It's Time To Put Brakes On I-95's High-speed Madness

THE OBSERVER

July 21, 1991|By Mark Guidera

Well, it's terror on the highway time.

I have avoided driving that long white stretch of speedway between Harford County and the Baltimore Beltway they call "95" for several months now.

I prefer the serenity and, yes, to me, the safety of the back ways and country roads when I need to travel from my Bel Air office to the Baltimore beehive.

But the fateful moment had come and now hereI am, strapped into my Honda, with a sight taking up my entire rear-view mirror that would bring tears and fears to any of Indy's finest champs: the tell-tale metal grillwork of an 18-wheeler flashing like a heliotrope in the blazing sun.

And it is flashing this message to me: I could roll over top of your pip-squeak Japanese car and neverfeel the thump-a-whump bump.

How many of you Harford daily commuters have known this terror? We are many, I suspect.

This special delight is one of the reasons I hate to travel Interstate 95 between the county and Baltimore. For some reason, I know not why, the truckers in their behemoth machines tailgate anyone traveling under 65 milesan hour. But I can tell you this: No one travels under 65 on 95 between the Susquehanna River and the Baltimore harbor tunnels. No one.

On this trek of mine just the other day, I did a little survey. As I got off the Route 24 exit ramp on to 95, I set my cruise control to57 mph -- that's two miles over the legal speed limit.

Yes, I admit it. I was speeding.

But cars weren't passing me. They were blazing by me.

And if they happened to have the misfortune of getting stuck in the lane behind me, they did not take the clue and drop their speed. Oh my, no.

They flashed their headlights. They laid on their horns.

I didn't wait to see the whites of their eyes. I pulledover to the shoulder.

Grim.

I tried to keep count of the cars breaking the speed limit with a veritable vengeance. But when I got to 30 cars I lost track thanks to a pack of about eight vehicles -- two 18-wheelers and six cars -- that hurled past me with a screaming whoosh!

Ever had a big old bee zoom right on past your head and you think "Jumping lizards, what was that!!"?

Well, my words exactly as I tried to keep from getting rammed, run off the road or just plainkilled on this death trap.

Think I'm overstating my description of this speedway?

Well then think of this: Since Jan. 1, according to the state police, 14 people have been killed on I-95 between the Baltimore Beltway and the Delaware border. It's taken only five accidents to tally that death toll. The most recent accident was Tuesday near White Marsh.

Three people were in the car when when it crashed head-on into a sign pole, killing the driver's 63-year-old mother and80-year-old grandmother. The 39-year-old driver, who police said apparently fell asleep at the wheel, survived.

State Highway Administration officials say they plan to build barriers to keep drivers who lose control of their cars or who fall asleep from careening across the grassy median into oncoming traffic, like you and me.

The governor has even visited some of the sights of the many multiple fatals as if that would make any of the drivers get a grip on reality and slow down.

The police, of course, do what they can.

They chase down the speeders and big trucks they see tailgating little cars.

Butthey are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of traffic. And police or no police, the cars and trucks don't slow down.

On my terror-filledtrip to Baltimore the other day, I spotted the blue and white flashing lights of a state police cruiser that had pulled a motorist over -- I hoped for speeding.

Alas, I did not see the brake lights on any of the cars and trucks light up as they approached the lonesome police cruiser.

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