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File: Parking Enforcement Officer Stacey Henderson tickets a car.

Q A co-worker recently received a San Jose ticket in the mail for parking more than 18 inches from the curb while dropping off her child at school. She never saw or spoke to any officer at the time. She contested the citation and at the hearing was quite surprised when the officer produced a photo of her parked car with location, time and date. I had no idea the city was using this technique or had this capability. Can you enlighten us on how and when these photos are taken?

Patrick Cabanilla

Santa Clara

A City parking and traffic control officers use what are called "electronic handheld citation writers" that have built-in cameras to take photos documenting a violation. The photos are automatically attached to the electronic file of the citation and can be reviewed during a hearing.

Cameras are also being used in other cities. But these photos are not required by law, so if an officer does not take a photo it does not void the ticket. Officers generally take photos not only of the vehicle in violation but also of nearby signs or curb markings that may enter into play.

Q Drivers in downtown San Carlos can't seem to tell the difference between a parking lot and a street. They are always stopping in the middle of Laurel Street to wait for someone to back out of a parking spot that they fancy. This can't be legal, can it? There are often five or six cars stuck behind them.


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I have tried informing these people that "It's not a parking lot, it's a street!" But the responses are either "You need to work on your patience," or "Whatever, old man!" (I'm only 55!) One young lady was actually blocking the entrance to the parking lot I was trying to get into, refused to move, and informed me, "I'm waiting for a parking spot to open up!"

Bruce Toms

A This is a tough call. It's OK to wait for a spot to open up with a car or two behind you, but rude to cause a long line of traffic to wait and wait.

Q I don't know how many times when I'm driving south on Lawrence Expressway at Tasman Drive that I'm almost run over by the car on my left because they went to the wrong lane when crossing this intersection. The lanes on either side of Tasman don't line up well and I usually drive in the second slow lane. But often the guy in the third lane will drive into my lane because it's confusing where they should go.

Is there something we can do about this intersection, like having some guiding lines so people know where they should go?

Frank Chiu

A In a few weeks, the county will install a dotted line between lanes 2 and 3 through this wide intersection.

Q Like others, I am upset that there is only one right-turn lane at the Highway 101 south offramp to Tully Road. Backups are bad, and yet there are three left-turn lanes at that ramp. Makes no sense to me.

Dave Sanchez

San Jose

A This configuration will not be changed and here's why: The single right-turn lane allows Caltrans to give a green light to the southbound right turn without stopping traffic going east on Tully. If the state converted one of the lanes to a left/right assignment, this would not be possible, and engineers say it would cause gridlock on Tully in both directions.

Q Since the "Car Talk" guys are retiring, I have to run this by you: The "check engine" light is on in my car. I took it to my mechanic, who discovered that the onboard computer has gone to hell. Unfortunately, my 1995 car contains a 1995 computer which is no longer manufactured. My mechanic is now looking for a possible aftermarket or rebuild job. My concern is that come next year I may need to have a test-only smog test to register the car. Will issues with the computer foul the smog test?

E. Finkler

A Possibly. If the check engine light is on, the car will not pass a smog test. It will have to be repaired to renew your registration.

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