Running Yellow Light OK if Driver Clears Limit Line


Dear Street Smart:

My friend and I have a disagreement. I say that you can get ticketed for running a red light if the light turns red while you are in the intersection. He says that, as long as you pass the limit line before the light turns red, you are safe. Who is correct?

Christopher Hughes



Your friend is right, according to Officer Rich Obregon of the California Highway Patrol. According to Obregon, a driver entering an intersection before the light turns red has the legal right to proceed across that intersection no matter how big it is. The green light for drivers approaching from both sides, he says, does not give them the unconditional right to enter the intersection at any time--only when conditions are safe.

But that’s not to say, Obregon adds, that entering an intersection just before the light turns red is a good idea.

“The yellow means caution,” the officer said. “It’s telling you that you should slow down and prepare to stop. The problem is that a lot of people are in a hurry and don’t want to get stopped by a light, so they speed up.”

Problems occur when overeager drivers approaching from the sides see the green light and not you.


“If you enter the intersection on yellow,” the officer said, “you’re looking for a collision. There are a lot of hazards.”


Dear Street Smart:

Is it legal to remove, or cause to be removed, the factory-installed high-explosive air bag propellant units in newer-model cars? Or are they required to be present under some fascist regulation? I simply don’t want more than 1.25 pounds of explosives more powerful than TNT in light-gauge shrapnel-forming containers located so close to destroying my [lap] or chopping off my passenger’s legs just above the knees.

Second: How would one legally dispose of active, charged air bag propellant units after removing them?

Dave English


According to Pat Ryan, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol, there are no laws prohibiting car owners from removing air bag propellants. But Ryan says she can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to do it.


“Air bags are very beneficial in accidents,” she said. “They save lives; they’ve been proven to reduce injuries and fatalities. If you don’t want air bags, why not buy a car without them? If you remove them, it’s just one more safety item that you’ve taken out of your vehicle.”

Drivers insisting on removing the air bags from their cars, Ryan said, should contact the Environmental Protection Agency or their local police department for instructions on how to safely dispose of them.


Dear Street Smart:

The subject of window tinting has been discussed before, but the problem just gets worse. Street Smart has reported that the CHP and other agencies will cite motorists with illegal driver- and front-passenger-side tinting. As the months have gone by, it seems to me there are always an increasing number of autos with front-side tints so dark that I cannot even see the drivers, let alone their eyes, in order to make reasonable defensive driving decisions. So I conducted a non-scientific study with a video camera, photographing cars at two busy intersections, and at different times and days, to try to determine if there were as many cars with heavy tinting as I thought there were.

I reviewed the video frame by frame in order to count the vehicles accurately. My survey showed that about 29% of the vehicles on the road in this area have heavy tints. Another 48% had some type of tint, some probably illegal, but not dark enough for me to be sure.

Has the law changed to allow these heavy tints? If not, it would appear that the CHP and other agencies are not interested in this problem. I think it puts other motorists at a real disadvantage when they are trying to decide if someone is about to execute a turn or lane change, but not signaling.

Don Rowan



No, the law hasn’t changed, according to CHP spokesman Steve Kohler, and yes, the CHP is interested in the problem. Driving with a heavy tint, he says, is like wearing sunglasses at night.

“It limits your ability to see oncoming traffic and pedestrians,” often contributing to traffic accidents and collisions. That’s why California law provides fines for anything but factory tinting on windshields as well as either driver-side or passenger-side windows.

At the same time, Kohler says, catching window tinters is not a high priority.

“We’re concerned about it and when we see it, if the officer isn’t engaged in something more critical, he has the power to stop and issue a citation,” he said. “But you have to maintain perspective; it’s not in the same category as driving under the influence or speeding.”

Many of the violators, he said, come from states such as Arizona where non-factory tinting is legal. They still get cited here.

In 1994, Kohler said, the CHP cited 6,253 Orange County drivers for illegal tinting, compared to 22,116 in Los Angeles County and 5,116 in San Diego County.

Your informal survey may have been misleading, Kohler said.

“There’s no real way of knowing how accurate that is,” Kohler said. “Just taking your video camera out and recording a street corner for a few minutes is not going to give you the data you need.”

Street Smart appears Mondays in The Times Orange County Edition.