Thursday, December 6, 2012


Highway Patrol, Italian Lambo style.
HEY FOLKS: I’m back. Hope all is going well. I’m still here--Been busy the past few months and weeks with other pursuits, one of which is my book I'm almost finished writing, so I figured that I had enough content posted here to keep you busy until another topic comes up on my police radar. For those of you following me on Twitter @SgtAlCastro, I have been posting interesting news articles that are somehow related to my posts, so I suggest you click here to follow so you can get interesting stories related to traffic, transportation, vehicles, the police, the law, and crime. Keep on re-pinning and following me on Pinterest with my unusual and interesting photos, and if you by chance find me using one of your photos to your praise or objection please let me know as I try to make everyone happy to success sometimes failure. Part of the reason for the absence is because only a few of you have any questions to ask me so don’t be shy: use the form below or leave me a message after each post. The following is an interesting question that someone asked me not long ago so here I go:
One of my most favorite roads I've ever driven on, next to the Pacific Coast Highway near the Big Sur in California, is the Merritt Parkway which stretches from north of New York City in Westchester County, into Connecticut. This is a driver's road, which means it can be equally as dangerous if you're not careful, and if you don't have an excellent car in which to drive.
HELLO SERGEANT AL: Without me flipping back and forth on Wiki or Google to go crazy to learn the differences, can you tell us in a nutshell what’s the difference between a highway, expressway, freeway, thruway, parkway, turnpike, causeway, and drive? HEY, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING.
Very much like the FDR Drive in Manhattan (pictured further down below in this post), Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, Illinois (pictured here) is also at some points multilevel and also seems to be perpetually under construction/repair to the dismay of both New Yorkers and Chicagoans, respectively.

HEY, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING: Unless you want to spend an afternoon reading Wikipedia, the basic difference you need to know between all aforementioned roadways is that most likely you will have to pay a toll on a turnpike or a thruway, but not always. Most of the other venues are mostly free, paid by your taxes of some kind with some exceptions. Almost all of them are some kind of public or limited access highway with speeds faster than local roads, and just a very few of them are private roadways owned by something like a corporation, authority, even a sole property owner. Just about all of them have some kind of truck restriction for things such as but not exclusively limited to NO TRUCKS AT ALL, or a slower speed limit for commercial vehicles and buses, or a fee or weight restriction in which an operator of a large vehicle can use the roadway. If the roadway is a major thoroughfare don’t be surprised if it has an HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane, and that the HOV lane is restricted but heavily used during certain times of the day. Just about all of them are somehow funded by local, state, and national or federal governments, with a few subsidized additionally by tolls you pay as you go through.

Arguably the most impressive roadway system in the world outside of the ones built in Europe by the Romans is the Eisenhower Interstate System of the United States where it has been integrated into most of North America if not the Western Hemisphere, designed by and for the military to move troops and military equipment across the continent for the defense of the homeland if necessary, but built by civilian authority for mostly day-to-day civilian/interstate commerce use. There are some notable differences between each kind of road however, some of which I have noted here for your interest:
I can only imagine what an angry Roman General Octavian was going through as he was briskly marching his armies back to Rome on one of these cobbled stoned puppies after receiving word of the assassination of Julius Caesar so that he could go back to avenge his mentor's death.  Boy did the Roman Senate who killed Caesar ultimately pay the price for these roads then, and these roads seem to be just as reliable for just about any purpose now.

1. A road or drive seems to be the oldest form of foot and/or vehicle travel dating back to about 10,000 B.C. A drive (i.e. Wacker or FDR) is a roadway that is built with the intention of going from an intended specific point A to a specific point B, as opposed to just a road built to get past though or by something. It seems the pharaoh-ruled ancient Egyptians and other Middle Easterners like the Persians invented the stone paved road, and then the Romans a few thousand years later perfected it to a near science. The Indians (a la Asia) introduced us to brick roads (I frequently wonder about the yellow ones to Oz to help out Dorothy), which happened about 4000 BC, and it was the British around that same time that introduced us to roads made of logs called corduroy. Any major changes to the locale or process of road building are usually done by the military leading up to if not throughout a campaign of warfare, even to this day. It wasn’t until around the mid-16th century that civilian government instead of the military took over most of the responsibility for road building during peacetime, to failure at first as the British learned the hard way about having the civilian government do the job of road building. Once the British perfected the process, it took off like wildfire to the New World and beyond, just like and alongside the Industrial Revolution. This is where the process was later duplicated during the 19th century on railways. ALL turnpikes, causeways, parkways, freeways, drives, highways, and throughways are roads.
You've seen this picture before on my blog, as it is Photoshopped but regardless still compelling here as it is in real life: this is the I-405, the San Diego Freeway in western Los Angeles, California during rush hour. I can testify to this fact as I could be any one of these cars you see here in this picture, as it really does feel this way when you're driving on it. OJ Simpson, his infamous white Ford Bronco, and thus the rest of the world is familiar with it, as this is by far the most traveled and busiest highway in the United States. Recently I wrote about its closure at the Sepulveda Pass in an event which was famously called "Carmageddon."
2. A highway is usually a major road governed by state or provincial jurisdiction and is sometimes but not necessarily always elevated from the level ground from which it is normally paved.
This is the I-495 Long Island Expressway heading westbound toward New York City. It is infamously known as the "L.I.E." or LIE (as in deception) or the Long Island DISTRESSWAY, and is one of the busiest and most traveled roads in the United States.
3. A freeway or expressway is usually a public access highway that mostly has free passage usually for passenger cars, but not always, and less so the case for larger vehicles that are usually subjected to stricter rules and/or fees governing such roads. If you are driving on a throughway or thruway, keep your pocket change handy, as most likely you might have to pay a toll, especially if you have a larger vehicle. Some freeways and expressways are throughways, but not all throughways and expressways are freeways.
I think this is one of the most clever made signs I've seen  in my police career, but unfortunately some truck drivers are still dumb enough or blind not to get it or see it: posted here at the eastbound I-95 Cross Bronx Expressway in the Bronx, New York near Jerome Avenue, which is the most busiest highway on the east coast of the United States, is this sign as it's supposed to warn all truck drivers coming off the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey that their vehicles are not welcomed on parkways. You'd be amazed how many times this sign is disobeyed.
4. A parkway is a limited access roadway or highway that is usually lavishly landscaped with tress and/or shrubbery and depending on its location is adjacent or leads to or from some kind of park. Think more of a high-speed boulevard. A common feature of parkways are low overpasses and narrow lanes that make it difficult for large vehicles to negotiate. Because of this, commercial and/or bus traffic is sometimes partially or permanently restricted, which is what usually makes it a limited access roadway. According to the New York City Department of Transportation the Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York is the world’s first parkway brought to you by the makers of Manhattan’s Central Park. Sometimes a toll is charged for a parkway depending on how its maintenance is funded.
This is the Robert Moses Causeway that leads from the south shore of Long Island at the Southern State Parkway to the western tip of Fire Island where the Captree Boat Basin and Robert Moses State Park, Beach, and Lighthouse are located. The causeway span above is called the Fire Island Inlet Bridge.
5. A causeway usually is a combination of roadway(s) and bridge(s) that stretches over a large tract, sometimes land, usually a body of water or a combination. You can argue that the scenic and iconic Seven Mile Bridge to Key West Florida is a causeway (and a highway and a freeway), but the one that goes to my favorite beach is called the Robert Moses Causeway, which includes the Fire Island Inlet Bridge south on Long Island, New York to Robert Moses and Captree State Parks. It’s where I spent many days of my youth there, summer and winter, especially after I learned how to drive and had my first car. If you go up the hill not far from the house I grew up in the Town of Babylon, New York, you can see the bridge along with almost the entire western south shore of Suffolk County, Long Island. 

The Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, Florida is probably one of the most iconic causeways of the world. It was also once the longest bridge in the world. The span on the left is wider and new, and the span on the right is the old one and once served as railroad tracks during the turn of the last century. It is no longer in use.

6. A turnpike is a straight up toll road in most cases. If I were driving on unfamiliar digs to see a sign that says TURNPIKE AHEAD I would get my toll money ready.  The New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida’s are the most famous ones that come to my mind. All three have tolls. All turnpikes are throughways but not all throughways are turnpikes or freeways.

SO HEY, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, with all this in mind, try to remember this:

ALL turnpikes, causeways, parkways, freeways, drives, expressways, and throughways are roads.

ALL roads are not necessarily ALL turnpikes, causeways, parkways, freeways, drives, expressways, or throughways. Sometimes a road is just a road.

ALL turnpikes, causeways, parkways, freeways, drives, expressways, and throughways are highways and roadways.

ALL highways and roadways are not necessarily ALL turnpikes, causeways, parkways, freeways, drives, expressways, and throughways.

A parkway is usually a roadway, but not always a throughway, freeway, drive, highway, or a turnpike.

Some freeways and expressways are throughways, but not all throughways and expressways are freeways.

All turnpikes are throughways but not all throughways are turnpikes.

And not all turnpikes are freeways and not all freeways are turnpikes.

Do you get it?

If you don’t, that’s OK.

Just make sure you drive carefully regardless of what kind of road you’re on.

And remember this: wherever you are, there you go . . .

And let me know if you have a question you want me to answer here on my blog.

Be safe my friends, always.


Another typical day on the FDR Drive in New York City's Manhattan by the Williamsburg Bridge.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012


DEAR SERGEANT AL: Last weekend during Carmageddon II, I was caught rollerblading on the San Diego Freeway, not far from the construction, but closer to one of the fringe detours. The CHP officer who was blocking the exit ramp wasn’t having it and was adamant about giving me a ticket. I can understand if the highway was open to traffic, but c’mon, it was closed and I just bladed one exit over for a shortcut. Given that the highway was closed the weekend for construction, is there any chance I might be able to get this ticket dismissed in court? – LUKE BLADEWALKER
DEAR MASTER LUKE: Ah, I see the force definitely wasn’t with you on this caper. You must be one of the fab seven who got ticketed by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) on the 405 for being a pedestrian on the highway while it was closed for construction. It is difficult for me to garner any sympathy for you. Like your road warrior colleagues of Carmegeddon 1 last year, the young couple who decided to pull up chairs and a table on an empty car-less I-405 while road construction was underway and snapped a picture that went viral on Facebook, your actions could have had more serious consequences than the prank you all thought was funny and novel. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Did you know for example, that a big chunk of the old Mulholland Bridge inadvertently collapsed on an empty 405 below during demolition, an unexpected consequence of them tearing down the old bridge? Had one of those crew workers been injured, an ambulance would have been needed. If one responded, there you would have been, blading away in the way of the ambulance out of nowhere, and possibly causing an accident by the ambulance swerving out of your way or running you over. Since the road was supposed to be empty, any emergency vehicle would have had the expectation that there should be no obstruction, to race to the scene right into your prank that would have turned into a tragedy. Sorry, but you deserved this ticket. Consider yourself lucky; as in some jurisdictions around the country, a pedestrian on a highway is considered either a criminal court summonsable offense or an outright arrest. Either way the CHP officer could have hauled your ass into LA Superior Court if he wanted to.

On the other hand, the CHP spokesman who spoke to the LA Times deserves a raspberry for his comment about the newly wed couple getting a ticket as “a wedding present” after being caught on the highway while it was closed on the day after they got married. I wonder if he would ever want to get a “wedding present” like that by the police one day, especially after he retires. It doesn’t help the PR relations cause of the CHP to be giving out “wedding presents” of such nature. The CHP is not in the business of giving out "presents," nor joking about such things isn't really funny except in the police locker room. Not a good choice of words, CHP guy. Luv the CHP I do, but next time just tell the media a couple got a ticket and leave it at that. It’s enough that the CHP is in the business of ticket writing to not be making snide comments to aggravate the situation to rub it in and mitigate the CHP’s reputation for that matter.

Anyway LUKE, the California Vehicle Code is awash in regulation from Sections 21949-21971 that makes it clear whether you a walker, skate or snow boarder, blade runner, skater, skier, electric or regular bicyclist, or just a plain jackass to do something stupid like relocating your booty onto to a public access highway, opened or closed, without it being inside a motor vehicle. Rules are rules, and I’m afraid they got you. My suggestion, however, is to hire a lawyer, a traffic one in particular, as this ticket screams of being resolved with a lesser charge and a negotiated settlement if not a clever defense for acquittal or dismissal. Hell, although the chances are remote, you might even find a lenient or sympathetic judge who gets it, and will let you slide on this one. Personally, I think there’s a chance you might have to go to traffic school with this caper with a promise never to do it again, so it’s best to let a lawyer do the talking for you to increase the odds of that happening. BUT BE CAREFUL: go about it yourself and you may put yourself in a situation where the judge will make an example out of you which I can also see happening if you're not careful . . .

Highways were made for vehicles, not pedestrians. Carmeggeddon II was an event. The Mulholland Overpass is a new bridge. We all did our best to stay away from it. You foolishly chose to go toward it. We all got over it. So should you. Keep your feet off the highway. Like the song goes, “nobody walks in LA.” MASTER LUKE lemme know what happens in court. Good luck.

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What's a Carmageddon II?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The new system.
DEAR SERGEANT AL: What is the National Terrorism Advisory System, and how is it different from the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System? – A DEAD TERRORIST EXACTS REVENGE RESISTANCE OVER REASON
The old one.
DEAR AD TERROR: Happy National Patriot’s Day my fellow American or American supporter, and thanks for your question that I chose to save for and post on this somber commemorative and faithful day that is the anniversary of the terror attacks 11 years ago today on the same Tuesday. My condolences and respects to those we lost then and subsequently thereafter as a result of those cowardly acts, and may we continue on our path toward rebuilding and strengthening ourselves to show the world our resolve. I also make special mention of our troops and intelligence gathering people EVERYWHERE in the world, even in those parts of the world that we do not publicly know of, that are assigned or deployed in dangerous areas with the duty to protect us. God bless you all and thank you for your service to our great nation.

Right after September 11th, the American people needed to have an easy to understand terror alert system to help in our defense of the homeland, and for a time a color coded alert system served its purpose well. Initiated by the G.W. Bush Administration right after the attacks, the color-coded system gave us a level of the threat and what actions were needed to counter the effects of an impending threat or attack. Green was the least threatening and red was most severe. This was an appropriate system at the time when as you remember we were not sure when the overall threat would be abated, when we also were trying to neutralize crises like the anthrax threat that was ongoing for several weeks, and the small cowardly incidents like the shoe bomber after the initial attacks. Don’t forget the impending threat of attacks against the west coast that came in early 2002. Also remember that this system was also used for the run up to both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and through both of their courses, as we didn’t initially know how severe a threat the repercussions would be from our involvement in both countries. As one war came winding down, and the other saw our involvement approach a ten-year mark, a different strategy to terror warning had to be created.

Realizing that keeping people on a perpetual alert status wasn’t serving anyone well at the risk of drowning out a new, fresh, severe, or more credible message, the Department of Homeland Security in April 2009 instituted a new system that would alert the public only if a credible threat needed to be advised, and once alerted what steps were needed to abate or neutralize the threat.  If you look in the right hand column of your screen you will see a DHS banner that advises the terror alert if any.

So from now on instead of getting a color, you will be given a specific threat and what actions you need to do to protect yourself. The threat will also be location specific if need be, instead of blanketing the whole country if such a threat only pertains to a local area. For more details I suggest you click here to go to the DHS website to find out more information and to get a banner for your website or blog to monitor the DHS site for any alerts. The White House has a great site from a blog entry made by Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano explaining the new system.

By using this new system, an alert will stand out better than the old way, which might get lost in a terror watch blur. Please remember that the Al Qaeda pests, the infestation they are, are still amongst us trying to cowardly commandeer wide body airliners and to taint our mail or parcel deliveries. Be ever more vigilant! I hope this answers your question. Thanks for asking!

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