California Traffic Update

Mobile phone video cameras, Memorial Day traffic death toll, bicycle collisions, and more on California bicycle safety.

Gary Richards at the Mercury News writes on the legality of shooting video wile driving to catch all of those other scofflaws in the act!

A driver cuts you off, flips trash out the window or cheats in the carpool lane. How do you report this scofflaw?

If you’re like a growing number of drivers, you may be tempted to pull out your cellphone and take a picture or video to send to the police in hopes of getting a ticket issued. But if the cops see you doing this, you may be the one who gets in trouble.

Remember, in California using your mobile electronic device while driving is illegal. I’m seeing quite a few cameras mounted on bikes and helmets these days, and that presumably is legal (and the mobile device prohibition, for now, does not apply to cyclists). Richards’ story was prompted by this incident when a driver on Highway 101 was taking video with his phone cam, lost control, and collided with a gang of bikers (the motorized variety). The driver “was pummeled by other bikers in apparent retaliation, authorities said.”

Memorial Day Weekend California Traffic Toll

The California Highway Patrol says 11 traffic fatalities were reported statewide over the Memorial Day Weekend. Although the initial tally from the CHP reports zero motorcycle fatalities, two men in Petaluma were killed on Sunday after their motorcycle hit a guardrail on Magnolia Avenue. A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed in Inglewood after somebody wiped out and also took out a traffic light. No cyclists lost their lives on California roads.

16 crashes involving bicycles were counted over the 3 day weekend in which mild weather encouraged thousands to ride. The last report at 10 PM on Monday night involved a drunk driver who hit a “child on a bicycle” west of Visalia, CA. Two incidents involving bikes were reported in Santa Cruz County. The first, on Sunday afternoon at 17th Street, was reported as “an intentional act.” The second, which occurred near Dominican Hospital — a pair of live baby deer lying in the bike lane presented a possible traffic hazard.

New, improved bicycle crash map

Northern California crash map Memorial Day Weekend 2012

I’ve improved the California bicycle crash map, which pulls data from the California Highway Patrol incident feed, searches for any incidents involving bikes, and puts a target at the location of each crash. The changes I’ve made:

  • Better markers: The first big change you’ll notice: I’ve replaced the graphic used to locate each bike incident. It should look much better now.
  • Better date matching: I highlight bike crashes that occurred “today” by marking them with yellow markers. The CHP dispatch offices use two different date formats (that I’ve noticed): a numeric data, and a more convention month name, day, year format. Previously, I only matched on fully numeric dates, but I can now match on spelled out month names, too, so you should see yellow for all of today’s bike crashes.
  • Cached geocoding: Unlike the previous version, map location lookup occurs only once for each incident and the location is stored in my server database, so your browser doesn’t have to wait and pull each map location one by one.
  • Better map location lookup: I’ve improved the software guesswork involved in looking up location.

My big TODO on this project:

  • Lookup failure = no map markers: If geocoding (the process of converting a street address into lat/long required for map marker placement) fails, I completely ignore that bike incident on the map. These now occur mostly because there is no street address input by the dispatcher (i.e. general media information), but there are still shortcomings in my geocoding strategy that can use improvement.

With a big tip of the hat to Ed of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition, Ted of Biking In LA and Miami Bike Report for their valuable feedback and encouragement on this project.

Back to those bike cam videos

I’ve been running my GoPro a lot more frequently since the Berkeley hit-and-run crash a few weeks ago was posted to YouTube. I’ve shot probably hundreds of hours of video now, and frankly, nothing much interesting ever happens. Here’s a typical weekend ride from near my home.

Tailwinds, friends.


  1. Has anyone figured out which vehicle code prohibits taking photos with a cell phone? 

    23123-23125 prohibits using a phone with out a hands-free device, and sending, writing, reading and receiving text on a electronic wireless communications device.

  2. It seems the law hasn’t caught up to everything a smartphone could do.  23123 is about listening and talking on a telephone (but answering and dialing aren’t mentioned).  23124 is about texting and emailing.

    Nothing is said about, for example, GPS navigation.  Or playing MP3 files.  Or using the camera.  Nor is there anything in about ordinary cameras, which have existed for as long as automobiles.

  3. Likewise, what about an iPod touch?  It has a camera, it looks like an iPhone, but it’s not a telephone.

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