Beltway commuter learns rude driving isn't necessarily illegal


March 21, 1994

The Beltway is rife with bozos.

Take the ones Elaine Whitman observes on a regular basis. Please. She sees enough clowns to recruit for Ringling Bros.

Ms. Whitman has the misfortune of traveling the north side of the Beltway each day during rush hour, west in the mornings and east in the afternoons. Often, it takes her a good hour to get through the traffic.

Adding to her frustration is the behavior of some jokers on the Inner Loop. When traffic is backed up, it is the practice of these buffoons to swoop into the far right lane -- the York Road exit-only lane.

"They then race down the exit," the Essex resident writes.

"Right before the lane begins curving upward, they jam in on some unsuspecting driver who thought (rightfully so) that this buffoon was actually going to York Road."

"Isn't this illegal? Is there anything the authorities can do about it? Is there anything the highway engineers can do about it?

The answers: No. Not much. Hardly anything.

As Intrepid Commuter has pointed out before, the world is filled with annoying people. Sometimes it's difficult to do much about that fact.

Sgt. Steve Doarnberger, spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department, says it's not illegal for people to drive in the right lane and merge back into traffic. The behavior is rude, but not illegal.

Obviously, if the driver merges in a reckless manner or is %J speeding, that would be a violation.

The State Highway Administration also is a bit stumped on how (( to correct the problem. The right lane already is clearly marked as for exiting only.

"This isn't born of confusion, it's born of impatience on the part of some drivers," says Darrell Wiles, an SHA assistant district engineer for traffic.

"They are not being trapped in there unknowingly," he adds.

Mr. Wiles says he will consider adding two features, a right-turn only arrow painted on the lane and an extended solid white line that prohibits lane changing near the exit ramp. Both may help reinforce the message.


Assuming they can read, we've done the best we can, Ms. Whitman.

Next week: How offering drivers futuristic death ray devices could greatly improve behavior at the York Road exit.

Linking lights on Reisterstown Road

Imagine the frustration of getting stopped at the same traffic light on every commute, both mornings and afternoons.

Barbara Finkelstein of Pikesville doesn't have to use her imagination. She hears about it all the time from her husband, Harvey.

No matter how Mr. Finkelstein times his commute from Pikesville to Owings Mills on Reisterstown Road, he always gets stopped by the signal at Crossroads Drive. Naturally, he shares the experience with his spouse.

"It's very annoying and takes him a lot more extra time to get to work because of this," Mrs. Finkelstein says. "Can something be done?"

As a fan of the institution of matrimony, Intrepid Commuter was eager to please the Finkelsteins and thus, promote wedded bliss in Pikesville. But as it turned out, little effort was required to remedy this complaint.

The State Highway Administration has already begun installing a system to interconnect 14 traffic lights from the Beltway four miles west to Ritters Lane in Owings Mills. That includes Crossroads Drive.

Those traffic lights already are synchronized, but in a less sophisticated way. Internal clocks inside a signal's controller will generally make sure the bulk of Reisterstown Road traffic will hit a series of green lights.

But SHA engineers suspect that the clock inside the controller at Crossroads may be off, or that the intersection has a defective detector -- a device buried in the pavement that senses traffic volume.

By connecting all the lights to a central computer, the SHA won't have to worry about keeping 14 clocks on time. The computer can change the signal timing in a matter of microseconds to take into account bad weather, a special event or an extended rush hour.

All the traffic detectors also will be replaced as part of the $350,000 project that should be completed by the end of next month.

"This will allow the signals to operate as a single unit," said Chuck Brown, an SHA spokesman. "It's a large commuter route, and this will move traffic more smoothly."

Getting some dough for pot hole damage

Your tire blew when you hit a pot hole deep enough to quarry. You're as hot as asphalt in July. What are you going to do next?

One option is to recite a long string of profanity. This is best done in a loud voice with proper hand gestures. Stomping is optional.

nTC Perhaps a better course of action, however, is to send a repair bill to the party responsible.

In some cases, that means the government. It is supposed to maintain the roads and when they fall down on the job, you have a right to claim damages.

So far this year, the city has received about 200 claims from people whose vehicles have been damaged by poor road conditions. That is about four times as many as usual, said Elise Mason, associate city solicitor.

Be warned that just because your car has been damaged doesn't mean you'll collect money. If, for instance, the city, county or state agency responsible for road repair didn't know about the pot hole, they may not have an obligation to pay.

To file a claim with the city, you can call 396-3400 for the proper form.

If your car was damaged on a state highway, you need to write to the Insurance Division, Office of the State Treasurer, Room 109, 80 Calvert St., Annapolis 21401.

If it was a Baltimore County road, call 887-2591 for information. For an Anne Arundel County road, call 222-1103. In Harford County, call 838-2747. If it was a Howard County road, call 313-2016. The number for Carroll County is 857-2082.

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