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When did everyone forget how to drive?

Original post made by Greg David, Old Mountain View, on Jun 30, 2014

CVC 21800 (d) (1) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.

We all learned this in driver school, yet few seem to remember it.

I came home late this evening around 1AM and there was a significant power outage along El Camino Real, including the traffic signals at ECR/Calderon/Phyllis and ECR/Castro. Thrown off a bit by this, I still came to a complete stop at Calderon as per California law, but was astonished by another vehicle that blew by me at full speed. This prompted me to do a little unscientific survey of traffic law compliance at ECR and Castro.

I observed traffic at this intersection for around twenty minutes or so and during this time there was only around 25% compliance with the law. The vast majority of those that stopped, were either turning or coming from Castro St. Most drivers on ECR simply drove through the intersection with little to no hesitation. Shockingly, a police patrol officer did just the same and blew through at full speed. In all fairness a police sergeant did heed the vehicle code and came to a complete stop during the lights out.

After observing this dangerous situation, I went home and dug out a road flare from under my drivers seat. I ignited this flare and placed it directly in the center of the intersection. During the twenty minutes this flare was burning, I observed closer to 50% compliance with the law. Still, most compliance was from those turning or coming from Castro. I did notice a slightly higher level of braking from ECR drivers before flying through the intersection. I saw the sergeant again, he stopped as he should. Another patrol car, not sure if it was the same one, flew through the intersection in the other direction, violating the right of way of a motorist that had stopped and signaled their left turn onto Castro. This was the grossest violation I observed.

After the flare fizzled, compliance returned to less than 25%. for what's it worth, the sergeant rolled through again, but not after coming to a complete stop.

My question is, why doesn't MVPD take any sort of action in this hazardous situation? Even a few flares can make a big difference. This seems to have been the policy for years, to not direct traffic or set flare patterns. Why not I ask?

Comments (11)

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Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:36 am

I must have been driving along ECR before you put your flare out, because it was PITCH BLACK as I drove down ECR.

I drive ECR daily and almost blew all the way thru the intersection of ECR and Castro last night when the power was out. It was SO pitch black I didn't realize I had entered the intersection until I was a full car length into it. Very dangerous conditions when not only were the traffic lights were out, but evidently ALL power was out along several blocks of ECR as well as several complete blocks on either side of ECR.

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Posted by entitled
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:15 am

Mountain View's self-entitled car drivers think they own roads and everyone else will yield.

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Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

Based upon my experience last night, it seems clear that - even for those drivers who know ECR VERY well - the utter blackness along ECR made for some exceptionally dangerous driving conditions. It should be noted that the lights were working at the corner of ECR & Shoreline/Miramonte...ECR went dark after that intersection.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

maybe they didn't see that it was out.

Maybe they weren't from this area.

You also assume people knew how to drive in the first place. Were you aware of the phone book scandal at the DMV?

You also used to be able to schedule multiple DMV drivers tests at at time. Fail one, go to the next one that afternoon, or the next day

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Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Greg David is a registered user.


I don't really understand the relevance of your reply. The traffic lights were completely out, along with all the street lights and businesses on ECR. It would be impossible to not see them out. Regardless of where they are from, the vehicle code requires them to stop. As for DMV testing, that has nothing to do with the point I was raising that there was no official response to this outage to reduce the chance of accidents.

I welcome some constructive input.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2014 at 1:24 am

Sparty is a registered user.

There is some confusion with my post.

"Maybe they didn't see the light was out." This means "maybe they didn't see the light was out.

Also- "maybe they weren't from this area." That means maybe they weren't from this area.

But as mentioned-- all the lights were out. Which usually make is easier or harder so see things at night? So-- maybe they didn't see the light was out.

Your point- that perhaps everyone forgot how to drive-. My response was "you assume people knew how to drive in then first place" which means you assumed people knew how to drive in the first place.

Unless of course you think having all the answers to all the written tests handy while you take the test makes for superior learning and retention.

As you may well imagine, knowing the traffic laws is a memory skill. You assume they knew these laws in the first place. If they didn't, then one of the laws they wouldn't know would be the one where a dead stoplight is the same as a stop sign.

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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 2, 2014 at 11:19 am

The MV police certainly should have put flares in all intersections that had zero traffic signals. Drivers are used to flashing lights at least when signals aren't working right, but seldom do we have nothing. And nothing is really hard to notice in pitch darkness. That's why it is on the police to highlight the situation with flares.

By the way, thank you, Greg David, for the flare you contributed. You may have saved lives that night.

Like this comment
Posted by Nah
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

A big deal about nothing...,

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Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Until you get t-boned. Car kills. They should be banned.

What do you think of that mister moreregulation?

Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jul 3, 2014 at 8:09 am

We do NOT need more traffic regulations. What about PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY??? Dumbing down America will end us all .

Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 3, 2014 at 9:21 am

The power outage was widespread, homes offices, traffic was PITCH black. I am pretty sure that anyone who may have blown thru an intersection did so not out of willful disregard for the law, but because they had no idea they had entered an intersection until after the fact because it was PITCH least that's what happened to me.

I agree that it would have been helpful for the police to have placed flares or otherwise done something to try and warn drivers of the hazard, if one was driving south on ECR it was easy to make the transition from Shoreline to Castro before realizing that there was a huge power outage.

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