Who recently took an automobile trip through...

A COLLEAGUE

October 23, 1993

A COLLEAGUE who recently took an automobile trip through six states to the north wonders what ever happened to that quaint old custom of driving to the right.

Motorists know that they must stay right of the center line on ordinary roads, and they stay off the medians on divided highways.

But what of keeping to the right on the multi-lane interstates?

In some states like New Jersey, it's the law to keep right except when passing. Some drivers actually do it. Elsewhere, Maryland included, the fashion is to avoid the right-hand lane as if it were dangerous.

When four lanes are available, as is the case along much of Interstate 95 in Maryland, the favored lanes are the first and second from the median, even when there are no cars to the right.

Our colleague saw drivers refusing to pull over into the right-hand lane -- even refusing to give way to marked police cars until the officers flashed their lights.

Some oddball drivers who keep to the right, so they don't have to worry about their blind sides, find they are often in the fast lane. Passing on the right is not the safest practice, especially when other drivers are startled by such temerity. But the alternative is moving across two lanes in order to pass a slowpoke in what should be a fast lane -- not an especially desirable move either.

Why doesn't Maryland require drivers to keep to the right except when passing?

Traffic experts here favor reserving the right lane for entering and leaving high-speed roads, even when interchanges are miles apart.

Driving down the middle permits dodging in both directions to avoid trouble. But experts in other states disagree, as does our colleague.

* * *

CURT SCHILLING'S emergence as the Philadelphia Phillies' pitching hero in post-season play this fall arouses bitter-sweet memories in many a Baltimore baseball fan.

For he is one big bird the Orioles let fly away, one of three young players (the others: All-Star pitcher Pete Harnisch and starting outfielder Steve Finley) traded in early 1991 for one big bust named Glenn Davis.

One such fan encountered Schilling, then just a 23-year-old kid and an unimpressive figure in the Orioles bullpen, at a Festival of Trees luncheon just before Christmas 1990.

He was at the luncheon to provide a bit of glamour and as part of the ball club's community activism campaign.

When asked how he liked pitching for the Orioles, Schilling said he loved it. It was his fondest hope, he rambled on, to play in the new stadium that was to be constructed at Camden Yards.

He never got the chance. He was traded to the Houston Astros in 1991 and then to the Phillies just as Camden Yards was opening its gates for the first time.

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