Headlight rule needs repeating, reader says

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: In your recent column, you wrote about some safety tips. I wish you would repeat one of them. You stated, “Turn on your headlights when it’s rainy, gloomy, foggy or overcast.” I am appalled at how many drivers make themselves almost invisible when it’s dark and rainy. Tell them to use their lights, especially black and other dark cars. We can’t see them when they blend into the roadways. It’s our lives and theirs that can be saved. Yesterday, in the poring rain, I just missed getting hit by a non-lit motorist. I didn’t see her.
Thanks,
Arn Ghigliazza via email

A: Sure, here’s a reprint of the blurb about the use of headlights: Turn on headlights bad weather. While driving around in last week’s storm, which featured driving rain, high winds, flooded streets and low visibility, there were drivers motoring in those conditions without their headlights on. In bad weather, turning on your headlights helps others on the road see you. Not donning the lights is against the law and is quite dangerous. The other people on the road have a difficult time seeing those vehicles that have been reduced to shadows amid the deluge that swallowed roads and sidewalks. The color of the vehicle has nothing to do with how visible it is when swirling water is coming both from the sky as well as being kicked up by the tires of all the other vehicles on the road.
According to the DMV’s website, drivers “must” turn on their headlights “from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise or if snow, rain, fog, or other hazardous weather condition requires the continuous use of windshield wipers, or when visibility is not sufficient to clearly see a person or a vehicle for a distance of 1,000 feet. No vehicle may be driven with only parking lights on. However, parking lights may be used as signals or when the headlamps are also lit.”
Read more about this and other road rules at www.dmv.ca.com.

Bike traffic school
Bike riders are invited to learn to become a more confident and competent cyclist at Santa Cruz County’s Bicycle Traffic School. It’s being offered to riders who’ve been cited for traffic infractions as well as the general public 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, at the County Emeline Health Campus in Santa Cruz. Cost is $35 for cited cyclists and $15 for everyone else. Pre-registration is required. For information, call 831-454-5477 or visit www.sctrafficsafety.org/BikeTrafficSchool.

Posted in bicycle, bicycle education, Bicycling, bike safety, consumer affairs, cycling, driver education, Driver safety, law enforcement, Public safety, traffic citation, traffic hazards, traffic laws, traffic safety, traffic ticket, traffic violation, transportation, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Transportation projects on hold due to rain

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: Do you have any information as to why the city of Santa Cruz has not yet striped either Laurel Street or Western Drive? The paving on both was finished by mid-November and it has now been a number of weeks with no striping. This is hazardous for all street traffic, especially with darkness falling earlier and inclement weather. Thanks for any insights.
Naazneen Barma, Santa Cruz

A: Blame it on the rain, which is impacting transportation projects countywide.
“It’s been a domino effect with other projects elsewhere, delaying the contractor that does that type of work,” said Chris Schneiter, director of the city’s public works department. “We’ve been assured we are next on the list. Let’s hope for some dry days next week!”
Similarly, on Highway 152, Caltrans’ 6-mile pavement overlay project that was supposed to begin at the end of last month from College/Holohan Road near Watsonville to near Mount Madonna Road at the Santa Cruz/Santa Clara County line has been delayed until next spring.
Transportation agencies countywide encourage patience on long awaiting projects to come to fruition as they now turn their attention to storm damage mitigation.

Turn on headlights bad weather
While driving around in last week’s storm, which featured driving rain, high winds, flooded streets and low visibility, there were drivers motoring in those conditions without their headlights on. In bad weather, turning on your headlights helps others on the road see you. Not donning the lights is against the law and is quite dangerous. The other people on the road have a difficult time seeing those vehicles that have been reduced to shadows amid the deluge that swallowed roads and sidewalks. The color of the vehicle has nothing to do with how visible it is when swirling water is coming both from the sky as well as being kicked up by the tires of all the other vehicles on the road.
According to the DMV’s website, drivers “must” turn on their headlights “from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise or if snow, rain, fog, or other hazardous weather condition requires the continuous use of windshield wipers, or when visibility is not sufficient to clearly see a person or a vehicle for a distance of 1,000 feet. No vehicle may be driven with only parking lights on. However, parking lights may be used as signals or when the headlamps are also lit.”
Read more about this and other road rules at www.dmv.ca.com.

Posted in California Driver Handbook, California Vehicle Code, consumer affairs, DMV, driver education, Driver safety, Public safety, public works, public works projects, road conditions, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Public Works, traffic hazards, traffic laws, traffic safety, transportation, transportation projects, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking tire safety

Dear Street Smarts,
Q: Good points [in Monday's column on wet weather driving tips]. One of the most critical points was missed — tires. Tires without sufficient tread or tires that are too old and have become hard will easily hydroplane or skid on wet roads and water. I see vehicles everywhere with worn out tires.
Thanks,
Steven Taty, Santa Cruz
A: You are so right. Here’s more on the subject of tire safety from AAA, found at http://exchange.aaa.com/automobiles-travel/automobiles/car-care-and-maintenance/tire-safety-and-maintenance/.
Make sure your tires have adequate air pressure. Over-inflated tires ride rough and wear prematurely wear in the center of their tread while under-inflated tires decrease fuel economy, impact handling, prematurely wear out at the edge of their tread, and can overheat and shred at highway speeds. Once monthly, check tire pressure. Tires normally lose about a pound of pressure each month. Also know that during the cold months, tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degree change in temperature. Conversely, they gain one pound of pressure in warm weather. Always follow the inflation instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual or the tire label on the driver’s door jamb or in the glove box. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under-inflated tires contribute to more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually. Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates those sagging tires waste more than 1 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
As for tread wear, those grooves come in handy during wet and snowy weather. Check tread depth by sticking a quarter upside down into a tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, it’s time to buy new tires. Worn tires with little tread are more likely to hydroplane on wet pavement or lose traction in the snow, resulting in a loss of braking ability and steering control. What’s more, uneven or excessive tread wear may require suspension repair or wheel alignment, work that extends the life of tires.
Finally, proper tire balancing and regular rotation prevent the aforementioned uneven wear, helping you get the most out of your tires by maximizing their life and providing a safer driving experience. If unsafe vibrations arise from the steering or chassis, have a mechanic check the tire balance. Drivers should rotate their tires as often as their vehicle owner’s manual specifies. If tires wear unevenly, or the vehicle “pulls” to the right or left, it’s time to have the suspension inspected and the wheels aligned.

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Improperly placed neighborhood traffic calming signs may be hazardous

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: A neighbor on Wesley Street in Capitola had one of those brightly colored plastic turtle signs asking drivers to slow down. It was placed a little farther out in the street than the parked cars. One day, I noticed the turtle was gone and, a few days later, replaced with a homemade wood stand, not brightly colored, with a paper sign stating ‘DEAF CAT.’ There are a number of cats that tend to go out in the street in our neighborhood. One of them is apparently deaf. I sympathize with the neighbor, who has small children and lives on a straight street that is a shortcut through the neighborhood. I raised my kids in the neighborhood myself and understand the desire to slow cars down and keep kids safe. My concern is that the sign isn’t brightly colored and seems to stick out a bit far into the street. Their house is a few doors away from Park Avenue, which is a bit busier. The placement of the sign pushes cars going toward Park to the left of their lane while cars turning left from Park might be cutting into that lane as well. It seems dangerous. Are there rules about the placement of the sign? I am worried that with the shorter days, the sign might not be very visible and cause an accident.
Thank you,
Chris Bowman, Capitola

A: “The placement of signs in the road right of way is controlled by city code and private signs are illegal,” said Steve Jesberg, director of the city’s public works department. “Unfortunately, with the proliferation of these new ‘slow down signs’ being sold, many people feel empowered to use them. We do not have the crew time to continually enforce these illegal signs and typically only take action if they are creating a traffic hazard. The signs tend to pop up and be taken down much faster than we can respond.”
Jesberg encourages users of these signs to “keep them close to the curb or parked cars so they don’t create problems,” he said. “There could be some liability for anyone placing a sign in the roadway if it were to cause injury or damage.”

Posted in Capitola, Capitola Public Works, consumer affairs, Driver safety, Public safety, public works, traffic calming, transportation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the East Cliff Drive bike path

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: The portion of East Cliff Drive, from the new Pleasure Point Park eastward has a designated bike lane striped and marked one way east. Why wasn’t it stripped for two way bike riding as was Beach Street in front of the Boardwalk? As a bike rider who follows your admonition to follow traffic laws, I am at a loss of how to travel westward: Do I ride against traffic in the bike lane? Do I ride on the pedestrian sidewalk? Or am I forbidden to return homeward from Capitola on East Cliff Drive, requiring traveling on heavily trafficked Portola Drive?
Bill Patterson, Santa Cruz

A: “In regard to providing bike access along East Cliff Drive, for bikes travelling westbound from 41st Avenue to 32nd Avenue, there have always been signs directing bikes at the Hook parking lot area to cross East Cliff Drive to the ocean side and use the two-way path — either the old one with the white delineators or the new separated paved path,” said Jack Sohriakoff, senior civil engineer for county public works. “When bicyclists get to 32nd Avenue, there is a sign directing them to cross East Cliff Drive again. This allows westbound bicyclists to ride along the cliffs throughout the one-way eastbound segment of East Cliff Drive.”

Q: Perhaps it’s time for a yield versus merge lesson. Exiting southbound Highway 1 onto Soquel Avenue is probably the worst. Merge is what you do when you go from two lanes to one or enter a freeway. Ease in between cars as space allows or every other car. Yield means wait until there is a break in traffic, not every other car. Cars coming from 17th Ave toward Soquel have the right of way governed by a light. If they have the green, cars coming off Highway 1 need to wait for a break or the light to turn green, not try and squeeze in every other car.
Allison Niday via email

A: Sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on traffic law. For further clarification of merge versus yield, check out the California Driver Handbook, which is available online at www.dmv.ca.gov. Too busy to read the driver handbook? Listen to it at http://dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/audio. The files can be played on any MP3 player and MP#3 player program as well as burned onto a CD.

Posted in bicycle, bicycle education, Bicycling, bike lanes, bike path, bike safety, California Driver Handbook, DMV, driver education, Driver safety, Highway 1, merging, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Child passenger safety during holiday travel season

The holiday travel season is upon us and millions of people will load their families into their cars and hitting the road to visit loved ones or escape from crazy, busy lives.

Last week, Street Smarts published an interview with Chris Cochran of the California Office of Traffic Safety in an attempt to get parents and caregivers to think seriously about the safety of their smallest and youngest passengers — the most precious of their cargo.

As Cochran said, in a crash, children — and adults — improperly restrained in vehicles can become projectiles inside the vehicle and perhaps be thrown outside.

Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for children 1-13 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With an 80 percent child safety seat compliance rate here in California, more must be done to protect children in cars. Below are child safety seat guidelines:

 

  1. All infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats in the back seat until they reach their seats height or weight limit. To protect their neck and spine, children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they are about two years of age. Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active air bag.
  2. When children outgrow rear-facing convertible seats, upgrade them to a forward-facing car seat with a harness but still have them ride in the back seat until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the car seat. That’s usually around 40- to 50-pounds, depending on child’s physical and developmental needs.
  3. A booster seat is needed when children outgrow the forward facing car seat. Children should ride in booster seats until they are 8 years old or 4 foot 9 inches tall.
  4. Children can sit in the vehicle’s seat with a seat belt only when they outgrow their booster seats and are developmentally ready. A properly fitted seat belt means the child’s knees bend comfortably over the vehicle seat, the lap belt lies low across the hips at the upper thigh and the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder without touching the neck. Also remember, children under 13 years old should always ride in the rear seat.

Parents with questions about car seat installation and child passenger safety can contact their local fire department or the Santa Cruz Area CHP office, 831-662-0511. Information also is available online at http://www.santacruzhealth.org/phealth/family/3seatsforkids.htm and http://www.safercar.gov/parents/home.htm.

Posted in child passenger safety, child seats, children, CHP, transportation, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kids belong in car seat not laps, pt. 2

When I drive in my car, I am shocked to see people holding youngsters in their laps in cars as well as youths about 10 years old sitting in the front seat next to mom or dad. These are dangerous places for kids to be if they get into a crash.

To help parents better understand child passenger safety, Street Smarts consulted with Chris Cochran, spokesperson for the California Office of Traffic Safety. The first of this two part series ran Monday. Here’s the rest of our conversation:

Street Smarts: Babies or toddlers in laps in cars and preteens in the front passenger seat. Comments, please.

Cochran: We all have the myth in our heads that we can restrain ourselves or others in case of a crash. Every Mom puts her arm across the kid in the seat next to her in a quick stop. And it’s a myth. Anyone who has been in a severe crash knows that you have no control at all over yourself or anyone else. The forces are just too overwhelming for our muscles to have any effect over them. A child — or anyone else — not restrained by a seat belt or child safety seat becomes a projectile in whatever direction opposite to the impact. They leave the built-in crumple zones and air bags designed to shield and leave space for our bodies in case of a crash and become subject to whatever is happening to the car or even being ejected. In the case of a child in a lap, no amount of hugging will keep them in your arms. If you are in a front seat, they will be between you and the air bag exploding at 200 mph and designed to fill the space up to your chest. There is a good chance that both you and the child will be killed or severely injured. A child under 4 foot 9 inches and just using a regular seat belt is in danger not only of injuries due to improper placement of the belt on their body, but actually being forced out from under it by the crash. A child under 12 does not have the bone and muscle development to take the impact of a front seat airbag and can be severely injured by it.

Street Smarts: Is the problem of improper child restraint getting worse or better?

Cochran: In crash studies, the percentage of children who were restrained has been steadily increasing over the years; however, we are still in the low 80 percent, which leaves much room for improvement.
Parents and caregivers can find child passenger seat specialists at the local CHP office, fire, police and public health department.

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Kids belong in car seats not laps, pt. 1

Now that I am a relative foster parent of two young boys, it seems I am hyper aware of kids riding in unsecure places in their family vehicle.

While I am behind the wheel, I see people holding babies in their laps in cars as well as youths about 10 years old sitting in the front seat next to mom or dad. These are dangerous places for kids to be if their ride is involved in a traffic collision.

Street Smarts consulted with Chris Cochran, spokesperson for the California Office of Traffic Safety, on this topic. Below is part of our conversation; the second half will appear Thursday.

Street Smarts: Do you have any stats for traffic collisions involving children not restrained properly?

Cochran: In 2012, there were 18 killed and 459 seriously injured children age 7 and under who were not properly restrained in California.

Street Smarts: I was talking to a mom in our sports league about child safety seat laws. Her 8 year old son does not ride in a booster seat because, even though he is not yet 4 ft 9, he weighs 80 lbs. Is that legal?

Cochran: The new law actually mandates the proper seat for any child under age eight or 4 ft 9 inches in height, regardless of weight. However, if a child is under 4 ft 9 but over age 8, it is still highly recommended that they stay in a booster seat until they hit that 4 ft 9 mark. Otherwise, the regular seat belts hit them in the wrong place and could severely injure them in a crash if the belt is across the neck rather than the collarbone or across the stomach rather than the hips.

On Thursday, Cochran will delve more into the dangers of improperly restrained children involved in traffic collisions. In the meantime, read up on the child passenger law at www.ots.ca.gov. The fine for improper child seat installation is $100 for the first offense and $250 for each subsequent offense.

Meanwhile, parents with questions about car seat installation and child passenger safety can contact their local fire department or the Santa Cruz Area CHP office, 831-662-0511. Information also is available online at http://www.santacruzhealth.org/phealth/family/3seatsforkids.htm and http://www.safercar.gov/parents/home.htm.

Last word on ‘glasphalt’ use in Santa Cruz

Last week, Street Smarts published a conversation about the sparkling material in some Santa Cruz roads. A reader questioned whether the substance was broken glass. While the city denied the presence of glass, a second reader highlighted a program in which recycled glass was added to asphalt and used to pave roads — a mixture known as glasphalt. Not so, says the city.

“I’m familiar with glasphalt, having used it unsuccessfully on a downtown alley as a streetscape feature some years ago,” said Chris Schneiter, assistant public works director. “We ended up paving over it because the glass kept popping out. Interesting idea but the execution wasn’t well done. I confirmed with my local asphalt expert that they have not used recycled glass in their asphalt production for this area for the last 25 years.”

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Learning about ‘glasphalt’, tsunami signs & Halloween safety

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: Your article [Monday] described the glass look in paving. It actually isn’t sand — it is glass. [It's called glasphalt.]
When recycling began in the late ’60′s, the State of California quickly realized that demand — not supply — was the main hurdle to make recycling work. They attempted to expand markets for all kinds of recyclables. Glass cullet, or crushed glass, was a major one and the state provided incentives to use it whenever possible. Insulation and paving were targeted. The State even required a minimum recycled content for both materials.
So, what you see when the pavement sparkles is recycled glass mixed in with regular aggregate. The crush is such that it can never affect tires on bicycles or cars — they found out that the hard way. Your reader should celebrate the sparkle — it’s recycling at work!

Peter Heylin via email

A: Love my knowledgeable Street Smarts readers! Thank you for the information, Peter. Here’s more on the topic at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/97148/wg2.cfm and http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/20014PZV.txt?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=Prior%20to%201976&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&UseQField=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5CZYFILES%5CINDEX%20DATA%5C70THRU75%5CTXT%5C00000004%5C20014PZV.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=p%7Cf&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1.

Q: Why is there a tsunami evacuation sign on the corner of 7th Avenue with an arrow pointing down Eddy Lane? That is a dead end street. Wonder why the evacuation sign is there. Thank you.

Jeanne Thompson, Santa Cruz

A: “The tsunami evacuation sign on 7th Avenue at Eddy Lane directs people to Jose Avenue Park at the end of Eddy Lane, which is designated as the safe zone during a tsunami event,” said Jack Sohriakoff, senior civil engineer with county public works.

Trick or Treating safety tips

Friday is Halloween and if your kids are heading out for some trick or treating fun, here are some tips from the Central Fire Protection District:

  • Never let children trick or treat alone. Always head out in groups;
  • Know where your kids are going and what time they will be home;
  • Make sure they always cross streets at corners or crosswalks;
  • Never enter the homes of strangers;
  • Do not accept rides from people they do not know;
  • Only approach houses that are well lit as a sign of welcome;
  • Carry a flashlight;
  • Use sidewalks wherever available;
  • Teach children to dial 911 in case of an emergency; and
  • Keep children away from loose or fenced animals.

Once home, parents should inspect all treats for safety and discard any that appear to have been tampered with.

Note to drivers, slow down and keep your eyes peeled for goblins and ghouls in search of treats.

Posted in animals, children, consumer affairs, county, crosswalks, Paving, pedestrian safety, pedestrians, Public safety, public works, roads, Santa Cruz County Public Works, sidewalks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sparkling, new pavement looks like broken glass, reader says

Dear Street Smarts,

Q: I have a question regarding most surface/pavement/asphalt on the streets of our city of Santa Cruz. As a bike commuter, I’m always scanning to make sure I won’t ride into shattered glass, which happens a lot around here, yet most of the asphalt in town has some shiny little pieces that are part of it. It makes it sometimes very hard to distinguish if it’s truly shattered glass or not. Is there anything in the works to stop using that type of surface? When I rode the freshly done asphalt on Miramar Drive today, it didn’t look as shiny as some other streets. I’d love to know if we can try to stop using that shiny stuff. It’s horrible yet I understand how costly it would be to repave. I’m very curious about this.
Thank you!
Sandrine Sandy Georges, Santa Cruz

A: “Sand is one important component of asphalt used for paving streets,” said Chris Schneiter, assistant director of the city’s public works department. “Sand is also used for making glass. The sparkle factor of the streets probably depends on the amount of quartz silica that was in the sand used to make that batch of asphalt. It probably varies depending on the source.”

Schneiter, who admits to being “fooled a few times” while riding his own bike on a sparkly street, also said there is a wealth of knowledge about this topic online. Just use your favorite search engine.

Westbound Laurel Street lane closures Oct. 27-29

Work on Laurel Street continues 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27 through Wednesday, Oct. 29 as crews work to pave the stretch from Mission Street to Front Street, extending 200 feet onto Laurel Street Bridge.

Expect Laurel to be closed to westbound traffic between Mission and Chestnut streets Monday. Detours will take drivers, except buses and emergency vehicles, onto Walnut Street and Chestnut Street. Westbound Broadway users are urged to use Soquel Avenue and Water Street. Residents and businesses will have access to the area, which will reopen to two way traffic Tuesday.

On street parking is prohibited in the project area and significant delays are expected and drivers are advised to avoid the area if they can. What’s more, work may extend past 5 p.m. if bad weather or unforeseen circumstances occur.

Other rehab-related Laurel Street work is expected to continue through early November. Sidewalk and ramp improvements, which began in September, are to continue through October with occasional sidewalk closures. Questions and comments about the project can be referred to Hoi Yu, assistant engineer, at 831-420-5179.

Posted in Paving, public works, road closure, road conditions, road construction, road work, roads, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Public Works, sidewalks, traffic safety, transportation, transportation projects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment