So months ago, I was ticketed on Southbound Raymond street, when turning left onto California, where the gold line train was passing by. Why, you ask?
I look on my ticket, and it says “DISOBEY FLASH RED NO LEFT TURN SIGN.”
At that intersection in Pasadena, there’s a traffic control signal with a bizarre local concoction of a white left turn arrow with a red crossout circle around it, that the police officer informed me was a no left turn sign. The civic code and section I was ticketed under? CVC 22101d, which specifically states that “When official traffic control devices are placed as required in subdivisions (b) or (c), it shall be unlawful for any driver of a vehicle to disobey the directions of such official traffic control devices.”
Which sounds great – i’m happy to comply with any and all official traffic control devices. You know what, though? The California vehicle code specifically states in Section 21100.1 that “any traffic control device erected by it on or after January 1, 1981, shall conform to the uniform standards and specifications adopted by the Department of Transportation pursuant to Section 21400.” (Emphasis mine)
Wow, it sounds like there are some uniform standards, which sounds reasonable to me – legally require all traffic control devices to behave the same way, so drivers know how to behave and what to expect! But this particular sign, erected under 22101(d), violates the uniform standards in two important ways.
For that, we take a look at the aforementioned Section 21400. If we look just at CVC 21450(a), it states, “Whenever traffic is controlled by official traffic control signals showing different colored lights, or colored lighted arrows, successively, one at a time, or in combination, only the colors green, yellow, and red shall be used, except for pedestrian control signals, and those lights shall indicate and apply to drivers of vehicles and pedestrians as provided in this chapter.” Just for completeness’ sake, CVC 21450(b) states that the section becomes operative on Jan 1, 2005.
Then, if we go look at CVC 21457(a), which governs Flashing Signals, we see the following: “Flashing red (stop signal): When a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, a driver shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway when the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it, and the driver may proceed subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.”
Aha! So I behaved correctly according to the CVC, because I was at a full stop due to a red light before I ever entered the crosswalk. The FLASHING RED NO LEFT TURN SIGN, if interpreted according to the CVC, actually is supposed to behave like a stop sign – which is actually how I entered the intersection – after a complete stop.
Basically, this sign is not an official traffic control device as required by CVC 22101(d). Even if we interpret it as a flashing red left arrow (which breaks the 3 color requirement), we can see that I followed the CVC requirements for what to do in the case of a flashing red left arrow. The officer who gave me the ticket was erroneous, and I am not guilty of the infraction I am accused of.
That is the defense that I plan on presenting at traffic court, and I believe it is a strong one, supported by photos of the intersection taken later (In fact, when I returned to the intersection, the sign was no longer a flashing sign! Sounds like somebody realized it was wrong!). I also have the accompanying sections in the CVC printed out, and I additionally have this interesting article in which Lt. Mills acknowledges that the DOT was reviewing the signal to see if there is a “less confusing configuration.”
The reason I post about it today are numerous. One, to gather my thoughts about my defense. Two, to present this information to anyone else who was ticketed in this intersection. Three, to encourage the City of Pasadena to replace these with simple solid red left arrow lights that conform with the CVC uniform standards. Fourth, to complain about constructively criticize the lasuperiorcourt.org Court Date scheduling system.
First of all, if the scheduling system cannot find any possible dates for your preference, that’s it. It’s an un-back-up-able pop-up window, and there’s no back button. You’ve got to completely start over and try again.
Second, if you find a date, but you don’t think it will work, you have to hit cancel. But if you hit cancel, it bumps you out again, instead of looking for another perference.
Third, the telephone registration system is not much better – it suffers from the same problems, and even worse than leaving you hanging, it actually hangs up on you if it can’t find you any dates. Forget about the 5 minutes you spent answering the mind-numbingly redundant text prompts listing the name and address of each location surrounded by perfectly pronounced drivel speech (I reconize the need for clear enunciation, especially for non-native English speakers). So even though the web system is flawed, it’s still better than wasting spending your time on the phone system.
Fourth, and most egregious, the only available court date was at 8:30 AM on my birthday. I have a hard, hard time, after all i’ve been through, believing that this was not somehow calculated from the birthday that I entered when I began filling out the form, in a subversive attempt to evilly discourage me from appearing at court. But I understand that the world isn’t all about me, so I accept it with a sigh. At least it’s only where I plead, and not where I present this case.
What else do you expect from a government that manages its programmers with lines-of-code quotas?
Update: I regret a lot of the upset comments that I originally wrote here. During my actual appearance at trial, the ticket was dismissed primarily for reasons other than my argument outlined above – what I can say is that the court system did treat me fairly; although I understand how upset I was originally at this charge, and the unfortunate scheduling of arraignment and court date, the system did end up working in my favor in this case, and it helped a great deal to look at the issue objectively and without emotion. The emotion that did seep into my handling of the case (that I wrote into this original post) did not help at all with the law.
Another Update!: I went to court and presented the argument that I built, and the traffic ticket was dismissed eventually! See more details here.