Even in Irvine, a Traffic Offender Might Get a Break

Dear Street Smart:

I was recently handed a traffic citation by an Irvine motorcycle officer who advised me that any discussion was pointless because Irvine has a "100% enforcement" policy on traffic violations. I have heard of "zero tolerance" for drug offenses, but traffic tickets?

C'mon Irvine, give us a break!!

Bob David

Irvine

Unless federal drug czar William Bennett has grown a mustache, donned leather boots and become an Irvine motorcycle cop, there seems to be a bit of confusion here.

Irvine police officials say they don't have a "100% enforcement" policy on traffic violations. In fact, the city's police write tickets on average only about one out of every two times they stop a motorist, according to Investigator Doug Coffing of the police traffic division. The other times verbal warnings are administered.

"It's not 100% by any means and there's no policy," Coffing said. "Obviously there was a miscommunication between this motorist and the officer."

Coffing noted, however, that members of the department's motorcycle traffic team are typically a bit stricter than regular patrol officers, writing tickets about 70% of the time they pull someone over.

He explained that the people who work traffic are more apt to write you up because "that is their function" and they are "a little more attuned" to traffic laws. Moreover, the traffic officers have to clean up after car accidents much more frequently, providing a constant reinforcement of the consequences that can result from poor driving.

Any officer who suggests that the Irvine police have an unyielding policy on issuing traffic tickets is twisting the facts. If you wish to press the issue with the department, I would suggest taking the matter up with the officer's supervisor and, if necessary, the internal affairs division.

Dear Street Smart:

I thought those halogen headlamps were illegal on cars. When are they necessary? Certainly not on city streets or freeways. They are blinding, whether behind you or coming toward you. They are worse than regular headlights on high beam.

I find them especially bad on a freeway that curves, sending the beams of light directly into the eyes of an oncoming driver. Driving crowded freeways is tough enough without being blinded, from either direction.

Yes, I do change lanes whenever possible, but it is not always possible. Even changing the rear-view mirror to dim does not alter the blinding.

Mildred Jackson

Garden Grove

Halogen headlights are perfectly legal and are standard equipment on many cars on the road today. But you are right about the blinding effects of these ultra-bright lamps.

They are perhaps most disconcerting on very tall vehicles such as jacked-up pickup trucks. When one of these guys pulls up from behind, it's like the sun has come out inside the car. I end up doing all sorts of fancy gestures with my hands--making silhouettes on the dashboard of dogs, cats, that sort of thing--and they eventually get the picture and back off.

Kent Milton, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommends that drivers bothered by headlights from an oncoming car focus their eyes on the right-hand edge of the road until it passes.

If one looks directly into the beams, the pupils of the eyes will shut down and only open up slowly. Moreover, the ability to cope with the glare of headlights diminishes as one gets older, Milton said.

He recommended that motorists never retaliate against drivers with their high beams on by putting their own high beams on. That can only create more problems. A brief click of the high beams is usually sufficient to remind an oncoming motorist that he needs to switch to low-beam headlights.

"The best thing to do is never look directly into oncoming headlights," Milton said. "Don't let that glare take you straight in the eye."

In car-crazy Southern California, there are few things that can set the pulse racing quite like the sight and sound of an old classic automobile. The region is home to some of the most serious collectors of antique cars in the country.

Now one of the largest classic car clubs in the state is gearing up for its annual fund-raising show. Great Autos of Yesteryear, a multimarque car club that was formed seven years ago in Yorba Linda and has grown to more than 700 members, will display cars of all types at its third annual Concours d'Elegance next Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year, the show featured 126 classic collectible autos, and promoters expect even more oldies-but-goodies when the event kicks off at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. The event, which drew 1,200 last year and featured a Ford Model A that was raffled off, is open to the public. Proceeds will go to Aid for AIDS, Los Angeles County's nonprofit agency making emergency cash grants to persons suffering from AIDS.

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