Back-Seat Driver

‘Will I get a ticket if I ...?’

Parking meters stand near Sacramento’s City Hall in Sacramento.
Parking meters stand near Sacramento’s City Hall in Sacramento.

Reader Don Mutkala, the kind of guy who clearly likes to get things done now, is bugged by one aspect of his annual DMV vehicle registration process.

“I just received my new tags, but the paperwork says it is not valid until May 28,” he says. “Logically, I would say it’s OK to toss the old (registration), but if I get stopped ... the officer could give me a hard time if the new date hasn’t kicked in yet.”

It’s a small matter, but small matters can trip you up, especially when you know what the right answer ought to be, but don’t know if officials see it your way.

In this case, officials agree with Mutkala. The DMV says don’t worry, you can toss the old form early as long as you put the new registration paper in your car.

By the way, there’s a 2013 state law that says you don’t have to have proof of insurance in paper form in your car, if you have a copy of it on your smartphone. We know a guy who got stopped by Sacramento police last year and just handed his iPhone to the officer to show his insurance info, and the officer was fine with that.

Reader Jeffrey Wells ran into another of those annoying little uncertainties as well recently. He parked at a downtown meter that turned out to be jammed or broken. He couldn’t get through to the city on his cellphone to report it. Would he get a ticket if he stayed parked there?

No. At least in principle, that shouldn’t happen. City parking official Mike King said it is OK to go ahead and park at a broken meter. But you could be cited if you overstay your welcome. “For example, if a driver parks in a one-hour zone, even though s/he cannot pay the meter, if the car is there for more than an hour, it is subject to citation for ‘overtime,’ ” King wrote.

Wells’ cellphone was one of those that couldn’t connect with the city’s 311 phone report line. But that shouldn’t be an issue anymore either. The city next week will have largely finished installing its new generation of smart meters throughout the central city. How smart are those meters? If the meter malfunctions, it phones home itself, alerting city maintenance crews. That way, meters don’t sit around broken for days until some driver reports it to the city.

Now that the new smart meters are in, the city will expand its pay-by-phone system. Parkers will be able to use a smartphone app, called Parkmobile, to add time on the meter from anywhere, like an office or restaurant, instead of running back to the meter. The city has been testing the app in Old Sacramento and near City Hall. Officials plan to expand it next to midtown.

I was checking the app out recently and accidentally bought an hour on a meter in Old Sac. From my house. With my car parked in my driveway. Felt pretty dumb.

Ultimately, the city may allow parkers to use the app to buy more time than the meter limit, if they are willing to pay a higher price. The City Council will have to decide whether it’s willing to add that option, and how much the additional charge should be.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee