Q You will be amazed to realize that the Highway 101 section through Palo Alto has a new center barrier. And glory be! It's high enough to block most of the oncoming lights on the other side.

I ask, yet again (fourth time) why the former screens have been mostly abandoned, since they protect us against the awful glare, especially that of donkeys who drive with their brights on. Do your road-construction gurus have an explanation?

Oh, sorry, I forgot. You don't apparently have to drive our freeways at night, so it probably doesn't matter to you.

John Joss

Los Altos

A Caltrans is raising the height of median barriers whenever a section of freeway is being upgraded, such as on 101, Interstate 680 and Highway 17. But glare screens are seldom installed anymore, as maintenance is greatly reduced, eliminating traffic delays and the danger of working next to freeway traffic.

Q Back in the day, California's freeway center divides were a continuous stand of thick, tall oleander bushes. Not only did they provide green scenery, they also did a good job of cushioning crashes by bleeding off the speed and energy of a vehicle hitting them. More importantly in my mind, they blocked the view of opposite traffic lanes.

Phil Emery

Sunnyvale


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A But state officials found that oleanders had a down side -- cars sometimes still crossed the median and the cable anchoring the oleanders could cause a vehicle to flip.

Q Why was the plant of choice for two-way road dividers the oleander? Probably a simple answer such as rugged, pretty and drought-resistant, but I had to ask.

Karen Lippe

Scotts Valley

A Oleanders were used because they were hearty and could take the exhaust fumes. They stopped using them because they were difficult to prune and created a hazard as a result of sharp places resulting from pruning. They were used a lot in medians that had cable barriers.

Q I grew up in Campbell and watched the redwood trees lining Highway 17 near Hamilton Avenue grow big and tall over the years. I just love them. There's also a patch on San Tomas Expressway by J.D. Morgan Park.

Karen Lippe

A Redwoods grow easily and quickly. When Caltrans tried to remove them at 17 and Stevens Creek Boulevard a couple of decades ago, there was a big protest. The trees were going to be dangerously close to the highway and had to be removed as hazards. But south of there, metal guardrails were installed to protect drivers from running into the trees.

Q Can a visitor from another country use the driver's license from their home country to legally drive in California?

Jing Zheng

A Yep, for up to six months.

Q Gary, I had always thought it was a myth that California license plates were made by prisoners (Roadshow, Dec. 9) until you wrote that they are. Yet again, Roadshow demonstrates its educational value.

David Henkel-Wallace

A Maybe I should change my name to Prof. Roadshow.

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow, follow him at Twitter.com/mrroadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or at 408-920-5335.