(UPDATE: Aargh! I was able to view the video on line, and I didn’t stop. The light had just gone from yellow to red, which would explain my decision. I know you can still move on a yellow, but not on a red. I was really scooting to catch the yellow and I clearly decided not to slam on the brake when it turned red. UPDATE II: I deleted the word “dishonest” from my post caption. All I can say is that, when it comes to busting my perfect driving record, I’m nothing if not efficient. I also do wonder how long that yellow light was. It turns out that cities shorten them to increase revenue from red light cameras. Oakland probably didn’t do that, but thinking that it might have done so gives me a comfortable sense of denial.)
First, an update to the traffic post I did a couple of days ago: Yes, it was definitely a sting. I know this, first, because a friend got stung too and, second, because a police officer I spoke with confirmed that they were using actors as part of a cross walk sting. The police department did make a public announcement through social media that it was going to be cracking down on pedestrian violations, but I didn’t check social media and, in any event, the police didn’t announce that they’d have people jumping in and out of intersections.
I checked the law and discovered that it’s very touchy-feely. The California Vehicle Code doesn’t specify distances (i.e., driver must stop so many feet from the pedestrian or cross walk) or times (driver has so many seconds to react). Instead, section 21950 basically says that pedestrians have the right of way, but they can’t throw themselves into the street, and drivers must take all reasonable steps to avoid hitting a pedestrian:
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
My contention is that the police decoy was not wearing bright clothes, did not use body language indicating he intended to cross, and stepped into and out of the crosswalk so quickly I had no time to or reason to stop.
The good news is that the police took videos of all the stops. I’m going to make an appointment to view the video. If I’m wrong, I’ll take my licks because I deserve them. And if I’m right, well, the police might reverse the ticket then and there, or I’ll have good cause (in my own mind, at least) to take the matter to court.
So that’s bad traffic karma number one. Here’s number two (and keep in mind that, before a couple of days ago, I’d never before had a moving violation):
I received in today’s mail a notice from the Alameda County traffic division telling me I was cited for running a red light. What? I was in Oakland last week, but I have no memory of running a red light — and you’d think that would be something I’d remember. Before I even studied the pictures included in the citation, I studied my memory. I know that sometime last week, either in Marin or in the East Bay, I was in an intersection when it turned yellow, but I got out before it turned red, so that couldn’t be the reason — unless the camera cheated. I also asked myself whether I could have been so clueless that I not only ran the red light, I didn’t even realize there was a light there. That’s not likely either, because I’m hyperaware driving in that region of England because the traffic is aggressive and the intersections are vast, requiring attention.
Since the memory banks didn’t yield any useful information, I careful studied the small, somewhat blurred photos included with the citation. They’re clear enough, though, for me to believe that this is the sequence of events photographed: (1) My car stopped at a red light (you can see my brake lights on) and (2) my car making a right hand turn at a red light.
Here’s what the DMV’s own website has to say about right hand turns on red lights (italicized emphasis mine):
Right turn against a red light – Signal and stop for a red traffic light at the marked limit line. If there is no limit line, stop before entering the crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, stop before entering the intersection. You may turn right if there is no sign to prohibit the turn. Yield to pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or other vehicles moving on their green light.
No turn against a red arrow – You may not turn right or left against a red arrow.
And here’s a very nice Google Earth picture of that intersection (27th St. and Northgate Ave, Oakland, West Bound):
When I look at that picture (which, admittedly is three years old and things change), I do not see either a no turn arrow or a no turn sign. What I do see, ironically enough, is a person making a right turn on a red light. I have to go to Oakland this afternoon anyway, so I’ll go to that intersection and see whether, since Google Earth took that picture, Oakland has added a “no turn on red” sign. If it has, it’s my bad, and I take the consequences. If it hasn’t, I take a picture and head to court. Grrrr.
This just sucks. Sorry for my language, but I really am feeling reduced to high school epithets.