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Where Can You Get A Wheel Cramping Ticket In San Diego? (Hint: Almost Anywhere)

March 25, 2019 1:08 p.m.

GUEST: Claire Trageser, investigative reporter, KPBS News

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Related Story: Where Can You Get A Wheel Cramping Ticket In San Diego? (Hint: Almost Anywhere)


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Have you ever gotten a wheel cramping ticket? More than 1000 a month are written in San Diego for drivers who didn't turn their wheels toward a curb when parked on a hill. That's according to data analyze by KPBS investigative reporter Claire Triggers or walks us through what the data shows and tells us how we can avoid those annoying tickets. Sarah Linki was visiting

Speaker 2: 00:22 old town with her parents and had the good fortune of finding a parking spot when we had parks here on the streets and didn't see any signs right. Parked, came back to the car. I had a ticket, the ticket was for not cramping her cars, wheels. And then we um, look to see if there was a sign and there was a sign way at the top of the hill. Um, but I mean it wasn't even a weapon site.

Speaker 1: 00:48 San Diego is parking rules. Say you have to cramp your wheels on any hill with a slope of 3% or greater. Whether or not there's a sign, but how would you know what constitutes a 3% slope?

Speaker 3: 01:00 You can hold this level for me, just elevate this side until we get that bubble falls between those two lines.

Speaker 2: 01:07 David Ramirez is with the San Diego police traffic division, so I will measure from the opposite side to get the rise. Usually measure slopes when investigating traffic collisions. To do it, you need a level, a tape measure and so

Speaker 1: 01:24 middle school math for those who need a refresher, here you go. The length of the level is 48 inches. Ramirez hold it level with one end touching the higher ground then measures the distance from the other end to the lower ground or 1.25 inches. Those are the two sides of a right triangle and the slope is the rise over the run or in this case 2.6% so not the 3% slope required to cramp your wheels, but he says police don't usually take this measurement when writing, we'll cramping ticket.

Speaker 3: 01:59 If anyone is going to be writing tickets for not cramping the wheels on this slope, then they have already done their homework. They already know on on this certain roadway at this location the, they'll have the slope written down somewhere, but

Speaker 1: 02:11 that may not always be true. Most tickets are written in areas that have slope greater than 3% Justin Palmer is an expert in geographic information systems mapping or Gis. He created a map of all the points where we'll cramping tickets were written in San Diego since 2015 it was more than 40,000 tickets. Then you compare that with a map of elevations and slopes and found some tickets may have been written where they shouldn't have been, but it did come out in the data that close to 10% or maybe even a little over 10% of these points could have potentially been written in and slopes less than 3% but it's a little tricky to say this for sure. The wheel cramping ticket is supposed to be based on the slope of the exact location of where you parked her car, but the police officer writing and take it might not put down the exact address, sometimes just a nearby intersection or the entire city block. I went out with Palmer to test out some of the points he'd found for tickets

Speaker 2: 03:12 that might've been Britain unfairly, so specific location, you would not need to grab your wheels here, but when we walked just a little down the street

Speaker 1: 03:27 street, we found there was a 3% slope. This is about exactly the 3% right here. Got It. Then you can see from just kind of looking at it that it's not that steep. This was the other important takeaway. A 3% slope really doesn't look like much. It was a barely perceptible. Hill. Palmer says the data shows you really should always cramp your wheels to avoid a ticket. He says the most common spots to get a ticket are downtown, uptown, and around colleges. Sarah Linky, who learned this wheel cramping lesson the hard way, says she won't make the mistake again. Even if I'm on

Speaker 2: 04:08 the slightest of hills that I don't even think would qualify. I make sure to grab my wheels because I just don't want another $65 ticket.

Speaker 1: 04:16 Joining me is KPBS reporter Claire Tricks her. Claire, welcome. Thank you. Maureen. I have to ask you, why did you decide to investigate? We'll cramping? Well, if I'm being perfectly honest, it's because I got a wheel cramping ticket myself. I was parked outside the gym, uh, near Qualcomm stadium in what I think looked like barely a hill. It's not something I would've thought to cramp my wheels on and I got a parking ticket and talk to people at the gym and they said, Oh yeah, you know, people report that a lot actually, that people come up and down the street parking enforcement and write tickets for all the cars. And I used a mapping tool online to measure the slope of the hill and it was actually the 3% grade required. So I found out the hard way that even if it doesn't look like a hill, it might be enough to warrant to take it.

Speaker 1: 05:08 Now, just to be clear, we'll cramping means if you're parking downhill, you turn your front wheels into the curb, parking uphill, you turn your front wheels away from the curb so your car won't accidentally roll into traffic if your brakes fail. Right. Are Rolling cars a big problem in San Diego? Uh, not that I can tell. Um, I think that it's more dates back to a time where there were maybe more stick shift cars and you might have, if the brake failed, the, the extra parking brake failed. Um, it, it could roll. Um, so with modern cars the way they are today, I don't think that it's something that that happens quite as much. So is this 3% grade test a state requirement? It not as far as I can tell the, the state laws just say that you need to curb your wheels on a hill.

Speaker 1: 05:59 Um, but I don't think that they have a specific grade. But I checked around with different cities in the state and it looks like most of them do use this 3%. Definitely in San Francisco where there are a lot of hills, but they say 3% as well. If you don't usually travel around with a level, is there any way mean who doesn't? Is there any other way to spot a 3% grade? Uh, I mean it really, it's basically now that I've done this story, I would say if it looks like any, if it's not completely flat, any little bit of a hill, it's probably 3%. They do make these new pieces of technology that you can just put, put down and it will tell you what the slope is. So I guess if you wanted to, you could get one of those, but I would say just to be safe, if it's any kind of hill, just cramp your wheels.

Speaker 1: 06:52 It only takes a second. How much money does the city bring in each year from these wheel cramping tickets? So the tickets are $60. I believe that's how much mine was. Um, and uh, there's, uh, about, I think I said in the story about a thousand a month, a month, it ends up being about one point $3 million a year. I don't know. You know, it's hard to say if every ticket ended up with people paying the fine, maybe some people got out of it or something like that. But that, that was my calculation. So to see where we'll cramping tickets were written, you can head over to and see a map of where most of the tickets were written. When we take a look at those maps, Claire showing where these tickets are written, what will we find? That's right. So we, we use the data from the police department, um, to create a map so you can see the point where every single ticket since, uh, 2015 was written and most are clustered around areas where there are a lot of hills say banker's hill or in old town, places like that.

Speaker 1: 07:57 But it's also I think in areas where parking enforcement might be out already say around, uh, San Diego State University where we are. Um, there's people looking for people breaking parking roles and so then they might also find people who are breaking wheel cramping roles. So anywhere like downtown, um, places where you would expect to maybe get a parking ticket. A less though in residential neighborhoods where someone might not be going on and looking for people breaking other parking rules. That's, that was my point. It, there were more in urban areas, not many in the suburbs. Even though they're, they are all city streets and they all have slopes. Right. So w w did you discover any reasons for that discrepancy? Well, just like what I said that um, you know, it depends on where there might be. I don't think that parking enforcement is usually often traveling down, say a suburban street looking for people breaking parking roles cause that would for the most part be a waste of time.

Speaker 1: 08:57 Um, so it's more often in the places where they're looking for people where there's maybe a parking limit, time limit meters, things like that, that they would also then find people breaking these rules. And so this story is bound to generate a lot of conversation as it has already. Yeah. What have you heard? Um, oh, just, I mean, you know, if you look on social media, a lot of people have these stories. It seems like people learn this lesson about cramping their wheels by getting a parking ticket. Cause as we say in the story, there doesn't have to be assign. Sometimes there are signs on really steep hills where it's really an issue of safety. They want to make sure that people have cramped their wheels so the cars don't go rolling down the hill. But otherwise, someone might not even know this is a rule until they get a parking ticket. And so, you know, we've been hearing stories like that. Yeah. Are you going to follow up this report? If people have stories that they would like to tell me mean, they can always email me. You can find me on the staff page at Kpbs, depending on what we hear. I think this is a popular story, so it can always use a follow up. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Claire Teargas or Claire. Thank you. Thank you.