Queen: Her Majesty is still receiving letters about parking misbehavior in malls, parking garages and elsewhere, and this fresh angle caught her eye:

Commuter: My issue is with those who drive through parking spaces, weaving between cars to get to the next row rather than going to the end of the aisle and turning back. Last week at the mall I was about to open the door of my car to get in when someone decided to use the empty space next to me as a road.

I had to suddenly stop and yank my 11-year-old daughter out of the way while the blue Mercedes went by. As Mary said in your last column about parking, I believe this behavior is lazy, but I would also add "dangerous" and "discourteous."

Brian, cyberspace

Queen: Brian, you're right. Any time a driver does something unexpected, whether on the road or in a parking lot, it increases the likelihood of an accident.

When a driver cuts across the delineated parking space to get from one aisle to another, rather than going all the way to the end and making a proper turnaround, this is tantamount to crossing the double yellow line on the highway. In the latter case, oncoming vehicles have no reason to think a car will suddenly appear in front of them and have little or no time to stop. In the former case, as you discovered, a driver getting out of or into a car could be struck by the other vehicle.


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Here's another one to avoid: If you are about to leave and the space in front of you is empty, resist the urge to drive through the empty space in order to get out quicker. People coming down the opposite lane are not expecting you to pull out headfirst. Also, if the parking is angled so it's a one-way traffic lane, you could end up driving your car the wrong way on that one-way lane.

Commuter: While driving through Dublin, I was using my speaker phone and passed a construction site. I could not hear the person I was speaking to, so I pressed the phone against my ear and was caught. Yes, I was guilty. I have used and advocated hands-free since 1987.

Three weeks later I got a notice from Alameda County. Surprise! Their version of justice is a fine of $142 for the first offense. When asked, their answer is: "Because it is."

So, while in the East Bay, keep your eyes open for Dublin police looking for out-of-towners and remember that extortion is alive and prospering in Alameda County.

Ken Lewis, cyberspace

Queen: As most of the Queen's readers know, it is against the law in California to use a manually held cell phone while driving. Ken, the Queen can certainly understand your chagrin at getting nailed the one time you happened to divert from your lifelong policy of talking on a hands-free device. And by all means, $142 is a whopping fine. Ouch!

Here's some background information that may make this easier to understand: The cost of most tickets went up in California in January, with fines for some violations increasing 65 percent. This was a statewide change.

Also, Ken, this column is continually filled with complaints from readers who almost got sideswiped by a distracted driver talking on a cell phone, complaints that invariably end, "Why don't the police arrest more of these miscreants?" So, let's ease up a little on the men and women who enforce the law; officers are often damned when they do and damned when they don't.

HOW TO CONTACT THE QUEEN

Got questions about your commute? Whether you drive, ride, bike or walk, write the Queen at The Commuter Page, c/o The Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, or ccncommuter@bayareanewsgroup.com. To find the Queen online, visit www.contracostatimes.com/queen-of-the-road.