Black Friday shopping for new tires

I spent a portion of Black Friday waiting patiently in the frigid cold to take advantage of a deal on tires. For months now, I have been keeping a close eye on my tire tread wear. For awhile there, I thought I could hold out until the spring; however, as some forecasters predict wet El Nino-related weather will begin next month, I felt it may be safer to replace my tires sooner than later. After all, the tread was just shy of the indicator line. Healthy tires should be inflated to the specification in your owners manual. The tread should have more than 2/32 inches of depth. Check tread wear by slipping a penny or quarter into the tire crevice with the president's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of the president's head, it's time for new tires. Tire health can mean the difference between reaching our destination safe and sound or risking hydroplaning and crashing on soaked and/or flooded roads. Hydroplaning occurs when tires lose contact with the road due to lots of water between the tires and the road. Tread depth helps determine how good a grip your tires will have on the road in average conditions. The deeper the tread, the better. Part of my decision to replace my tires was that I had a slow leak in a tire, requiring increasing trips to the air pump each month. Improperly inflated tires make the tread wear down faster. It also means it's easier to hydroplane at higher speeds. The one tire I suspected of having the slow leak had less tread than the remaining three tires. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, under-inflated tires have more tire touching the road at lower speeds of less than 50 mph. "However, hydroplaning does not occur very often at speeds below 50 mph, unless there is deep water on the road, the agency reported in a report on tire pressure monitoring systems, at "As you get to about 55 mph and the water pressure going under the tire increases, an under-inflated tire has less pressure in it pushing down on the road and you have less tire-to-road contact than a properly inflated tire as the center portion of the tread gets lifted out of contact with the road." When speeds rise to 70 mph and beyond, and water depth increases due to a severe local storm with poor drainage, poorly inflated tires could lose 40 percent of its tire-to-road contact area compared to properly inflated tires, the report continued. "The higher the speed and the more under-inflated the tire is, then the lower the tire-to-road contact and the higher is the chance of hydroplaning," the report said. After making my Black Friday purchase, I explained to my kids the significance of this rather strange gift I gave us all this holiday season -- the gift of peace of mind. Smarts appears Mondays. Follow it on Twitter and Facebook. Submit questions to those aforementioned social media sites or to streetsmarts@ Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number where you can be reached.
Posted in driver education, Driver safety, NHTSA, rain, traffic hazards, traffic safety, transportation, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Turn signals are not a thing of the past

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I noticed lately that only about 25 percent of the vehicles on the road now days use turn signals when making turns, changing lanes, merging, etc. I even see police, fire, and parking control vehicles not using their signals. Is it optional now days? David McCollum, Watsonville A: Using turn signals to tell others on the road -- whether on wheels or foot -- your intentions to change direction has been a law since Sept. 18, 1959. California Vehicle Code section 22107 reads that, " No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." Specifically, people are to "always signal when turning left or right, changing lanes, slowing down, or stopping," according to the California Driver Handbook, that book all drivers are supposed to read in order to pass the written version of the DMV's driver test when they are first applying for their license and sometimes to go back to renew. When vehicle turn signals don't work or "if bright sunlight makes the signal lights hard to see, also use hand-and-arm signals," the driver handbook continues on to say. These hand signals are also used by motorcyclists and bicyclists: to turn right, place left arm out the driver's side window and raise up into a 90 degree angle; when slowing, stick arm out the window and drop hand to a 90 degree angle; and to turn left, erect straight left arm out of your window. According to the handbook, turn signals should be used: ⦁ During the last 100 feet before reaching the turning point. Make sure the area is clear of people and objects before completing the turn by ⦁ Before changing lanes or making a turn. ⦁ At least five seconds before making lanes changes on a freeway. ⦁ Before pulling next to or away from the curb. ⦁ Whenever you change directions. ⦁ Even when you do not see other vehicles. A vehicle you do not see may suddenly appear and hit you. Learn about this and other traffic laws by perusing the vehicle code or driver handbook online at
Posted in California Driver Handbook, California Vehicle Code, DMV, driver education, driver license, Driver safety, traffic laws, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Busy roads on tap this week, through summer

Santa Cruz will start the month of June with some traffic and parking issues related to events and construction. First, the AIDS/Life Cycle Bicycle Ride, which pulled into town from San Francisco Sunday will head out early Monday via Highway 1, en route to King City. Each year, cyclists make the trek from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research. Expect to see rolling lane closures as the CHP helps keep the riders and their support vehicles safe on their week-long journey. For traffic updates, call Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at (805) 549-3318 or visit Also, starting today, the city of Santa Cruz will begin the installing fiber optic conduits and pull boxes in the street and sidewalk along the eastside of Cedar Street from the northwest corner at Locust Street to North Pacific Avenue and Mission Street. Work on the Cedar Street Fiber Optic Project will occur weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through July 31. Cedar Street will remain open at all times to vehicle traffic but there may be some minor delays. Pedestrian activity will be minimally detoured. Access to homes and businesses will remain uninterrupted. The project is the first step in the city’s plan to install new traffic signal controllers, new vehicle detection, a new server, software and fiber optic communications equipment. Once complete, the city will be able to collect and process real-time traffic data and adjust signalization to maximize efficiency with the goal improving traffic through the corridor and crossing arterials, as well as reduce delays, idle time and greenhouse gas emissions. For information, contact Nathan Nguyen, associate civil engineer, at (831) 420-5188 or Lastly, the 29th Annual Japanese Cultural Fair is Saturday, June 6 at Mission Plaza Park and parking is limited. To help festival-goers, Toyota of Santa Cruz will operate a shuttle service from the County Building at 701 Ocean Street to the park, located across the street from Holy Cross Church along High Street between Slyvar and Emmett streets. The festival provides an opportunity for local residents to learn about and experience traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. For information, visit Taking a break Street Smarts is taking a break and will return July 6. I am taking the kids on their first airplane trip when school lets out for the summer and before summer school begins. What advice do you have for me? We also will reorganize their room as the oldest prepares to head middle school in the fall. Thank you all for your continued support and advice in my new role as adoptive single mother to my little cousins. See you in a few weeks!
Posted in bicycle, Bicycling, CHP, parking, public works, public works projects, Santa Cruz Public Works, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Roads could be slow & go this week for projects, Bike Week

Drivers countywide will have to pay extra attention to the roads and their travel routes this week as several events, including a sewer project, highway work and Bike Week, take to the streets. First, in Santa Cruz, the city will embark on a sewer repair project 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, May 4 through Friday, May 8 at the intersection of Soquel/Hagemann/Trevethan avenues. Left turns will be prohibited in all directions due to this importance project. The city regrets any inconvenience the work will cause but asks for the public's cooperation and patience. Direct questions and concerns to Steve Wolfman, associate civil engineer , at or (831) 420-5428. Next up, Caltrans has a couple projects lined up for Highways 17 and 152, today, May 4. On Highway 152, VSS International from West Sacramento will perform a two mile paving project from the Highway 152/Highway 1 separation to Holohan Road in Watsonville. The $800,000 project will occur 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays through the end of July. Motorists can expect delays of up to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, on Highway 17, crews with Cable Com LLC, of Castroville, will run a new strand and fiber optic cable for Comcast between Glenwood Drive and Spanish Oaks Road near Scotts Valley. Work will take place at night, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The right lane of northbound Highway 17 will be closed; the left lane will remain open. Minimal delays are expected. Work is expected to wrap up by 5 a.m. Friday, May 8. Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when driving through highway construction zones. For information, call District 5 (831) 423-0396 or visit Finally, this week is Ecology Action's 28th annual Bike Week; Thursday is Bike to Work/School day. Thousands of cyclists -- novice and expert, young and young at heart -- will hit the road countywide in search of free breakfast and prizes as a reward for using alternative forms of transportation. From 6:30-9:30 a.m., 13 public and 45 school breakfast sites will provide free munchies -- some sites also offer giveaways, free bike maintenance and/or massages. Last year's one day spring time event drew 7,000 bike riders countywide. For the full Bike Week schedule, see Street Smarts appears Mondays. Follow it on Twitter and Facebook. Submit questions to those aforementioned social media sites or to Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number where you can be reached.
Posted in bicycle, bicycle education, Bicycling, bike lanes, bike safety, Bike Week, California Driver Handbook, California Vehicle Code, Caltrans, cycling, distracted drivers, Driver safety, Ecology Action, Highway 152, Highway 17, highways, traffic hazards, transportation, transportation projects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breeding respect among pedestrians and motorists

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has released a brochure aimed at helping motorists and pedestrians better coexist on the road. The pamphlet, called "What Pedestrians and Motorists Want Each Other to Know," is the creation of the commission's Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee, chaired by Veronica Elsea, of Santa Cruz. "We had seen the brochure made by the cycling community for bicyclists and cars and had a discussion about the things that happen to drivers," she explained, adding that the committee pondered how drivers would be able to live with themselves if they struck a pedestrian, as well as the way families would feel if their loved one was injured or killed by a car while crossing the street. "We are all in this together" said Elsea. The committee's creation is based on the California Vehicle Code but is written in plain language everyone can identify with. It's goal is to raise a sense of awareness about other road users and the many things happening around us while we're trying to reach our respective destinations, said Elsea. It's aim also is to promote a sense of respect on the road, she added while noting that a similar document geared toward bicyclists and pedestrians in is the works. In "What Pedestrians and Motorists Want Each Other to Know," motorists are told to "Watch and be aware of pedestrians" because, "pedestrians may encounter hazards while crossing the street, such as tripping over railroad tracks. Don't assume they'll be out of your lane when you get there." Tripping on railroad tracks is something Elsea, who is blind, experienced after her shoe got caught, she said. For pedestrians, "Vehicles don't stop as fast as you think!," the brochure exclaims. "It takes 11 car lengths or 150 feet for an average vehicle traveling at 25 mph to stop, including the driver's reaction time," according to the document. "I'd rather be late, than 'the late,' said Elsea, while noting that pedestrians always lose in a collision with a car -- no matter who had the right of way. The brochure is the result of about a year of discussions, getting feedback from local traffic and pedestrian safety organizations, and finally getting approval from the commission itself. Now, 5,000 copies exist in English and Spanish. Find them at various locations countywide, including the commission's office in downtown Santa Cruz, the DMV and online at For brochures and/or a presentation on this topic at your establishment, contact Karena Pushnik, senior transportation planner and spokesperson for the commission, at (831) 460-3200 or Street Smarts appears Mondays. Follow it on Twitter and Facebook. Submit questions to those aforementioned social media sites or to Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number where you can be reached.
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Speeders should stop killing ducks, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Ducks are being killed on the stretch of East Cliff Drive between 21st Avenue and 23rd Avenue. There are 'Duck Crossing' signs in place -- donated by Friends of Corcoran Lagoon -- but drivers ignore the signs and speed down the dip at Corcoran Lagoon. The past week, March 8-March 14, 2015, there have been two female ducks hit by cars. This is nesting season and the mallards are searching for nesting sites on both sides of the roadway at Corcoran Lagoon. Ducks are not able to quickly maneuver away from speeding cars. Please, caution drivers to be alert for ducks. Thank you, Georgina Monahan, via email A: Thank you so much for raising this awareness for driving safe around ducks. Street Smarts checked in with the CHP's officer Brad Sadek about traffic laws in regard to striking wildlife. "There is no section in the vehicle code we could site for hitting the ducks, unfortunately," he said. "However, they could be cited for their unsafe speed." Q: At the intersection of Graham Hill and Sims Road there is a dangerous problem because the view of oncoming traffic is blocked by plants, which need to be cut back. Traffic on Sims Road attempting to turn right onto Graham Hill has to pull out into the Graham Hill traffic lane in order to see if there is any oncoming traffic. There is absolutely no way to see a bicyclist, or even a small car, until it is almost too late. Since Graham Hill is now the detour for Highway 9, there are more bicyclists and more traffic than usual. It is an accident waiting to happen. Please, cut back the flowers and other plants so everyone can see each other. Thank you, Mary Beth Champlin, via email A: Thank you for reporting this dangerous issue. I forwarded your concern to county public works. Report future concerns to road dispatch by calling 831-477-3999. Culvert repair work on Hwy 1 Starting Monday, March 23, Granite Construction Co. of Watsonville will perform culvert replacement work for Caltrans along Highway 1 between Davenport Landing and Waddell Creek. From 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Friday, the southbound lane will be closed and delays of up to 10 minutes are expected. The project will cost $218,000 and will be completed by June 1. Motorists are reminded to move over and slow down while driving through highway construction areas. For information about this and other Caltrans projects on the Central Coast, visit
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Teen drivers learn to ‘Start Smart’

Traffic collisions continue to be the leading cause of death for young people ages 15-20 years old. As a result, the CHP invites new drivers and their families to attend its free workshop, called Start Smart. This course discusses traffic law, the dynamics of traffic collisions, ways to avoid crashes and the many responsibilities drivers have. The presentation is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9 at the Aptos branch of the Santa Cruz Public Library, at 7695 Soquel Drive. For information and to reserve seats, call 831-662-0511. Taking a break Ms. Street Smarts is taking a break the month of February, returning Monday, March 2. For the past four years, I have been on quite a journey to adopt my two young cousins. Finally, on Feb. 9, my quest will be fulfilled. To explain briefly, in 2011,the boys, ages 4 and 6 at the time, found themselves in a foster home in Riverside County due to domestic abuse, neglect and other unsafe living conditions. From December 2011 to February 2014, I made monthly 800 mile round trip road trips to the far reaches of Riverside County -- first to reintroduce myself to them as I hadn't seen them since they were babies, then with them in tow to, under court order, continue their relationship with their birth mom. Having many health issues and being on disability means she cannot come here to visit the boys. Their dad, my cousin, has all but removed himself from their lives. In April 2013, I became a single mom as the boys came to live with me as relative foster children. Both had been diagnosed with ADHD, with the oldest having signs of autism. Also, both were terribly behind in their education. The youngest could neither recite the alphabet nor recognize numerals to dial a phone number. Now, after many months of counseling and tutoring, applying proper nutrition with supplements, having clear rules to generate accountability, and using tough love with lots of hugs and kisses, we proved that the kids were a product of their environment. At this time, both boys are being weaned off their ADHD meds, the oldest has been declared not autistic and both are catching up to their peers in the classroom. It has been a long, bumpy road. February will be about celebrating our success. Thank you so much for your support -- past, present and future. To 2015 and beyond!
Posted in Aptos, children, CHP, driver education, Driver safety, road trip, Start Smart, teen drivers, teens, traffic laws, traffic safety, transportation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Signal light stops traffic for nonexistent cars, pedestrians, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I have noticed, on many occasions, that both traffic lights turn red on westbound Soquel Drive toward Santa Cruz at Cabrillo College will turn red when there are no cars nor pedestrians to trigger them. The eastbound lights at the same time remain green. Is there a logical reason for this? Orla Stuart, Aptos A: "The typical reasons this may occur is because a pedestrian push button may have become stuck, or there is an abundance of fog or direct sunlight which 'blinds' the cameras that detect vehicles," said Jack Sohriakoff, senior civil engineer for the county. "If the pedestrian push button is stuck, it will constantly act as if a pedestrian has pushed the button. If the cameras are 'blinded' due to heavy fog then the traffic signal controller must serve all approaches even though there may not be a vehicle present. After the fog dissipates, the camera system will again function normally. If the sun is shining directly into the camera it may not function properly until the sun moves enough to not be a problem." The county contracts with a lighting contractor to perform monthly check-ups on signal lights as well as investigate problems when they occur and complaints are received, Sohriakoff said. "Our department will have this signal inspected," he said. Highway 9 closure Feb. 9 One mile of Highway 9 will close from Henry Cowell State Park in Felton to the Paradise Park Community north of Santa Cruz for a retaining wall and viaduct project starting 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 9 through late July. Expect a full 24-hour closure of the highway, though driveways and intersections, as well as access to residences and businesses will remain open. Meanwhile, the project also includes the modification of four drainage systems -- between Alba Road and Western Avenue, near San Lorenzo Avenue, and north of McGaffigan Mill. Expect one way traffic controls for about one month each 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, as well as midnight to 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays. Expect delays of up to 15 minutes. Use Highway 17 Mount Hermon or Graham Hill roads as alternate routes. Graniterock Co. of San Jose will get $2 million to complete the project. View the project map at,+CA&daddr=Vernon+St,+Santa+Cruz,+CA+95060&hl=en&ll=37.058191,-122.077332&spn=0.226307,0.527&sll=37.045039,-122.034588&sspn=0.113173,0.2635&geocode=Fap_NgIdNZC4-Cn9WNvMEU-OgDEFCwQpg0kxBA%3BFYVuNAIdoPC5-CnrFBvVS0COgDF3bpLJ3yEIBg&oq=boulder+creek&mra=ls&t=m&z=12  
Posted in Caltrans, Highway 17, Highway 9, road closure, road work, roads, Santa Cruz County Public Works, traffic light, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More bicycle safety education needed

Today’s guest column about bicycle safety is from the Community Traffic Safety Coalition, an organization that advocates for improvements to make all modes of transportation safer. In December, the County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency and the Community Traffic Safety Coalition released two reports -- one outlines data on injuries and fatalities for bicyclists in 2012 while the other summarizes the results of a bicycle observation survey conducted in 2014. Findings will be used to guide bicycle safety initiatives in the county. The most recent data available from the California Highway Patrol in 2012 shows 219 bicyclists were injured and one killed. Cyclists were reported to be at fault 46 percent of the time, compared to motorists’ 38 percent. The top collision factors blamed on motorists were improper turning, infringing on a bicyclist’s right-of-way, and improper passing. Top factors blamed on cyclists were unsafe speed, riding on the wrong side of the road and improper turning. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, Santa Cruz County ranked first out of 58 counties in the state for cyclists injured or killed in 2012. While the high number of cyclists in Santa Cruz magnify these rankings, it’s clear we still have work to do towards improving safety on our roads. In May and June of 2014, the coalition and other community partners completed a bicycle safety observation study, collecting data at 49 locations throughout the county. Of 2,786 cyclists observed, 72 percent were men and 27 percent were women. Female cyclists had a higher rate of helmet use than men, 67 percent versus 55 percent. The biggest increase in helmet use was with teens, from 39 percent in 2013 to 55 percent in 2014. Although helmet use has been steadily increasing since 2006 countywide, helmet use in Watsonville remains low at 20 percent compared to the rest of the county's 62 percent; 88 percent of all those observed rode with traffic. However, the number of cyclists who stopped at stop signs and red lights decreased among most age groups compared to previous years. “There are many factors that contribute to a safe cycling environment,” said Theresia Rogerson, a Health Educator with the Health Services Agency. “The data in these reports will help us educate cyclists and motorists alike about safe behavior on our roadways.” Find out ways to decrease the number of bicycle injuries and fatalities by attending Bicycle Traffic School. Originally developed for ticketed cyclists, this program is now available to the general public for $15. For information, call (831) 454-7551. To access the complete reports, email
Posted in alternative transportation, bicycle, bicycle education, Bicycling, bike safety, Bike Traffic School, CHP, Community Traffic Safety Coalition, cycling, driver education, Driver safety, Office of Traffic Safety, roads, Traffic collisions, traffic laws, traffic safety, transportation, Uncategorized, watsonville | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Protecting cyclists, skunks from cars

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I am not really satisfied with [the city's response last week to the question regarding the safety issue along Soquel Avenue between Branciforte and Ocean Street]. Have you been to the area described? The only thing that keeps bicyclists from getting mowed down at the top of that hill is the fact that most drivers are local and know the problem, and we move into the left lane to give bicyclists room to move, then merge back, creating a traffic mess. Otherwise, it is flat out dangerous all the way to Ocean Street. As for the parking necessary they describe: This area is where the huge building is that houses a few small businesses, including an Italian restaurant. There is parking in front, alongside and a large area behind that building. The other side of the street also has businesses but not the type that would require extra parking space. I think that with the present focus on protecting bicyclists, this is an issue that needs further exploration. There really is no need, from what I have experienced, to have a turn lane that pops up without warning a half block before Ocean. That whole lane from Branciforte could be made a bicycle lane without hampering parking or traffic, and that lane could suffice as a turn right lane, as most streets do. I'm no expert, granted, but it's pretty obvious there are solutions and the city is not prepared to look into them to protect the vulnerable bicyclist. Gloria Sams via email A: "I understand the writers concerns, having cycled there," said Chris Schneiter, assistant director for public works. "It involves a public process and technical review to propose removing parking, which takes time and resources. The Soquel bike lane project addressed this area, though it was several years back. Currently we are working on quite a few other transportation projects and I do not see resources available at this time to restudy this issue." With Schneiter saying not now, doesn't mean a fix isn't in the future. The city keeps track of complaints and safety concerns to help identify future projects. Stay tuned. Skunk mating season February through March is skunk mating season. It's also the time of year when there is an increase in the number of them being hit by vehicles and being seen in some neighborhoods. To protect skunks and homes, Wildlife Emergency Services encourages people to limit food sources and eliminate access to shelter. For information and help dealing with skunk, contact the organization at 866-WILD-911, 866-945-3911 or
Posted in bicycle, bike lanes, bike safety, consumer affairs, cycling, Driver safety, Public safety, road conditions, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Public Works, traffic hazards, traffic safety, transportation, transportation projects, Uncategorized, Wild Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment