Thursday, January 13, 2011
Flashing and Other Crimes
Vehicle Code Section 25250 says that: “Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except as otherwise permitted.”
Vehicle Code Section 25251(a) lists the circumstances in which flashing hazard lights are permitted:
(2) When disabled or parked off the roadway but within 10 feet of the roadway, or when approaching, stopped at, or departing from, a railroad grade crossing, turn signal lamps may be flashed as warning lights if the front turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously.
(3) To warn other motorists of accidents or hazards on a roadway, turn signal lamps may be flashed as warning lights while the vehicle is approaching, overtaking, or passing the accident or hazard on the roadway if the front turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously.
(4) For use on authorized emergency vehicles.
(5) To warn other motorists of a funeral procession, turn signal lamps may be flashed as warning lights on all vehicles actually engaged in a funeral procession, if the front turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously.”
Director of Taxi Services and Taxi Advisory Council Liaison Christiane Hayashi said at last Monday's TAC meeting that she interprets the law differently and is trying to work with the police to get them to change their policy. In the meantime, she suggested that turn signals might be an alternative when stopping for customers in order to avoid being ticketed by the police for the use of hazard lights.
I experimented with this technique Tuesday night and concluded that it was much like playing Russian Roulette - especially when pulling off to the right at corners. If you put your right signal on, the car behind you is likely to think that you're turning and smash into your rear end. If you put no signal on but merely brake, the driver might conclude that you're only slowing down and smash into your back end. If you put your left signal on, the dude might conclude that you're a Darwin Award candidate and try to kill you before you breed. In short, it's a lose-lose-lose tactic.
Jim Gillespie of Yellow Cab thought that the PCOs were causing much more of a problem as did John Lazar of Luxor cab. Mark Gruberg of Green Cab added that there had been an upsurge of tickets during the last month.
Hayashi said that she had been talking with SFMTA Enforcement as well as the SF Bicycle Coalition with some success. It is now supposed to be okay to pick up or drop off in bike lanes and in bus stops - as long as the cab pulls up as far as possible. It's just that the PCOs don't appear to have gotten the message.
One driver said that he had stopped to take a radio call on Market between 3rd and 4th when a cop told him that he had to move along. He did move along and a got a ticket in the mail anyway.
Another person pointed out that elderly people might need to be dropped off near a corner with a ramp.
Hayashi said that you should protest the tickets by following the instructions on the reverse side and let Taxi Services know when you have received a ticket while loading or unloading passengers.
John Han, who has written on this problem in Taxi Town SF said that he had fought two tickets by arguing that he wasn't supposed to get tickets because he was a cab driver and lost both times.
My take on this is that the cops and the PCOs see us as a revenue stream and an easy target with which to hit their quotas. I think that the only chance we have of influencing their behavior is to go over their heads.
Therefore, I think the best course of action is to show up at the SFMTA Board and Police Commission meetings until they stop giving us ridiculous tickets. I'm not talking about being rowdy. Just go up and state your case.
The next MTA Board meeting will be held on January 18, 2011 at 1 pm in room 400 in City Hall.
The Police Commission meets every Wednesday. The times vary.