Joggers have rights at intersection Close call was driver's fault

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

October 25, 1993

Joggers make lousy hood ornaments.

At least that's the opinion of Eva Sunell, who almost clipped two runners last spring when she was driving near her home in Columbia.

She was traveling west on Cradlerock Way when she stopped at the traffic light at Broken Land Parkway. She wanted to turn right, but the trees to her left blocked her view of traffic on Broken Land, a divided six-lane highway.

So Ms. Sunell inched forward intending to accelerate when she saw a break, her attention focused on the traffic to her left.

"I started to go to the right when I heard a loud shout," she writes. "Immediately, I braked. Coming from the right were two joggers in the road.

"I had never looked right, as it is one way. Had I started faster and clipped them, I know I would be sued (this is Columbia), but who would have been right?

"This incident made me two years older, and I'm 49 now and [have] driven since 18," she writes, adding that, until last spring's incident, "this has never occurred."

Intrepid Commuter is mightily pleased that you have not confronted this situation before. Otherwise, you might have put a serious crimp in Columbia's lucrative market for Spandex exercise wear and Nike running shoes.

As for who would win a lawsuit in this instance, let's put it this way: Know any good lawyers?

You, Ms. Sunell, were wrong not to look for pedestrians coming from both directions.

Our confirmation on this fact comes from Jon Acton, an assistant attorney general who works with Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration.

"Only a judge can say who is right," Mr. Acton says, "but whether turning left or right, you must yield the right of way to vehicles or pedestrians lawfully in the intersection of [the] adjacent sidewalk."

Of course, Ms. Sunell was not helped by the fact that the intersection is poorly marked. While there are sidewalks leading to the intersection, there are no crosswalks painted on the streets or "walk/don't walk" signs to signal pedestrians.

Howard County authorities also should take a look at the visibility at that intersection, particularly the grove of trees that blocked Ms. Sunell's vision.

But the responsibility to avoid such situations in the future ultimately falls on Ms. Sunell's shoulders. She should have known to look both ways -- whether the intersection was properly marked or not.

The fact that she didn't, says Mr. Acton, is a little scary.

"I can't imagine a circumstance that would excuse a driver from looking both ways before turning."

Workers demonstrate Harbor Tunnel vision

Those employees at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, they don't miss a trick.

On Wednesday, an alert tunnel maintenance crew removed a sign just outside the northbound tube that had no business being there.

The sign read, "Turn Lights On," but it faced motorists who were leaving the tunnel. Makes no sense, right? One usually turns lights on before entering and turns them off after exiting.

Whew. Good thing those alert tunnel workers took down that embarrassment, wouldn't you agree?

Of course, it would have been more impressive had the darn thing not been sitting there since March of 1989.

And it would have been even better had they noticed it on their own. It took a letter from gentle reader Alan F. Jackson and the subsequent inquiry by yours truly to get the maintenance crew out there.

Thomas E. Freburger, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said the erroneous sign went up during the renovations of the tunnel four years ago.

A sign that previously occupied that spot instructed drivers to "turn lights off," he said.

"The sign was replaced with this one that doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Mr. Freburger says. "It's amazing that no one else brought it to our attention."

Mr. Freburger had no explanation for how anyone could install a sign so obviously wrong. It might have been put there for those rare occasions when the tube handles two-way traffic (for the benefit of southbound travelers), but even then it still would be useless since it faces the wrong direction.

Mr. Jackson, a Bel Air resident, said he noticed it right away, but expected "someone to discover their faux pas and correct it soon."

"Well, it's been three years now, and I guess no one got the idea that the tunnel cops are now responsible for many dead batteries," Mr Jackson writes.

"How many people dutifully turned their lights on during the day upon exit of the tunnel, only to discover their mistake when they returned to their car after leaving the lights on?"

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