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Behind the Badge Setting the record straight on traffic signs

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Posted: Monday, February 6, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:19 am, Mon Feb 6, 2012.

Traffic signs. We barely notice them as they quietly seek to influence our driving conduct. They're shaped like triangles, rectangles, squares, circles, or diamonds. Sort of like those weird marshmallow things in Frosted Lucky Charms.

There are some misconceptions out there about the traffic signs in town. A few drivers feel they are more like guidelines, like "the code" in "Pirates of the Caribbean." That's not the case.

One of my friends got into an accident on School Street years ago. He stopped, then drove straight past the upside-down red triangle yield sign and smashed into a car. The officer who investigated the accident gave my friend a ticket for failure to yield.

My buddy called me in a snit a few days later. He couldn't understand why he was at fault in the accident. He insisted he saw the sign and yielded before he entered the intersection. It was apparent he didn't understand the definition of the word yield. I explained had he actually obeyed the sign and yielded for the car, there wouldn't have been an accident. He was adamant that he yielded. I told him that unless he had some sort of car that could embarrass Einstein by bending time, he did not yield. He ended the conversation huffily with, "I did too yield. I yielded, then I crashed into the guy." I gave up.

Officers would often park in a lot near the intersection of Kettleman Lane and Fairmont Avenue to monitor traffic. Due to the high number of accidents there, the city erected a "right turn only" sign along with a small cement median that was supposed to keep people from turning left or driving across the intersection. Drivers would gingerly maneuver around the median, then dart across Kettleman Lane instead of turning right. It was a very dangerous practice.

One day I was watching the intersection when I saw a red, white, and blue Ford Maverick with whitewall tires come to a stop on Fairmont facing north. The "right turn only" sign was staring the driver and his sweet ride in the face. Most people who obeyed the sign came to a stop, then immediately turned right. The violators all did the same thing. They'd stop, look from side-to-side, sneak out a foot or two onto Kettleman Lane, look around some more, crawl another foot or two, glance at the sign in defiance, then turn left or bolt straight across the street.

I started my patrol car as Mr. Maverick glanced secretively from side-to-side. I put my car in gear as his car tip-toed ahead a few feet instead of turning right as the sign demanded he do. I drove out of the lot as he shot across the intersection like Alvin or one of his overdressed chipmunk cult members darts out in front of you as you drive past Lodi Lake. Evasive maneuvers now!

I stopped Maverick, minus Goose, a block away. I informed him I stopped him for failing to obey the "right turn only" sign. He admitted that he saw the sign. He admitted that he read the sign. He even admitted that he knew the sign meant he had to turn right. I asked him that, if he understood all of that information, why he insisted on driving straight across the intersection. He paused for a second as he brain sorted through excuses like an old juke box flips records looking for Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart. His face brightened as he selected an answer. He blurted out, "I'm not from around here." Nice try.

One more thing. Who's the guy in the black silhouette on some of the traffic signs around town? You've seen him. He's the guy with the perfectly round Jack-in-the-Box head who's carrying books next to his young sister (she's wearing a skirt) on the flourescent green "entering a school zone" signs. He's in a very uncomfortable position as he rides his bike on the signs painted on the bike lanes. He might be in pain but he's wearing a helmet.

He's the same gentleman on a skateboard in the "no skateboarding" sign. He's frozen in mid-stride on the "no pedestrians allowed" sign. I think he's the same guy who's exhibiting perfect posture as he skids all over the place in the "slippery when wet" signs or merrily carrying his backpack and walking stick in the "hiker crossing ahead" signs. For goodness sake, he doesn't have any hands or feet. Who is this guy?

All kidding aside, all of the signs are important and they were placed near the roadway for a specific reason. The vehicle code sections they represent are there for your safety and the safety of others. Enjoy the ride and keep an eye out for the guy in the silhouette.

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  • Kevin Paglia posted at 1:59 pm on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    Oops, didn't man to suggest it was most kids. I was actually thinking of these people riding around Lodi in too tight spandex the forget the only thing protecting them is their own actions.

    Saw a guy yesterday that was weaving his bike in and out of the bike lane while carrying what looked like his laundry. I understand that people may need to ride their bike to the laundry-mat, I don't understand doing it in a way that will get you killed.

  • Jay Samone posted at 11:26 am on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Kevin - I don't put all of the blame just the kid cyclists - there are plenty of adults riding around Lodi who do the exact same thing, if not worse. These are the Lance Armstring in training with their expensive gear that blow through the signs and lights and expect vehicles to afford them the right of way even though they shouldn't. My cousin made that mistake in Reno training for the "Death Ride" and was hit by a car. On the other side of the tracks are the drunks/addicts that look at you dead in the face and ride their bikes within inches of your bumper....almost like they have a death wish....I've had to slam on my brakes one too many times trying to avoid these bozos around the liquor store on the corner of Lockeford and Church St.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 9:46 am on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    Since we are traffic controls, a growing pet peeve is the total lack of compliance some bicyclists show for traffic signs. I've had cyclists shoot through stop signs, cut through parking lots (not following the lanes but cutting between parked cars), and cut corners so that I have to swerve to avoid them. Kids coming from Heritage school on Harney are horrible about this. Riding, skateboarding or walking in traffic. One the other day cut across behind one car not realizing there was another car behind it that had to slam on their brakes.

    When I am on my bicycle there is one mentality I ride with, I am nothing but a hood ornament if I don't pay attention. Getting there safe is better than not getting there.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 9:03 am on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    Hey Jay, how about coming off I-5 onto 8 mile where we have a dedicated lane and cars STILL stop and wait for a clearing. Had a car do that to me while I was on my bike and car following me didn't see it coming. Fortunately I did and swung wide left. If not the car behind me would have been occupying the same space as my back tire. If i had been in my regular vehicle there would have been no way for me to avoid the accident.

  • Jay Samone posted at 8:36 am on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Kevin - The last time I road on a cycle it scared the bejeezy out of me. People DO NOT see you at all....

    You know which sign baffles me? The one on the corner of Lodi Ave and Ham Lane that says "No Right Turn on Red LIght", yet every day I see at least 2-5 people do it. It's like it doesn't even exist. Either the city needs to take it down, or start ticketing those that don't abide by it. Every morning I head up Ham and I either get cut off by someone who thinks they will beat my green light or the green light of those turning left from the other direction on Lodi Ave. Even worse are those that honk or flip me off because i DONT turn right on a red.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 6:59 am on Mon, Feb 6, 2012.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    You know what signs really confuse me? The ones in school zones that say 25mph. I mean To me they mean you can only go 25 MPH. but so often I am getting passed, flipped off and tailgated the whole way through. So it is obvious I am not understanding the meaning of these signs.

    Ok more seriously, what drives me nuts are a few lights around Lodi that do NOT recognize me on my motorcycle. Left turns especially. I've had to sit for several minutes and wait for a vehicle to join me at the light. The other day wife had to sit through four light cycles before she got the light to turn. Imagine sitting in your car for several minutes while you don't get the light to go.

    The worst intersection for this seems to be Lower Sac and Harney. At least of the ones we hit.


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