Back-Seat Driver

CHP tickets Casa Roble students’ cars while they’re in class

Casa Roble High School parking lot.
Casa Roble High School parking lot. Google streetview

Students at Casa Roble High School in Orangevale heading to their cars after class two weeks ago saw an unhappy site: Citations pinned to windshield after windshield.

A California Highway Patrol officer had gone into the parking lot and cited at least 20 cars by one student’s count, possibly a lot more. The violations ranged from illegally tinted windows to expired registration.

That set off a protest. Students felt like they had been sneak-attacked.

“Keep in mind most of these students do not have jobs, recently acquired their cars and cannot afford the fines,” senior Dylan Blankenship said.

Principal Michele Lorenzo wasn’t pleased, either. This had never happened before, she said.

“My initial reaction was pretty negative,” she said. “Can we build a collaborative community instead of this divide between us and them?”

Legally, the officer was within his rights, CHP officials told us. If someone reports a vehicle code issue, officers can go into parking lots and ticket cars.

CHP Sgt. Evan Williams said officers have what police call the authority to use discretion. It means the officer was within his rights to cite as many noncompliant cars in the lot as he wants. But it also means he doesn’t have to go through the lot looking for violations. When we spoke to Williams a little more than a week ago, he said he had not talked to the officer.

Williams, to his credit, called Lorenzo to talk about it. She told him she wished the officer would have come into her office first. She would have suggested finding some way to educate the students, many of them rookie drivers.

That is what it appears the school and CHP are going to do in the future.

Lorenzo said CHP officers will return to the school later this month to sign off on any of the “fix-it” tickets for students who have gotten their registration updated and talk with students about car safety. She said the CHP also agreed to have officers come to campus at the start of the next school year as well, for a more formal presentation on safety and drivers’ responsibilities.

“That’s the positive piece,” she said.

The CHP does, by the way, periodically offer a safety class called Start Smart for beginning drivers and their parents. You can call your local CHP office to ask about planned classes.

Bikes and trains

Sacramentan Steve Maviglio brought his bike over to the downtown depot last week, figuring he’d store it in one of the station’s sleek, new bike lockers before hopping on the train for a two-day visit to San Francisco.

He discovered he first needed a “Bikelink” card, which allows you to rent a locker. He went looking around the station but found there is no place to buy one. It turns out you have to get on the train and buy it in the train’s cafe car.

Maviglio had to pedal back to his office a mile away, leave his bike there, then walk back to the depot. Maviglio let train officials and the city know what he thought of the situation.

Capitol Corridor apologized and said it is working on ways of making it easier to get the card, including selling it at stations.

Meanwhile, Sacramento city officials are installing 40 free public bike racks outside the station and soon also will have 30 more spaces available in a secured indoor spot.