Interesting California Traffic Stories for April, 2019



Check out some of the interesting news stories and developments affecting California drivers from the past month.

Popularity of California Poppy Fields Leads to Traffic Nightmare (VOA News)

The state of California is experiencing a super-bloom of poppy flowers this spring, with new fields blooming throughout the southern part of the state following massive rains that ended a long drought. The magnificent poppy blooms have attracted tens of thousands of people, causing massive traffic tie ups in small cities such as Lake Elsinore. [Watch the video…]

Out of the car, Siri. California urged to ban even hands-free cellphone use for drivers (The Sacramento Bee)

California already busts drivers for holding their phones behind the wheel – but it got a call Wednesday to become the first state to ban even hands-free use of electronic devices by motorists.

At the kickoff event Wednesday at Sacramento State for Distracted Driving Awareness Month and California Teen Safe Driving Week, Nicholas Worrell of the National Transportation Safety Board urged California to pass such landmark legislation.

He called distracted driving a “battle of self-defense” for young people.

The event was hosted by the California Highway Patrol, the NTSB, and Impact Teen Drivers, a Sacramento-based nonprofit. It was followed by roundtable discussions covering teen safe driving as well as media ride-alongs with CHP officers to observe distracted drivers.

“Hands-free is not risk-free,” Worrell, who is the chief of the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications at the NTSB, said. While no state has enacted the NTSB’s recommendation of a ban for all hand-held and hands-free portable electronic devices, “If California will lead, the NTSB stands ready to support them,” Worrell said. [Read more…]

If you are forced to pay $4 to drive into West L.A., traffic would be reduced, study says (Los Angeles Daily News)

Traffic in the Westside of Los Angeles would be reduced by 24 percent if vehicles were charged a $4 fee during peak hours to travel the freeways and major roadways, according to a study released Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments.

This is the first study assigning fees to vehicle use that targets a specific region of Los Angeles County since transportation planners and politicians began discussing congestion pricing several years ago as a tool for relieving traffic gridlock and reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions in Southern California’s traffic hot spots.

Under the pilot project, vehicle hours on the affected roadways would be cut by one-quarter, while vehicle miles traveled would be reduced by a little more than one-fifth in an area of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica bounded by Montana Avenue and Sunset Boulevard on the north, the 405 Freeway on the east, the 10 Freeway on the south and 20th Street on the west.

All vehicles entering this so-called “Mobility Go Zone” during morning and afternoon rush hours would be assessed a fee, with discounts available for low-income drivers. Trips originating within the zone would not be charged.

The “decongestion fees” are similar to two ExpressLane programs run by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro. In carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway in the west San Gabriel Valley and along the 110 Freeway from south Los Angeles to the South Bay, single-passenger cars are assessed tolls based on congestion rates and distance traveled. Commuters pay for faster rides, while cars in regular lanes generally move slower. [Read more…]

City could ask traffic apps to stop diverting cars onto residential streets (Long Beach Post)

Navigation apps have become a crucial part of surviving Southern California traffic, but the routes on which they take motorists have caused a headache for some homeowners.

Councilwoman Suzie Price plans to ask the City Council next week to approve a motion that would direct the city manager’s office to find an avenue to work with developers like Waze to reduce the amount of cut-through traffic that is diverted into the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Price said that the apps, while well-intentioned, are diverting traffic onto streets in Long Beach that are not designed to handle the volume of larger arterial streets. She said it’s leading to qualify of life impacts for residents who are being awakened by the sounds of traffic that didn’t previously exist on their streets, and introducing safety issues for pedestrians and children at play.

“The solution can’t be to divert traffic through residential streets,” Price said.

She said that certain streets that run through her district—like Colorado Street, which tends to see a lot of traffic—are able to handle the load. But a more residential street like Sixth Street, which recently received a number of roundabouts and is one of the city’s main bike boulevards, should not be used for cut-through traffic. [Read more…]

Uber and Lyft slashed wages. Now California drivers are protesting their IPOs. (The Washington Post)

Tensions between Uber and Lyft and their armies of drivers are ratcheting to a fever pitch over cuts that the ride-hailing companies, under pressure to tame their losses, have made to drivers’ wages.

Uber and Lyft drivers in Southern California called for a 25-hour strike between Monday and Tuesday, while dozens of others set up outside an investor meeting Monday about Lyft’s upcoming stock listing.

Drivers say Uber and Lyft wage decreases in recent months of up to 25 percent and dwindling bonuses have squeezed their ability to make ends meet. Workers group Rideshare Drivers United said its strike is largely precipitated by an Uber wage cut in Southern California from 80 to 60 cents per mile, bringing the figure to 2 cents higher than the Internal Revenue Service’s standard mileage rate for cars used for business purposes.

“Instead of sharing a little bit from that money with drivers," said driver Mostafa Maklad, 36, who drives for both companies, of the IPO, "they’re not sharing anything with drivers. Instead, they’re decreasing how much they pay.”

Uber confirmed it has changed rates in San Francisco and Los Angeles in recent months. Lyft said it has decreased wages based on distance while increasing rates based on time in some cities but not Los Angeles. It did not immediately elaborate on the details of the rate changes, however. The companies’ driver pay rates vary by location. [Read more…]

California’s Real ID driver’s license? Still confusing. What you need to know now (LA Times)

Our last visit — “our,” because I am on this journey with you — to the topic of California’s Real ID driver’s license made my head hurt. In that Jan. 6 “On the Spot” column, we learned that the Department of Homeland Security had informed California that its second method of verifying a person’s residence was insufficient.

That was too bad, because thousands of the driver’s licenses had been issued by then, including mine, which I obtained Jan. 22, 2018, the first day they were offered.

What has this to do with you? Maybe nothing, but we’re going to tell you again why it matters, how this happened and why, as a traveler, you should care. Just try not to care too much, lest you implode. [Read more…]

California drivers among the most aggressive in the country (KSBY 6)

A new study reveals Californians are some of the most aggressive drivers in the nation.

On Tuesday, GasBuddy revealed its list of cities with the most aggressive drivers in the country.

The company compiled data from the top 30 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and found four California cities ranked in the top 10. GasBuddy looked at the frequency of aggressive driving using data from the Drives feature in the GasBuddy app.

Los Angeles ranked number one in the nation for the most aggressive drivers.

Sacramento ranked third, San Francisco ranked fifth, and San Diego ranked sixth.

Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Detroit, Austin, and Las Vegas also made it in the top 10.

Drivers in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Sacramento were 21 percent more aggressive than the average driver in the U.S.

GasBuddy says aggressive driving wastes gas and can lower gas mileage by as much as 40 percent, which costs drivers an extra $477 per year in fuel consumption. [Read more…]

California considers tougher standards for drivers who drink (ABC 7)

How much is too much?

"I'm on number two," said Mary Beth Hall from Guerneville, as she sat at the Beer Baron Bar and Kitchen in Santa Rosa.

In California, two drinks may soon be too much for most of us if lawmakers and drunk driving victims get their way.

They've proposed a bill in California's State Assembly called Liam's Law. It would impose a stricter legal alcohol limit on drivers, from .08 to .05, all prompted by the drunk driving death of a Southern California toddler in 2016.

"What feels so unjust is Liam's death was completely preventable," said his mother Mishel Elder.

But they're getting pushback.

"I think it is completely wrong," said attorney Ryan Wilber, who specializes in defending drunk drivers. [Read more…]

SoCal gas prices: Pain at the pump is real as costs surge (ABC 7)

Southern California drivers are definitely feeling pain at the pump these days as gas prices continue to surge.

According to the Auto Club, refinery problems in Carson and Torrance along with rising oil costs have been bringing up prices at the pump for nearly two weeks.

But increased gas imports to the Southland could mean an end to rising pump prices in the coming days.

In Los Angeles and Long Beach, a gallon of gas is at $3.67. Gas prices in Los Angeles are now the highest they've been in almost five months. The average price of gas has risen for 24 consecutive days - an increase of over 36 cents. The cheapest gas station in L.A. is offering gas at $3.25 per gallon, with the most expensive reaching a whopping $4.59, according to GasBuddy.com.

In the Inland Empire, drivers are paying $3.57 per gallon. In Orange County it's $3.62, and in Ventura, gas is an average $3.64 per gallon.

The average price per gallon in California is $3.61. [Read more…]

ITSCACA? Even More Rejected California Vanity Plates (Los Angeles Magazine)

Before there was Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, there were personalized license plates—the proto-tweet, in a sense, limited to 7 characters instead of 140. Since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, California drivers have spent many idle minutes in traffic decoding the customized letter and number combinations in front of them, uncovering job descriptions, clever jokes, and sentimental messages.

But just as social media companies have found it increasingly necessary to moderate the more pernicious and inappropriate forms of language, the Department of Motor Vehicles has long stood as a bulwark against tawdry and offensive license plates (at least, in theory). In California, the DMV employs four full-time reviewers who sort through the tens of thousands of applications received each month. In 2018 alone, the department fielded nearly 250,000 requests for personalized plates.

In general, the DMV instructs its reviewers to “refuse any configuration that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” This includes euphemisms for genitalia, racial and ethnic slurs, weapon and firearm-related terms, and even references to law enforcement. The number 88, even when used to denote the year of a birth or graduation, regularly gets rejected for its neo-Nazi symbolism (“H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” ). Reviewers even reject plates with area codes, which fall under the category of “Gang, Hate Group, or Criminal Organization association.” Some exceptions exist—the number 69, for instance, can appear on plates belonging to cars manufactured in 1969.

When someone applies for a personalized plate, they also provide an explanation of the meaning behind their desired configuration. If a plate gets flagged for potentially violating the rules, the reviewer comments on the application with the reason for the flag. The “dialogue” between the unwitting—sometimes clumsily deceptive—customer and the deadpan reviewer reads a bit like a bureaucratic farce. [Read more…]

New drunk driving legislation proposed in California (YourCentralValley.com)

"I don't want this to happen to any other family," Mary Klotzbach said.

The mother of Matthew Klotzbach who was killed by a drunk driver spoke out on Wednesday in support of new proposed drunk driving legislation that would be some of the toughest in the country.

"Liam was my world and I only got to spend 15 months with him," Mishel Eder, whose son was killed by drunk driver, said.

Victim families of drunk driving are the driving force behind an effort to strengthen state law, including MMA fighter Marcus Kowal and his partner Mishel.

A drunk hit and run driver killed their son -- Legislation named after their son, Liam, would lower the legal limit for blood alcohol content from .08 to .05.

"There's very few bills that can be backed by so much science and statistics and facts as when it comes to lowering the BAC, which has been done in 100 countries already,” Kowal said.

"In California each year, more than 1,000 people die from drunk drivers,” State Senator Jerry Hill D-San Mateo said.

Along with lowering the BAC limit, Senator Jerry Hill is also pushing for mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders. [Read more…]

Lawmaker: DMV backlog impacts California commercial truck drivers (KCRA 3)

A major backlog at the California DMV may be impacting thousands of commercial truck drivers, a California assemblymember said Friday.

The delay is with the DMV's Motor Carrier Permitting process, said the Office of Assemblymember Jim Patterson. Drivers reported having sent in proper documentation to renew their MCP, but never received their renewed permit. The MCP is legally required for all commercial drivers to transport goods in California.

When drivers called the DMV to ask about their renewed MCP, they were told that there is currently a 6-week backlog, Patterson's office said.

The drivers were then told that their only options were to take their trucks out of service until they received their renewed permits, Patterson's office said. Many trucking operations in California only own a single truck, and the 6-week delay would have put them out of business. [Read more…]

Start Smart Program Is Free Class To Help Teens Learn To Drive (KCBS Radio)

Unfortunately the statistics about teen driving don't lie. Teenagers are at their highest risk of an accident during their first two years of driving, and car crashes are the top killer of teens. So, this is a program that's very much needed.

It's called Start Smart and it's a free two-hour safety class for teens 15-19 years old. It's open to licensed and soon-to-be-licensed drivers and their parents or guardians.

In the Start Smart class, highway patrol officers emphasize the responsibility of a licensed driver by tackling topics like distracted driving, DUI, and excessive speed. Some of these points are driven home by using graphic imagery from real accidents, so be forewarned.

The officers will also discuss techniques for avoiding accidents, the common causes of collisions and the importance of properly using seatbelts.

A parent or guardian is requited to accompany the teen to the class.

Part of the program will address the responsibilities of parents for their newly minted driver. A reminder, those provisional drivers license permits are offered to teens that are 15 years and 6 months of age. [Read more…]

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