Let It All Hang Out!

Monty, I took a course from you and enjoyed the material you offered and the day.  However, that’s not why I’m writing to you.  I need to find out the regs with regards to how much “stuff” can hang out the back of a pick-up. In particular, I have a 15 ft. canoe.  My pick-up bed is 6.5 ft. and with the tail gate down the total bed length is about 8 ft.  That means I have 7 ft. of canoe hanging out beyond the end of the tail gate with a red flag. Is this legal?  My wife won’t ride with me until you say it’s okay.

And your wife not riding with you is a bad thing?  Just kidding. There is a specific formula for this very type of situation.  The load upon any motor vehicle alone shall not extend to the rear beyond the last point of support for a greater distance than that equal to two-thirds of the length of the wheelbase of the vehicle carrying such load.  So for example, let’s say the distance between the center of your front axle and the center of your rear axle (wheel base) is 15 feet.  Two-thirds of 15 feet is 10 feet (CHP officers are very skilled in mathematics).  In your example the canoe’s last point of support is the end of the tail gate.  Your canoe can not extend over 10 feet beyond that point.  In addition you mentioned a red flag.  Here is what is required regarding that; Whenever the load upon any vehicle extends, or whenever any integral part of any vehicle projects, to the rear four feet or more beyond the rear of the vehicle, as measured from the tail lamps, there shall be displayed at the extreme end of the load or projecting part of the vehicle during darkness, in addition to the required tail lamp, two red lights with a bulb rated not in excess of six candlepower plainly visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the sides and rear. At any other time there shall be displayed at the extreme end of the load or projecting part of the vehicle a solid red or fluorescent orange flag or cloth not less than 12 inches square.

So tell your wife you are all squared away, at least as far as hauling the canoe goes and she can help you carry that canoe down to the waters edge.

Can a peace officer (motorcycle officer) park on a sidewalk, on a side street, out of reasonable view and use radar over a hedge considered reasonable and prudent to enforce traffic laws? Can a motorcycle officer, not leaving the scene of a prior emergency legally utilize the sidewalk to park and drive on?

It appears that you may not be happy with the way that an officer may be doing his job when it comes to traffic enforcement.  The vehicle code does not address the manner in which an officer is expected to perform his duties other than on or in a distinctly marked vehicle and uniform.  Each Department, be it City, County or State has operating procedures dealing with pretty much each aspect of their duties and responsibilities.  When I was working radar enforcement, the Department encouraged in view patrolling.  I would pull into the Lakehead Rest Area and drive down to the start of the on-ramp back onto southbound I-5.  There were numerous bushes and trees between my location and the passing southbound traffic lanes.  I was clearly in view if you were on the rest area side, but undetectable if you were passing by on the freeway.  Once you passed my location and cleared the bushes on the freeway I had a clear view of your vehicle and locked in your speed with the radar.  I would then enter the freeway and introduce myself to you down the road.  Was I in plain view?  As you rounded a sweeping curve in the roadway and there sits a law enforcement vehicle on the shoulder or center divider working radar.  He wasn’t hiding, you just did not see him until it was too late.  That’s why he chose that spot.

The vehicle code states; no person shall operate or move a motor vehicle upon a sidewalk except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property.

Motorcycles are a great tool for law enforcement for the obvious reasons.  They can negotiate traffic with little space.  They can stop and observe traffic in locations that are not accessible to a patrol car.  If an officer is observing traffic from a sidewalk area, he is generally astride the motorcycle and stopped, not parked and will be there in the performance of his duties.  The vehicle code further states; No person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle whether attended or unattended, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a peace officer or official traffic control device, in any of the following places: On any portion of a sidewalk, or with the body of the vehicle extending over any portion of a sidewalk.  You might see where I going with this.  That part of the section that states ‘in compliance with the directions of a peace officer’.  He is that officer.  There are many sections in the vehicle code, penal code that give an officer the authority to authorize certain acts.  They can not give themselves permission to speed when there is no reason for it. They can’t authorize themselves to drive home after having too much to drink.  But when it comes to enforcement issues and techniques, Departments have policies and for the most part observing traffic while on one side of the bushes and violators may be on the other side, isn’t necessarily unreasonable.

When an intersection is blocked and traffic is backed up a half mile in all directions, be grateful that motor officer is traveling down the sidewalk to get to the scene as quickly as possible and render aid and assistance so that we all can continue down the road and 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.

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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