Those crazy drivers drive us crazy

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

August 17, 1992

Nothing drives us crazier than crazy drivers.

It's obvious from the scores of calls and letters we have received in the intervening weeks that our column on driving habits last month touched a nerve.

Many of you agreed with our observations on the frustration of encountering slowpokes who lumber along in the left lane. Several disagreed, pointing out that almost everyone is exceeding the speed limit to begin with.

"The speed limit is 55 mph. If you drive this speed, be prepared to be passed by 97 percent of all people on the road," writes Cathy Small-Soloway of Owings Mills. "I thought maybe I was misinformed about the speed limit and for a while mused that 695 meant you could drive up to 69.5 mph and still be legal."

We shall have to address the highly emotional topic of speed limits in a future column. But for now, here's a rundown on Our Readers' Top 10 Least Favorite Driving Habits:

1. People who merge before construction zones at the last possible moment, hoping to pass ahead of the early-merge types.

"Ninety-nine percent of the drivers in the lane which is blocked will soon merge to another lane," Marc Schabb of Reisterstown writes. "The other 1 percent will zoom past them at warp speed, screech to a halt at the barricade ahead, and then force themselves into the through lane at the last moment."

2. Lack of turn-signal use.

"My pet peeve on the road is drivers who turn on their left-turn signal only after the light turns green," writes Ann Moment of Baltimore. "If I'd known their intentions, I would not have chosen to be behind them."

3. Tailgating. Not the kind involving parties before football games either.

4. Drivers who pass without giving much clearance -- or warning.

5. Cars that don't allow a respectful distance for trucks.

"Any vehicle weighing that much is very hard to maneuver, turn, slow or stop," Denise C. Taylor points out.

6. Police officers who drive fast and recklessly, but don't appear to be responding to an emergency.

7. Pedestrians who walk, run or power-walk on the road.

"For some reason, they must do their thing at rush hour," writes Orva Rossman of Lutherville. "They will not ever move over to the shoulder or even onto the sidewalks."

8. Drivers who don't dim their lights to approaching traffic.

9. Parallel parkers who leave a big space between their car and the next, reducing the number of cars that park along a block.

10. Unnecessary hand gestures to our fellow drivers, including -- although not limited to -- those that are obscene. "There must be something here in the water that transforms otherwise normal people into animals behind the wheel," Ms. Small-Soloway writes.

(While we generally don't quote our correspondents twice in one column, Intrepid wishes to point out that Ms. Small-Soloway wrote an excellent letter.)

The best approach to driving we have heard comes from a caller in White Marsh. He suggests that people paste this bumper sticker on the back of their vehicles:

"Courtesy is not a sign of weakness -- or timidity."

Amen.

Raphael or Raphel, again

On another recent item, the votes have been counted and it appears that Baltimore County government has goofed again. Alert readers will recall that the county has signs that reflect two different spellings for a Kingsville road: Raphael and Raphel.

So we asked Tom Hamer, deputy director of the Baltimore County Department of Public Works. He consulted a map of county roads and determined it was Raphael.

Whoops.

Longtime residents tell us the correct spelling is Raphel. The road was named for the Raphel family who had a home there for many years, according to a family member.

To smooth over any ruffled feathers from this incident, we suggest a compromise:

Botticelli.

Samaritan countdown

This is the final call for Good Samaritans.

Have you ever been stranded on a dark and lonely stretch of highway only to be saved by a stranger? Had a flat tire changed by a helpful fellow commuter?

The Intrepid Commuter wants to hear your best stories. Write, call, send us a telegram.

You don't even have to know the person's name. We just want to find out if there are still a few heroes around these parts, pilgrim.

Keep in touch

Write to the Intrepid Commuter, c/o The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278. Please include your name and telephone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.

Or use your Touch-Tone phone to call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at 783-1800, and enter Ext. 4305. Call 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County.

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