Dear Street Smart:
We are having a major dispute within our son's school car pool. Several of the parents wish to add participants by "double buckling" the children (buckling more than one child within a single seat belt).
In disagreeing with this suggestion for safety reasons, I seem to be very much in the oppressed minority. Are you aware of any studies concerning the safety of this practice? Is it legal? Am I simply being overly cautious?
Larry Dreyfuss, Irvine
It's time for the oppressed minority to take a stand. The practice of double buckling is illegal and very dangerous, says Steve Kohler, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
Although officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that there are no formal studies on double buckling and accidents, Kohler said officers in the field have offered ample anecdotal evidence supporting a prohibition of the practice.
In a crash, he said, children who are double-buckled tend to slide around more than someone properly strapped in, leading to a greater potential for injury. So it hardly seems worth the risk of squeezing one more kid into the station wagon on the way to school.
Dear Street Smart:
My question is who are the men I see escorting funerals who look like police driving motorcycles that look like police vehicles? And are their motorcycles legal?
Robert Lewandoski, Fullerton
They may look like police, act like police and even have mustaches like a lot of police, but they are not.
Funeral homes hire professional cyclists who perform the duties of escorting funeral processions. As you say, they wear the black boots, stretch pants and other garb of motorcycle officers. But if you examine them closely you'll find their cycles have no emergency lights and their uniforms bear no police department insignia.
While a case could probably be made that they're impersonating police officers, these funeral escorts are typically accepted by local police departments as a necessity of the roadway. They keep things fairly organized in funeral processions and help traffic flow smoother than it might otherwise around the slow-moving column of cars, police say.
"I haven't heard very many negative things about them," said Sgt. Al Murray of the Irvine police traffic enforcement division. "Otherwise, law enforcement agencies would crack down on them."
Dear Street Smart:
The traffic light at Newport and Foothill (at the southeast corner of Foothill High School) is incorrectly programmed. Approaching Newport while traveling westward on Foothill activates the left-turn signal on Newport instead of the green light on Foothill.
After the Newport left-turn light turns red, the light for through traffic on Newport lets cars go and then finally the green light on Foothill is activated.
If the signal were working properly, the green light for traffic on Foothill would be actuated when cars approach Newport. Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Walt Smith, Santa Ana
I called the county Environmental Management Agency's transportation division and reported the problem. They dispatched a crew and discovered that the light is indeed malfunctioning and said they would fix it.
Steve Hogan, director of the transportation division, said people with similar complaints can get relief if they call the traffic division in the city where an offending signal is located or his department if it's in unincorporated county territory, which is the case with the light at Newport and Foothill.
With a region the size of Orange County to shepherd, traffic officials can hardly keep abreast of which lights are malfunctioning, so they depend on the public to report many of the problems. Hogan says motorists shouldn't be shy about calling.
"A lot of times there are things out there that we don't catch," Hogan said. "Unless we happen to drive it from the proper direction and notice ourselves, it can go unreported. The public is our best way to get input. If something isn't working, give us a call."