Interesting California Traffic Stories for February, 2019

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

These California drivers are still on cell phones, despite state’s get-tough law (The Sacramento Bee)

The number of California drivers illegally using their cell phones while behind the wheel increased in 2018, a state observational study has found. Notably, use is highest among people driving alone.

People stationed at intersections around the state observed that at any one moment, 4.5 percent of drivers were using their cell phones. That was an increase from 3.6 percent the previous year, and caused some concern among state highway safety officials.

“Our goal is to end distracted driving, and there’s still work to be done,” said Rhonda Craft, head of the state Office of Traffic Safety. “This observational survey gives us an idea on where we stand getting drivers’ attention away from their phones and where we still have work to do.” [Read more…]

Mystery Surcharge at the Pump Prompts California Drivers to Ask Where Their Money is Going (NBC Bay Area)

California drivers pay some of the highest gas prices in the country much of that is a federal, state and local tax, but 20 cents per gallon remains a mystery and drivers are starting to ask where that money is going.

A professor at UC Berkeley discovered that amount adds up to more than $18 billion and legislators are now asking the attorney general to disclose where that money is being used for.

"It amounts to three to five billion dollars a year that Californians are paying for gasoline above what we would normally expect to pay," said Severin Borenstein from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

In 2014 Borenstein joined a committee that was responsible for investigating why gasoline prices in California were so much higher than the rest of the country. [Read more…]

You can still use your California driver's license to fly... for now (KRON4)

The Department of Homeland Security has granted a four-month extension for California's REAL ID compliance program. The DMV now has until April to comply with REAL ID or to ask for another extension.

Original Story:

In two weeks, millions of Californians who do not have a passport or other federally accepted ID may be barred from flying the friendly skies.

Tomorrow -- Thursday, Jan. 10 -- marks the deadline by which the DMV needs to be granted an extension for its Real ID program.

If the current extension is not renewed by the Department of Homeland Security by tomorrow, all California's driver licenses and ID cards will be invalid for domestic air travel starting Jan. 22.

This figure includes the 2.4 million Californians who already have a real ID.

According to the TSA's website, travelers may still be allowed to board their flight if their identity can be verified through other means. [Read more…]

California has the most aggressive drivers in the country by far, study finds (SF Gate)

You're not alone in shaking your fist and honking — maybe a tad too liberally — at misbehaving drivers on California roads.

The Golden State is home to the most aggressive drivers in the nation, a recent study found.

YourMechanic, a Mountain View car service startup, analyzed nine data points —including driver skill, car theft rates, weather conditions and road congestion — for every state in the U.S. It then ranked the states numerically in a handful of categories.

California took the first spot only in the aggressive drivers category, with an "aggressive driving event" — i.e. speeding, brake checking, tailgating — occurring every 6.6 minutes, according to the report. Connecticut follows behind California with a rate of 8.2 minutes.

Aggressive driving is a criminal offense in California. The state penal code considers reckless driving — the "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property" — a misdemeanor offense and convicted drivers can face up to 90 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. [Read more…]

How to Make It Home in California: Rules for the Modern Odysseus (American Greatness)

I drove back from San Francisco not long ago to the rural San Joaquin Valley. It is only 200 miles. But in fact, it can feel like Odysseus trying to get back home to Ithaca from Troy.

Walking to the car in San Francisco was an early morning obstacle course dotted with the occasional human feces and lots of trash. The streets looked like Troy after its sacking. Verbal and physical altercations among the homeless offered background. The sidewalks were sort of like the flotsam and jetsam in the caves of the Cyclopes, with who knows what the ingredients really were. Outbreaks of hepatitis and typhus are now common among the refuse of California’s major cities.

The rules of the road in downtown San Francisco can seem pre-civilizational: the more law-abiding driver is considered timid and someone to be taken advantage of—while the more reckless earns respect and right of way. Pedestrians have achieved the weird deterrent effect of so pouring out onto the street in such numbers that drivers not walkers seemed the more terrified.

The 101 freeway southbound was entirely blocked by traffic—sort of like the ancient doldrums where ships don’t move. About 20 percent of the cars in the carpool lane seemed to be cheating—and were determined not to let in any more of like kind. The problem with talking on the phone and texting while driving is not just cars, but also semi-trucks, whose drivers go over the white line and weave as they please on the theory that no one argues with 20 tons of freight. [Read more…]

The art of driving in the rain: A guide for California motorists (ABC10)

California drivers are notoriously bad at driving in the rain. The typically sunny skies and mild weather of California can be a problem when it comes to operating a vehicle: When the rain comes, panic ensues.

The data seems to prove the truth of this stereotype. Noah Deneau, an electrical and computer engineer, compiled weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to show just how impactful rain is on Los Angeles traffic accidents.

The infographic shows that at any time of the day, rainy weather causes more accidents than dry weather. At certain times of the day, the mean hourly accident rate nearly doubled.

However, this problem isn’t unique to Californians, despite what some non-locals may say about California drivers… [Read more…]

5 Kinds Of People California Wants To Put In Electric Vehicles (Forbes)

Alarmed that most of California's electric vehicles belong to one demographic group, California officials are setting out to make electric vehicles more attractive to all.

A more diverse population of drivers is crucial to former Gov. Jerry Brown's goal to transition five million vehicles to zero emissions by 2030, said Courtney Prideaux Smith, a chief deputy director of the California Energy Commission.

"For us to make this a reality we have a lot of challenges that we're going to need to overcome," Smith said, "and those really are wrapped up in transitioning away from the focus on the early adopters and really figuring out how we can leverage California's diversity to really expand the market potential." [Read more…]

In California, Gender Can No Longer Be Considered in Setting Car Insurance Rates (The New York Times)

California joined about a half-dozen states this month in banning the use of a person’s gender when assessing risk factors for car insurance, a change that could potentially alter rates for scores of drivers across the state.

The state, which is the country’s most populous, requires insurers to prioritize criteria like drivers’ safety records and years of experience behind the wheel when setting auto rates, but it also allows them to weigh other factors, like marital status. Gender had been among the optional criteria until the beginning of this year, when a new regulation went into effect prohibiting the practice.

In announcing the change, the departing state insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, said the new regulations “ensure that auto insurance rates are based on factors within a driver’s control, rather than personal characteristics over which drivers have no control.”

Mr. Jones’s term as commissioner ended in early January, and the new regulation was one of his final acts. The state’s Insurance Department, in explaining its reasoning for the change, noted that the industry had inconsistently — and perhaps unfairly — applied gender weighting in pricing. [Read more…]

Gov. Gavin Newsom is right to order an overhaul of California’s DMV (The Fresno Bee)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has been a source of frustration for employees and customers for as long as anyone can remember.

I started pushing for major reforms of this department in 2016 when my office was flooded with calls from truck driving students who were waiting 12 weeks to take the commercial driver’s license test. Many of them, low income and minority students, lost job offers due to this outrageous delay.

Last year was atomic for the DMV. The federal Real ID deadline and computer system failures created unbearable wait times for customers and forced six-day work weeks for many DMV employees. [Read more…]

Report: California isn’t home to the worst drivers, but the most aggressive (KSBY6)

California is now owner of a dubious roadway honor: having the nation’s most aggressive drivers.

In a new report from website Your Mechanic, California is home to the most frequent rate of aggressive driving events like speeding, hard braking and accelerating with an average of 6.6 minutes in between each aggressive driving event per journey.

“Contrary to what one might expect considering this result, Californian traffic law is stricter than many states and even treats aggressive driving as an automobile crime,” the report stated.

“I agree with that, we are the most aggressive in my opinion,” CHP Sgt. Perry Heidebrink said. “We have the most population. people have long commutes because the cost to live in one area so they commute into that area. So we definitely have the paths that are congested in the morning, and the same paths that are congested in the evening.”

Heidebrink has seen it all in his 23 years on the California Highway Patrol.

He says there is a slight decrease in aggression during the rain, but it doesn’t stop accidents. And when you do the numbers, you can see why. [Read more…]

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