Gas prices go right way Petrol: The cost of regular, self-serve gasoline has dropped an average of 7 cents a gallon since June, a survey of prices shows.

Intrepid Commuter

September 23, 1996

SUDDENLY, THE gas station is starting to look like a Wal-Mart commercial -- the prices just keep falling.

A survey of pump prices last month showed that it's cheaper to drive again. The cost of regular, self-serve gasoline has dropped an average of 7 cents a gallon since June to $1.27 a gallon, according to the Mid-Atlantic Automobile Association of America.

That makes midgrade gas -- always higher in octane and price -- about 2 cents cheaper than June's prices at $1.36 per gallon. Diesel fuel -- always the wild card -- rose a penny to $1.35 per gallon.

The AAA survey sampled 30 gas stations in the state, excluding Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties.

The lower gas prices are a relief for commuters who paid more than $1.50 per gallon for premium petrol in May. For frugal wheelsters, May's prices for regular unleaded, self-serve were 9 cents higher than April's costs. Those prices averaged $1.22 per gallon in May 1995.

As trends go, gas prices usually dip to their lowest in the chilly months, so look for more savings as fall and winter roll in.

Vanity plates sometimes spell out 'WHO U R'

On Interstate 83 North last week, a navy blue Mercedes sedan breezed by your Intrepid One with its driver busily fiddling with a car phone. The car's Maryland license plate read "FIXNHIPS."

Whoa. Was this Dr. Liposuction or Dr. Hip Replacement motoring by? Or maybe an Elvis wannabe?

Whoever he was, he was driving his business card -- riddle or no.

Dr. Hips is one of 65,000 Maryland drivers who have bought designer license plates for their vehicles since the plates were introduced in 1971. For an extra $25 a year, drivers can customize their cars to their lifestyles -- and have done so with style.

Here's what you might see out there: "BAWLMER," "SUSHI," "H20GATE" (on the wheels of G. Gordon Liddy), "MONEPIT" (on a car pulling a boat), 2PCME (a urologist) and Intrepid's favs, "UGOGIRL" and "SEE YA."

Officials say some editing occurs on requests to the Motor Vehicle Administration: Plates promoting hostility, profanity, bigotry and any word that promotes the use of drugs are no-nos.

But promoting an organization or even a business is a go. Vanity tags called nonlogos are sold to members of nonprofit groups of at least 25 members who are registered Maryland drivers.

You might see plates promoting Grace Bible Church, Greyhound Pets of America, Muslim American Community, the Royal Order of Jesters, Sparrows Point Country Club and the Vulcan Blazers (whoever they are).

One reader called Intrepid to complain about the tags of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, the Baltimore County real estate company that has secured vanity tag status for its sales force and privately owned fleet. The caller, who did not identify himself, complained that the 142 "OPF" plates, at $12, each constitute state-sponsored advertising.

To that, Intrepid says "LITENUP."

It's not just etiquette for funerals, it's the law

A long funeral procession stretched along the Beltway this week -- at one point monopolizing the exit lane of the outer loop between Dulaney Valley Road and Charles Street.

Motorists tried to weave through it to make their exits, some slowing traffic in other lanes to break through.

As one reader recently asked Intrepid, what is proper driver etiquette for funeral processions?

For starters, it's not just manners that are involved here. There's a state law regarding funeral processions complete with a $30 fine and a maximum three-point penalty if drivers don't yield to mourners.

Mike McKelvin, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, said most funeral processions hug the right, or slow, lane of the road, traveling with headlights on and often "funeral" stickers in vehicle windshields. On state highways, the speeds usually don't exceed 50 mph, and drivers are advised to allow other motorists the right of way at exits.

It used to be that police cars would lead the way to the cemetery -- but that practice has largely been abandoned.

Most processions travel to the final destination with little problem, McKelvin said. But sometimes rude, aggressive drivers try to break through the line, prompting police to pull out the book and issue a $30 ticket. If an accident occurs, that's when the points pile up, he added.

"It's not a violation we write very often," he said. "I think it's one of those rules of the road that people are not only being respectful to the procession but mindful that the people are going through a traumatic experience in there. That's why they show respect."

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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