Traffic Cop: We All Had To Learn Sometime

I really enjoy your column; it is extremely helpful to myself and my students. I am a local behind-the-wheel driving instructor here in Redding.

I have a topic that I would like you to address in your column. It seems that many people do not understand the requirements of obtaining a license (especially the parents of teens, as the rules were different when they learned to drive). I find that at least one third of my students do not get the 50 to 60 hours of practice with a licensed driver that they need, and the parents are just signing the permit without the student having had the required practice.

Also, people do not seem to understand how to behave around the ‘student driver’ car; many people pass us illegally on the left, using the center turn lane, or dangerously swerving around us in the opposing lane. Often they tailgate, or when the student puts on a left turn signal, for example, to change lanes, another car in the left lane who is behind us will speed up and block us from changing lanes while they speed up along side of the car to get around us. I assume that is because they don’t want to get ‘stuck’ behind a slower moving vehicle.

I have been asked many times over the years if my job is ‘scary’, and I have to respond, ‘yes, because of the other drivers on the road who make foolish maneuvers around the student car, and because other drivers tailgate and crowd the student car, making the student even more nervous, resulting in unnecessary braking and over steering.

By the way, the student car is frequently harassed by others yelling, gesturing, etc., and once we even got ‘mooned’. Disgusting. And dangerous. Please help by addressing these issues in your wonderful column. Thank you for helping us keep our traffic safer.

I recall back in the 60’s when I was taking driver’s training in high school and it was given by one of the history/gym teachers. Usually there were three of us students in the vehicle and we would take turns. Mr. Gambetta would always have us stop at some out of the way place so he could run in and get something. Mr. Gambetta had the odor of alcohol about his person most of the time as I recall. Yes, I can see you have a tough job and without the parent’s participation, it can only get tougher.

As parents we have a responsibility not only to our children, but to the community to ensure that are kids not only learn the rules of the road, but common courtesy, which seems to be slowly leaving the driver’s seat. Those 50-60 hours you are required to spend with your student driver (son or daughter) are hours that you will never get back and will regret, as we do with other things we do not participate in our kids growing years.

I can hear someone saying to me “You haven’t seen my kid drive. He scares me to death. Let the paid professional risk his life!” Please keep in mind that these are our kids and down the road, if they make it that far, they will be the ones that we rely on to take us to our bingo or bridge games.

I am a retired truck driver. In the past, I have ran out of legal driving hours and parked in a safe place such as a wide spot with 5 other trucks and plenty of room for at least 15 more trucks, well off the paved road and then some CHP comes and tells us we will have to move on. Can’t park here. Now we have at least 5 exhausted truckers traveling down the highway trying their best not to fall asleep behind the wheel and wipe out someone’s family.

This also happens in chain up areas during summer months. Scales when closed? nope, can’t park there either. Rest areas? 8 hour limit, but law says 10 hour break. Truck stops? FULL. On ramps/off ramps? Nope, move on.

Suggestions for parking when you are nodding off at the wheel with a 75 foot long, 80,000 pound vehicle?

Thanks for your time. My two sons and many friends will be waiting anxiously for your answers.

I have to start by expressing my appreciation for your concern with safety and attempting to comply with all of the regulations that go along with driving a big rig. The next thing is that I have to assume that you are referring to stopping on a freeway, when you were told you can not park there. The vehicle code is very specific when it comes to stopping or parking on a freeway. The Department of Transportation with respect to highways under its jurisdiction may place signs or markings prohibiting or restricting the stopping, standing, or parking of vehicles, including, but not limited to, vehicles which are six feet or more in height (including any load thereon), in any of the following areas and under the following conditions:
(b) No person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle in violation of the restrictions stated on the signs or markings
(CVC 22505).

What a lot of people are not aware of is that the ‘freeway’ is from fence line to fence line and although there are some areas where there are some very wide pullout areas, well off the paved roadway, this is still the freeway and all the rules apply. Those posted chain up areas are also part of the freeway as are all rest areas. If an officer were to allow a vehicle to remained stopped or parked on a freeway on or off ramp or any where on the freeway, he or she could be held particularly or fully responsible and or liable should another vehicle or vehicles become involved in some type of collision or incident.

As with most professional drivers, trip planning is not always what one would hope for, but for everyone to be safe, a plan should include estimated distances to approved truck stops. I realize that approved rest areas have time restrictions, but I can pretty much guarantee you that an officer is not going to be banging on your sleeper door in the rest area because you have been parked for a little over the limit. Officers do keep track if a vehicle has been parked for an extended time and over the years I have had the unfortunate task of discovering drivers that would never wake up again. So checking on the drivers is for everyone’s concern and safety.

We all appreciate the hard work and long hours of the professional truck drivers, but along with that, I also realize the potential hazard that a vehicle parked or stopped on a freeway creates. The best practice is to exit the freeway onto a surface street, county road or anywhere that will allow the vehicle to be parked safely off the roadway and the driver to complete his log book and catch some much needed zzzzzz’s.

Once you are ready to pull back onto that roadway to wherever it is you are destined, please enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.
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Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar joanwilliamz says:

    My dad told me about "Clearance Auto" or something which helped him to find a lower priced Auto insurance (with ALMOST similar coverage) he is recommending this to me. What do you think of them? BTW you can find more about them online.

  2. Avatar adrienne jacoby says:

    Seeing as how the driving habits of every driver affects everyone on the road, (including pedestrians) I'm sure Monty could write a column every day and not run out of subject matter. I always learn something important from this column. It IS a life or death column, you know.


  3. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I learn from every article Monty has published here or in the Record Searchlight. He is one of my heroes. Driving is a dangerous activity, and needs to be approached with respect and knowledge and complete attention. Thank you Monty for another great article. I wish all high schools had money to provide all students with "behind-the-wheel" training. A few of what we used to call "Signal 30" films thrown in would impress on anyone the importance of safe driving.

  4. Avatar Troy says:

    I used to travel quite a bit and I've seen situations like the driver described. You don't realize how many trucks are on the road until you see them parked on the side of the road, gas stations or rest stations just trying to get some shut eye.

    I think the transportation department should take a long look at creating a space for drivers to use truck scale stations as another place to rest. I'd rather they stop there than being an added danger to other drivers. Just my opinion.