Q I am so sorry to hear about the two people killed on Highway 101 near Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto last Friday. I have not used that exit since I wrote to you after construction began. It was really, really scary and I have avoided it since.

Jenny Kiratli

Palo Alto

A The deaths of two sisters on their return trip home from a Black Friday shopping trip around 7 a.m. has spurred considerable debate. It occurred on the northern edge of the area where Caltrans is adding a second carpool lane in each direction and where lanes have been realigned and barriers placed inches from traffic lanes.

This crash occurred when the driver of an SUV in light traffic drifted onto the shoulder and hit a parked CHP cruiser that had stopped to aid a motorist with a flat tire. The two victims were not wearing seat belts, the CHP says, and they were thrown from the SUV.

Q I have recently had the misfortune to enter northbound Highway 101 from Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto and narrowly succeeded alive. I am not kidding.


Advertisement

I have barely escaped accidents on three occasions. One day I was nearly flattened against the cement barrier to my right by an 18-wheeler on my left as the very short merge lane vanished in front of me -- through no fault of the truck. At present, the entrance ramp provides no warning that the merge is compromised, so the entering driver is unaware of the immediate peril. There is nearly no time to decide whether your best approach is to speed ahead of traffic in the slow lane or fall behind -- and no shoulder for a safe third option.

The danger is compounded by traffic on the ramp coming up from behind the merging driver. The left-hand barrier makes it difficult to see traffic until it almost smashes into the driver's side of the merging car. I think this merge is particularly dangerous for an inexperienced driver, and as my daughter is just learning to drive, I am particularly sensitive to this possibility.

Jenny Kiratli

A And ...

Q Many have complained about the entrances and exits on the section of 101 currently under construction. Complaints are about being unable to see and short ramps creating a safety hazard. I have noticed on my forays along that route that almost no one does the speed limit. It is a construction zone and people still fly through like the "Star Wars" attack on the Death Star channel. Getting people to slow down would certainly help.

Ralph Durham

Sunnyvale

A Yes, it would. Work will continue until at least mid-2013. There is another reason to be cautious -- the "moth affect." CHP officers say numerous crashes occur when a driver's eyes drift toward the side of the road where a stalled or emergency vehicle is parked, and just as a moth is attracted to light, they begin to unknowingly drift toward the parked vehicles. That's one reason for passing the "Slow Down, Move Over" law a few years ago.

If involved in a fender bender or worse, drive your car off the freeway if possible and onto a side street. As this sad incident underscored, the shoulder is not a safe location, and wearing seat belts is mandatory.

Q I was driving south on 101 passing University Avenue in Palo Alto when a Comcast truck passed me well above the speed limit while weaving in and out of traffic at 11:45 a.m. Monday. I was able to remember the truck number, but wasn't able to remember the Comcast "How's My Driving?" number. A quick search of the Internet also did not turn up the "How's My Driving" number. I sent an email via Comcast's "contact us" links, but that isn't specifically designed to report dangerous, brand-damaging, litigation-increasing drivers.

Does the CHP have an email address or Web page where this type of thing should be reported? Should I make a greater effort to find and contact the Comcast number? Or have I done all I can to try and make the roads a saner, safer place for all?

Chuck Simmons

Redwood City

A You can do more. Keep pestering Comcast until the company gets back to you. One complaint might be ignored, but several might get a response. You can also contact the CHP at 1-800-TELL-CHP.

Q I notice that with every new or upgraded installation of traffic controls at intersections in my neighborhood, video cameras are being mounted in all directions. Examples are at Putnam/Patterson and Oak Park Boulevard on the boundary of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, the canal trail pedestrian crossing at Gregory Lane near Pleasant Hill Road and the new entrance to Sprouts Market near Geary and North Main in Walnut Creek.

Are these cameras for the purpose of issuing red-light tickets? If so, shouldn't there also be signage to that effect? If not, then what justifies the taxpayer cost of this equipment, and who monitors the video?

Mark Bole

Walnut Creek

A These are not -- I repeat NOT -- red-light cameras, although many drivers fear they are. The cylinder-shaped devices are used to coordinate traffic signals instead of loop detectors in the pavement, and they are monitored by traffic engineers.

Red-light cameras are common in cities in Alameda County, San Francisco and San Mateo County, but not in Contra Costa or Santa Clara counties. Red-light cameras are placed in huge white containers almost the size of a small suitcase and are easily recognizable.

Q I was not aware that red-light cameras had been installed at Ardenwood Boulevard and Jarvis Avenue in Newark. I used to drop my kid at the nearby school and, as always, I did a "rolling stop" at the signal.

Krishna K.

Newark

A Not once, not twice, but ...

Q I got THREE camera tickets in the same week. If a traffic cop had given me the first ticket, I would not have repeated the rolling stop and would not have received the next two. I hope the new legislation that you mentioned will take care of this thing, too.

Krishna K.

A It won't. The law that kicks in Jan. 1 does not address repeated violations at the same intersection. Red means stop -- a complete stop. Senate Bill 1303, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, establishes statewide standards for the installation and operation of these cameras. The law will require that warning signs be posted at nearby intersections or key entry points into the city that cameras are in use. The new law will also:

  • Require that camera locations be chosen solely on safety considerations.

  • Prohibit the use of red-light cameras to raise revenue.

  • Require cities and counties to follow state standards in the placement and operation of cameras.

  • Prohibit "snitch tickets" (i.e., an innocent ticket recipient will not be required to say who was driving the ticketed vehicle in order to clear an inaccurate ticket).

    Q I strongly disagree with your recommendation to remain in your car if you have a breakdown on the Bay Bridge. The bridge has an elevated walkway next to the roadway. In my experience it would be safest to stand on this walkway next to your car (not in front or behind).

    When I had my breakdown, a bridge tow truck came to my assistance, pulling up behind my car. As we stood on the walkway filling out paperwork, a very large semi truck plowed into the tow truck, pretty much totaling it. If anyone had been in that vehicle, they could be dead today, whereas the tow truck driver and I were not injured, other than an enormous adrenaline rush.

    Nancy Cutforth

    Berkeley

    A Ray-the-Tow-Truck-Driver agrees -- if you can safely exit your car and get to the walkway. Otherwise he and police recommend remaining belted inside your car rather than standing outside of it.

    Q When we were coming home from San Francisco one night, we noticed the freeway lights and the offramp lights were dark for the first two miles from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the Richmond side of the freeway. Is there any way to get them replaced? Or is it a case of copper wire theft?

    Pam Coville

    A Copper theft it is. The lights will be replaced, but I'm not sure when.

    Q Is there anything you can do about the new Paragon Outlet in Livermore? It took my family and me almost two hours from Manteca to Cupertino on a Saturday evening.

    We took the Vasco Road exit and the inside roads to get to 84 (which was congested, too). We saw the signs up at Fremont going east -- "El Charro exit congested, take alt 84" -- and we saw the sign in Tracy going home.

    What the heck? For an outlet? It's just the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Did developers do a traffic study or plan for traffic? I am happy that we don't have to commute that way daily, but my friends and family do. I know you can do something about it, Mr. Mighty Roadshow.

    Bobbie LaRue

    A All I can do for now is plead for patience. Report back after Christmas and hope that traffic has settled down and the backups are not as horrendous. Traffic engineers will review the timing of the lights later and see if there is anything that can be done.

    Join Gary Richards for an hourlong chat noon Wednesday at www.mercurynews.com/live-chats. Look for Gary at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.