Charge-the-Light Brigade HOWARD COUNTY

May 21, 1993

If behavior in traffic reflects overall conduct in American society, things are rapidly getting out of hand. Most motorists seem to think nothing of running a yellow light and an increasing number of motorists tailgate other vehicles that are rushing through red ones. The bloody consequences are described every day in newspapers and on television news. A Columbia woman was killed and her 12-year-old son badly injured when a dump truck ran a red light last month.

The Howard County Police Department is now trying to put a stop to this anarchy. In an innovative program that has few counterparts in the nation, Howard officers are now stationed at some intersections for the purpose of spotting and ticketing drivers who run red lights.

"The whole concept is to try and reduce the number of collisions we have in the county," says Sgt. Glenn A. Hansen, who supervises traffic enforcement.

"There's no profile of the red light runner," the sergeant says. "We've had people of all ages. It's not just young people. Some are upstanding people who are impatient and don't realize the risk they're putting people into."

We hail this enforcement effort.

Too many motorists have clearly forgotten the most fundamental rules of the road. In too many instances, motorists seem to feel mandatory traffic rules are at best optional.

Some of the confusion may have been caused by the relaxation of such rules as a ban on right turns on red signals. As a left turn on red soon becomes permissible in certain conditions, it is time for stepped-up traffic enforcement to make sure roads remain safe. The current fad of running red lights must be curbed -- and not just in Howard County.

Statistics show that failing to grant the right of way is second only to speeding as a cause of traffic accidents. Monitoring problem intersections for red light runners may also help remind motorists to stay within the prescribed speed limit.

Now that the word is out on this new traffic enforcement program, we urge Howard County police to make their presence known at intersections. The more people who get $50 tickets, the more the news will spread. And, it's amazing how a little bit of fear improves most people's driving.

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