to use bike lanes but they are not locked into them.
CVC 21208 says:

Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to
Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed
less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction shall
ride within the bicycle lane, except that such person may move out of the
lane under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian
within the lane or about to enter the lane if such overtaking and
passing cannot be done safely within the lane.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private
road or driveway.
(3) When reasonable necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris
or other hazardous conditions.

A lot of cyclists prefer to stay in the traffic lanes because traffic keeps
them swept clear of glass, tree litter, kids on skateboards... Seriously,
cycling activists like John Forester (author of Effective Cycling) argue
that bike lanes are a unsafe and ineffective, and that governments would do
better trying to teach cyclists and drivers how better to share the roads.

38.One of those gangs of a dozen neon-shirted lycra-butts was taking up a whole
lane the other day, don't they have to ride single file?

There's no CVC section requiring it (see FAQ on lane sharing). On the other
hand, some people (including police officers, acting in their official
capacities) interpret the requirement to keep as far to the right "as
practicable" of CVC 21202(a) to require bicycles to ride single file. Under
this interpretation, unless passing, turning, avoiding road debris, etc.
(see quote of CVC 21208 above), the cyclist on the left is not as far right
as practicable.

39.I'm a slow, occasional cyclist and I feel a lot safer riding the way I walk,
against the traffic. Is that OK?

from (David Cortesi) on 22 Jun 93:

Absolutely not, because as a vehicle operator you should ride with the other
vehicles, on the right. Besides being legal, you are safer on the right.
Two of many reasons: A driver entering from a side street or driveway
always looks to the left before pulling out. If you are riding on the wrong
side, you approach toward the back of the driver's head and he or she is
likely to pull out into you. Plus, when you meet a cyclist riding 20 mph
toward you in the bike lane, which way do you dodge? Should you pass on the
right or the left? It's a sticky situation all too likely to end with a
head-on crash.

For further information . . .

40.What are some useful phone numbers and/or addresses?

(Some of these apply only to particular areas of the state. The purpose of
this information is to show the kinds of services that are available;
consult your phone directory for the local corresponding agency. Additions
to this list are welcome, of course.)

800-427-ROAD (try 415-557-3755 from out-of-state) CalTrans' highway
information number: Call from a touch-tone phone, punch in the highway
number, and a recording will tell you about current and scheduled
closures, chain requirements, and traffic restrictions. As far as I
can tell, it gets updated as whenever conditions change. Drive safely!
--from a...@Xenon.Stanford.EDU (Alan Hu) on 10 dec 92

714-665-6970 Orange County Household Hazardous Waste Hotline, recording
for information on sites that accept waste motor oil, antifreeze, etc.,
from households of Orange County residents

800-EXHAUST Bay Area Air Quality Management District smoking vehicle
program complaint line
800-CUT-SMOG South Coast Air Quality Management District
to report smoke-emitting (for longer than 10 seconds) vehicle (note
license number, make, model, date, time, and location). The AQMD doesn't
ask for your name. They mail the vehicle owner a letter stating that
their vehicle was observed smoking and explaining the CA exhaust
emissions laws. They are asked to repond to the letter. The Street
Smart column of the LA times on 15 March, 1993, reports that according
to AQMD spokesperson Paula Levy, there is a 25 percent of letter
recipients reply that they have repaired their vehicle.

800-745-SAFE "Safety Belt Safe USA", Inglewood, CA, a non-profit group
To report a driver having children in the vehicle who were not retrained
by seat belts or within a car seat, call the 800 number. They will give
you a form to fill out to report the offending motorist. Send the form
back to them and they will get it to the Highway Patrol, who will then
send the registered owner a very stern letter of warning.
-- from (Nancy Feagans) on 18 may 1993

800-927-HELP CA Insurance Consumer Line (see question about insurers
having to be licensed in CA)

714-724-2000 CalTrans, Orange County: to report potholes
714-754-5334 Costa Mesa Transportation Services: to report malfunctioning
traffic signals (note place, time, and situation)
213-623-6533 for info on handling LA City parking ticket by mail
DMV Revenue Services, Mail Station D148, 2415 1st Ave., Sacramento, CA 95818
to report expired tags, or out-of-state plates that have overstayed their

800-952-5210 California Bureau of Automotive Repair

41.What are some recommended readings?

(originally compiled by;
some updates from a post by (Peter V. Mason) on 2
Oct 92)
(if you would like to maintain this list, please Reply!)

Beating the Radar Rap, Dale Smith & John Tomerlin, Bonus Books, Chicago,
1990, $15.
How to fight a radar-clocked speeding ticket in court. (Annotation
summarized from Car & Driver, 2/91.) (stevea)

Don't Get Taken Every Time, Remar Sutton, Penguin, city?, 1991?, ~$8?.
This book pulls no punches in its expose' of car dealers' tactics on car
buyers. Fictional examples offer lessons. Also a step by step guide for
buying cars. (stevea)

Fight Your Ticket, David W. Brown, Nolo Press, Berkeley, 1991, $21.95,
I found it under "traffic violations" on the library index computer. Dewey
number is 345.0247 BRO 1991, ISBN 0-87337-132-1. It's obviously specialized
to California, but there are some pretty good general topics on how to act
when stopped (polite, non-committal, don't make the cop's job easy by
admitting anything). Check out all the facts you can and write down the
entire incident for use in court. One of his claims is that the cop is
trained to decide whether to give you a ticket before he gets out of his
car, so fawning or apologizing will get you nowhere. Another point is to
read the vehicle code very carefully, because each code section requires
that several elements be established to convict you. Brown also discusses
out-of-state tickets and lists the states that are in the Driver's License
Compact and cross report-violations. Incidentally, Brown verifies that you
can't be convicted of a speed violation using radar measurement unless there
has been a survey within 5 years. (pvmason)

The Safe Motorist's Guide to Speedtraps, John Tomerlin & Dru Whitledge,
Bonus Books, Chicago, 1991, $24 "RADAR" members, $31 nonmembers,
800-448-5170, also available in some bookstores.
For the 50 states: Hwy Patrol radio frequencies, fines, ticket info
exchanges with other states, speed traps, more. (Annotation summarized
from Car & Driver, 3/92.) (stevea)

A Speeder's Guide to Avoiding Tickets, Sgt. James M. Eagan, Avon Books, New
York, 1990, $5.
How to avoid getting caught; what to do before, during, and after being
pulled over. Mildly amusing and worth the price. (stevea)

from bi...@Celestial.COM (Bill Campbell) on 28 Sep 1992:
The Ticket Book, Rod Dornsife, ISBN 0-9601950-1-7, published by
The Ticket Book, Inc., PO Box 1087, La Jolla, Ca 92038
I don't know whether this is still available. I got mine when it was handed
out to all the participants in the 1979 Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea
Memorial Trophy Dash (the last real Cannonball).

Traffic Court - How to Win, by Atty. James Glass, Allenby Press, Arcadia,
CA, 1988. Claims to be nationwide in application. (pvmason)

How to Win in Traffic Court: The Non-Lawyers Guide to Successfully
Defending Traffic Violations, by Phil Bello, J.D., Major Market Books,
Gibbsboro, NJ, 1989. Also claims to be nationwide. (pvmason)

from (Dana Uehara) on 16 Feb 93:
_Talk Your Way Out Of A Traffic Ticket_. (Not sure who the author is --
something [Jim?] Kelley). Unfortunately I don't have the book with me, so I
have no other information, but I do know it's available in paperback. It
should be useful since the person who wrote it is (was?) a CHP patrol
officer. Synopsis: Highlights what to and what *not* to do/say if you get
pulled over. Also outlines what types of recourse you have if you do get
ticketed, under what conditions you can request Traffic School, and also
gives some guidelines as to testing yourself as to whether or not you can
(or *should*) be driving, particularly if you've had too much to drink.

CHP radios and scanners

42.What is a "CHiPs detector"? What's the complete story on CHP radios?

from (Chuck Fry):

That's right. Many CHP cars are equipped with repeaters so that when the
officers get out of their cars, their walkie-talkies need only reach the car
instead of the base station. The CHiPs Detector (tm) takes advantage of the
fact that the CHiPpies rarely turn off the repeater when they're IN the car.
Note that the CHP may change this frequency at any time, although they're
not likely to.

The disadvantages are that you just know at least one CHiPpie is in the
area, not how close, what they're doing, or whether they're after you; and
there's no signal transmitted from the repeater when the base station is
silent. So it's hardly foolproof. (Mike Morris) posted on 12 oct 1991:

The following info was compiled from several sources, none of which have
1st-hand knowledge of the new CHP radios, but what I have been able to put
together seems to agree. So with that caveat, ...

The older Motorola Micor mobile radios had "mobile extenders" by GE. These
extenders were 1/4 watt transmitting units that repeated the audio from the
42mhz CHP mobile radio to 154.905mhz. The mobile extender time-sliced the
channel to transmit for roughly 9/10 second and receive for 1/10 of a second
to see if the officer was replying. Hence the "yakyakyak-chuff-yakyakyak-
chuff-yakyakyak-chuff-..." sound of the repeated traffic on the 154mhz
channel. There was a writeup of the single-channel time-slicing technique
in a ham radio magazine back in the early 70s, and the technique has taken
off tremendously. It has mostly been used to allow single-channel
radio-to-telephone interconnects called simplex autopatches (because they
use one channel - a "simplex" channel.)

Anyway the mobile extender technique works very well, and allows the officer
to use a relatively low power high-band hand-held to communicate with the
dispatcher via the > 100w low-band mobile radio in his/her patrol car with
very little trouble.

A low-band hand-held would have to use a 6' antenna to be resonant, or a
"rubber duckie" over a foot long. And the hand-held couldn't have enough RF
power to reach the dispatch center in 99% of the state. Hence a 150mhz
handheld (where a 18" antenna is the norm, and a "rubber duck" is < 9") and
a mobile extender.

A bit of history:
The bid for mobile radios was won by Motorola around 10 years ago. The
mobile extenders were an afterthought, and that bid/contract was won by GE.
The user interface was a simple on/off switch, and the state radio shop
people mounted it in the Motorola control head. It was a toggle switch
labeled with a Dymo tape "repeat enable/disable" (or "extender on/off" or
"portable on/off").

The average officer soon discovered that leaving the extender switch in the
"on" position worked just fine. They turned off the hand-held to shut off
the "repeater", not realizing that the mobile side of the extender was still
on. Probably 99% of the CHP officers left it on for the entire shift. With
the almost constant activity on the CHP dispatch channels, this 154.905mhz
vehicle transmitter behaved like a 1/4w beacon, providing between 1/4 to 1
mile notification of the location of a patrol car.

Now the spoiler: The CHP is replacing (has replaced here in my area) _all_
of their Motorola Micor/GE extender radio packages. The new radios are all
GE, with CHP-designed control groups. (The state Red Cross got 90% of the
radios for the 47.42 - 47.62 freqs. A few of them went to other state
agencies, like the Office of Emergency Services). The 1991 Southern
California edition of the "Police Call" frequency listing has a nice writeup
on the CHP-designed control groups, as I remember. They even got 90% of it

The new design forces the officers to disable the extender when they are in
the patrol car. Listening to 154.905 while mobile now just tells you where
a CHP car is _stopped_, with the officer out of the car, as opposed to
before when it would tell you where a stopped or a moving one was...

Here is the frequency map of the CHP hand-helds as I have it.

F1: 154.905 with the primary tone. (NOTE 1)
F2: same 1st alternate tone
F3: same 2nd alternate tone
F4: 154.920 (CLEMARS 1) - Base side of CLEMARS
F5: 154.935 (CLEMARS 2) - Mobile/Portable CLEMARS
F6: 156.075 (CALCORD) (NOTE 2)
F7: 155.475 (CLEMARS 3 / NALEMARS) (NOTE 3)

Abbreviations: CLEMARS: California Law Enforcement Mutual Radio System.
CALCORD: California Coordination - a statewide "on-scene"
NALEMARS: National Law Enforcement.... A federal version

Note 1: With the old hand-helds (2 freqs - 154.905 and 154.920) there was no
way that two units from different areas (i.e. different dispatch
frequencies) could have their extenders operational at an out-of-vehicle
scene -- when an officer transmitted, both mobiles would be brought up.

the remainder of Note 1 explanation is from the post of
(Scott O'Connell) on 14 oct 1991:

The receiver of the extender has an attenuator making a low wattage HT
usable for only a short distance (typically less than 50yds). To make sure
there is only one extender being used within close proximity each vehicle
extender sends a short burst tone to see if others are active. If it is
within range of another active extender it doesn't turn on at all. The HT
is then using the other vehicle radio (the one that was already turned on).

Now for the PL explanation. There are three channels on CHP HT's that
relate directly to the extender. Channel 1 (also called PP or Person to
Person) does not transmit any tone nor does it decode. It is meant for HT
to HT use. Channel 2 has a subaudible tone on transmit allowing the officer
to talk to dispatch. (ie, transmits on the input freq of the lowband radio)
Channel 3 has a different subaudible tone on transmit allowing the officer
to talk to other officers. (ie, transmits on the output of the lowband
radio) All channels are carrier squelch on the receive so that PP can be
heard regardless of other traffic.

I hope this clears up why there are three 154.905 channels on the HT's.

Note 2: 156.075 is also the Ship TX side of Marine channel 61 (paired with
160.675 Ship RX). I understand some re-thinking of the use of this
frequency is going on. It seems to be pretty useless in coastal areas.

Note 3: 155.475 I have been told that this channel has multiple PL tones. I
have also been told that the CHP handheld is 10 freq - capable. Maybe this
channel has multiple appearances like F1-F2-F3. More info is needed.

Another rehash of the low band channels is in the works since LA County
Sheriffs is moving to 800 or 900 mhz. The CHP has acquired all of the 39mhz
LASO channels and is slowly moving to change all of the low band dispatch
operation to full repeat. My sources do not know if the mobiles will be
transmitting on 39mhz and listening on 42mhz or vice versa. It does not
make much difference to the GE mobiles since they cover the full 30-50 mhz
just fine (as opposed to the old Micors that covered 42mhz to 50mhz only.
Does anybody have any info?

43.But aren't most citizens prohibited from using mobile radio scanners?

from (Bob Parnass, AJ9S) on 4 nov 91:

Anyone interested in US state and federal laws relating to radio monitoring
should check out Frank Terranella's "Listener's Lawbook." It is available
for $9.95 (plus $2 UPS) from Grove Enterprises, 140 Dog Branch Road,
Brasstown, NC 28902.

I am not an attorney, but I have a 1989 issue of Frank's earlier work,
"ANARC Guide to US Monitoring Laws," and will summarize from that book.
California monitoring laws may have changed, but here are the laws of
interest to Californians as they were in 1989:

- Penal Code s 632.5 makes it a crime to maliciously monitor cellular radio
telephone calls.

- Penal Code s 635 outlaws the manufacture, sale, and possession of devices
primarily or exclusively designed or intended for eavesdropping on
cellular phones.

- Penal Code s 636.5 makes it illegal to divulge any police radio service
communication you hear on your radio to a criminal or to assist in the
commission of a crime or help a criminal evade the law.

In addition, Californians are subject to the same federal monitoring laws as
other Americans. The most important one to remember is the Electronic
Communication Privacy Act of 1986 which makes it a crime to listen to
cellular or mobile radio telephones or common carrier paging, and outlaws

Section 705 of the Communications Act of 1934 makes it illegal to divulge
the contents of what you hear on your radio to others unless the
conversation was on ham radio or the citizens' band.

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