Citizen Directs Traffic Since Cops Won't—And Gets a Ticket

Did you notice the traffic jam at Fair Oaks Avenue and Huntington Drive Thursday?

You may have noticed a man wearing a bright orange shirt directing traffic at the corner of Fair Oaks and Huntington Drive at 8 a.m. Thursday.

It was South Pas resident Alan Ehrlich, who says traffic was backed up for blocks due to a broken traffic light. He noticed the mess when taking his kids to school and decided to take initiative.

"Traffic was backed up forever. Traffic spilling over to the side streets. No police or traffic control officers present, so I put on a bright orange shirt to make sure I was visible, and I grabbed two orange safety flags," said Ehrlich.

Onlookers say traffic was cleared within 10 to 15 minutes of Ehrlich directing vehicles.  

Yet after about 20 minutes, he was issued a citation by South Pas Police for "pedestrian on roadway," he said. And the police told him that they are not required under California law to regulate the traffic. 

Currently, there are several stop signs set up throughout the intersection directing traffic. (See attached video and photos for a visual.)

"This is an unplanned Edison service outage in the area due to extreme heat," said Public Works Director Shin Furukawa. "Their website currently says power is expected to be restored by 11 p.m. tonight. The City has set up temporary stop signs for traffic control purposes."

Yet this isn't the first time this specific set of lights have gone out. And residents are nervous of the safety hazards that come with it.  

"The light goes out periodically," said Richard Gerrish, who owns at the Corner of Fair Oaks and Huntington. "There's been at least one incident where a traffic officer was there."

"The 20 minutes while I was observing the intersection prior to Alan showing up, I saw many accidents that could have occurred," he continued. 

Ehrlich says he hopes to see the City implement a formal traffic management policy. He has already scheduled appointments with City staff and will be presenting his concerns at the next City Council meeting. 

did not respond to Patch in time for this article.

What the Law Says

According to Section 125 of the California Streets and Highways
, "traffic may be regulated by warning signs, lights, appropriate control devices, or by a person or persons controlling and directing the flow of traffic." 

"It is unlawful for any person to disobey the traffic directions of a person appointed or authorized by a local authority to regulate traffic pursuant to subdivision," the law goes on to say.

Section 21100 of the state's vehicle code also states that "local authorities may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance or resolution regarding various situations, including "regulating traffic by means of a person given temporary or permanent appointment for that duty by the local authority when official traffic control devices are disabled or otherwise inoperable, at the scenes of accidents or disasters, or at locations as may require traffic direction for orderly traffic flow."

Click on the video to your right to see footage of cars driving through the intersection.

Click here to read Police Chief Joe Payne's response to the traffic incident.

Patch Asks: Do you think the City should implement a formal traffic management policy? If so, what are your ideas and concerns? 

TRT September 12, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Did Mr. Ehrlich's intent/actions resolve the traffic jam problem? Yes, it did. Unfortunately, we live in a society where everybody says "it does not concern me", afraid of litigation, etc.. Therefore, it is great to see someone stepping up to help others. I am glad that I read this article and the comments. Let’s do not forget that he made a personal choice to help and he succeeded. I do not know him but it seems like he is a concerned citizen. Of course, we all have to be sure that we are safe when we are helping a person, animal etc. Personally I do not think that he was putting himself in danger when, thankfully, 99.9 percent of the drivers are smart enough not to create a dangerous situation for the person helping them during a traffic jam. By the way, I will not stop helping others in need just because I might get cited…... and I hope you will too. Let’s void the citation and give him a warning after explaining the SPPD and/or State rules and regulations and move on. ….
Ron Rosen September 13, 2011 at 01:21 AM
No doubt Mr. Ehrlich will fight the ticket in court. It will be interesting to hear what the judge has to say. TV cameras will be rolling. If you google the story, you'll find that it's being picked up by papers and websites all over the country. The media loves stories like this.
DC September 13, 2011 at 01:35 PM
So that's what this country has come to ..... today we have laws that take away the right of a citizen to attempt to step in and solve a problem... so sad.
Mike September 13, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Since no one can come to agreement about Mr. Ehrlich's actions, there is but one thing to do. Leave your cars at home and walk!
JT September 14, 2011 at 05:22 AM
I must say, SPPD Chief Joe Payne and his department don’t make a very good impression. Judging from this incident and other empirical data, I’d guess Joe and his department may not understand their role in the community, and may well be failing on a number of fronts. It’s even possible the SPPD does more harm than good. Too bad for South Pas.


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