Did a speeder cut you off? Get even: Rat for the police


August 15, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Do other drivers tick you off? Get your goat? Make your blood boil?

Relax! Help is on the way!

A few weeks ago, I was listening to my car radio when a very intriguing public service announcement came on.

The Maryland State Police were sponsoring something called "Project Good Guys."

Here is the way it works:

You see a driver who does something rotten like cutting you off. You jot down his license number. When you can, you call the nearest state police barracks. And they go out and get the guy.

I like this idea very much.

I don't know where they got the name "Project Good Guys."

"Project Rat" would be more accurate.

But I like it nonetheless.

The state police want you especially to watch out for bad drivers doing the following: speeding, passing a stopped school bus, drugged driving, failing to use child safety seats, unsafe lane changes, failing to grant right-of-way, failing to wear safety belts, following too closely, exceeding 55 mph speed limit, drunken driving.

When you see any of those, you call the cops and say: "I'm a Good Guy. There's a green Chevy, License Number Such-and-Such. He changed lanes right in front of me without signaling. Go get him and please use excessive force."

Sure this is a little like George Orwell's "1984," in which children were encouraged to report their parents to Big Brother for infractions of the rules, but tough times demand tough measures.

And traffic times are tough.

According to the 1993 report of the Association of American Geographers, which does a "driving census" of America every seven years, rush "hours" are disappearing in this country and are being replaced by rush "days," in which bumper-to-bumper traffic exists from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

And in the last seven years, "the percentage of commuters who drive themselves -- and only themselves -- to work rose from 70.8 per cent to 83.2 per cent."

It is no mystery to me why the percentage of people driving alone has increased:

It's because most drivers are so crazy that nobody will sit in the same car with them.

In other states, there is little one can do about it. But in Maryland, one of the most progressive states in the nation, you can.

You can rat.

I called the state police and asked what really happens when you call and report an insane driver.

"If possible, the closest state police barracks will try to stop the car," spokesman Mike McKelvin told me. "If that is not possible, ++ they will notify the driver that he has been observed driving unsafely."

L And will they rough him up? I asked. Or shoot out his tires?

McKelvin apparently thought I was joking, because he chuckled and said: "They will notify the driver that he has been observed and will give him a verbal warning. We will also give him a brochure and ask him to join us in Project Good Guys to make the roads safer."

McKelvin explained that the police couldn't actually go out and arrest the bad drivers if no officer had observed them breaking the law.

"And we recognize that people could abuse this to report someone they just don't like," he said.

So the system is not perfect.

In a perfect system, anyone I ratted on would be dragged from his bed at 3 in the morning and slapped around a little.

That would be for a first offense. For a second offense, he would be handcuffed, put in a cage and pulled through the streets while his neighbors tossed compost at him. For a third offense, they would take away his TV.

But the Good Guys system has been working.

Since July, when it began, about five complaint calls have been received each day by the state police.

This is way too low, however.

We all know there are more than five lousy drivers out there per day.

I am doing my part. I am writing down the tag numbers of every lousy driver I see and I am going to turn them over to the state police so these creeps can be inconvenienced, enraged and humiliated, if not actually shot.

And I encourage all of you to do the same.

So if you are a lousy driver, don't say I didn't give you fair warning:

The rats are watching you.

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