Q What is the law or policy on memorials people create on the side of the road where a loved one was killed in an accident? Surely it is not legal for anyone to build a personal memorial on public property and leave it.

Once erected it is there forever and often ends up being an unsightly pile of trash. The two I have mind at this time are on Interstate 680 north just before Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek and in Concord at Marsh and Center streets, which has been there for many, many years.

I finally got someone in a county maintenance department who had it cleaned it up and two weeks later it was rebuilt!

Susan Sterling

Alamo

A Memorials like these are illegal, as safety officials say they can be distracting to motorists. But sympathetic road crews often let them stand until flowers wilt and other items turn trashy. This can be several months. The state does allow blue signs paid for by relatives and friends of drunk-driving victims to be posted at the scene of their deaths.

A few years ago Contra Costa County cracked down on roadside memorials along Highway 4 connecting Antioch and Brentwood because they were deemed a traffic hazard.

Q I've been noticing a lot of eighteen-wheelers in the fast lane on the San Mateo Bridge eastbound at 5:30 a.m. And I've seen an empty AC Transit Transbay bus in the fast lane two different times in one week, westbound at about 4 p.m. It was holding up a lot of traffic because it was going about 50 mph. Are the rules different on the bridge than on the regular highways?

Dina Love

San Mateo

A No. Big rigs must remain in the right lane on a three-lane roadway, but can move one lane to their left to pass. However, buses can use any lane.

Q This has always bothered me regarding using a cellphone while driving. Where I have a problem is the idea that you can't use a GPS on your phone or check your calendar. How is that different from looking at a map or your Day-Timer (do they still exist?) while operating a car? Could you explain what is and what is not OK to do?

Angie Ferone

San Jose

A It is not legal to use a cellphone for GPS or other purposes. And Diana-the-CHP-Lady adds:

"I always try to appeal to logic. People don't necessarily like being told they can't do something. They appreciate understanding why they shouldn't do something.

"Angie is absolutely right in that there is not a specific law to make reading a map illegal. But because there isn't a law, it still doesn't mean the act is safe. The removal of your eyes from the road in which you travel for any amount of time while driving can be dangerous.

"The reason is twofold. First there is the fact that your visual horizon would be impaired. You don't have a clear view of what is ahead. The second factor is that your concentration has now left the operation (driving) of the vehicle and is focused on something else entirely (looking at the directions).

"Although many individuals have probably used their cellphones at different times to text or call (or have done other things that would be defined as distracting), and they haven't been involved in a collision, there may be a certain comfort level with doing it a second, third and more times. When we get comfortable in our cars and we start doing other things besides driving we become the hazard. So that person driving down the road trying to read a map or day planner is most likely to weave outside their lane, slow in speed, or drive directly behind another vehicle. Any of these are unsafe and can cause a collision."

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