Disrespecting the dead Cortege: In the fast lane of life, many drivers barely pay attention to their surroundings, including funeral processions.

The Intrepid Commuter

January 26, 1998

ROAD RAGE, surely a candidate for the Top 10 list of trendy dilemmas of the '90s, has surfaced again.

This time, unbelievably, in a funeral procession.

Arline Panaggio of Towson recounted the stunning events that occurred after her brother's recent death as the procession made its way from the church toward Gardens of Faith Cemetery on Belair Road in Rosedale.

"We were making a turn onto Stevenson and York roads, near the end of the large procession. The light changed, and we continued through turning right on York," Panaggio said. "From the left lane, a man came through, and he was beeping at us, shaking his fist and moving over toward us as though he was trying to force us to move over. I took the funeral sign and jammed it into the window so he could see it."

Panaggio said the driver "backed off" when he saw the sign, but Intrepid believes a larger issue is at work here. In the fast lane of life, many drivers barely pay attention to their surroundings as they try to get to destinations ASAP.

Nevertheless, such antics toward the grief-stricken are not only rude, they are illegal under Maryland vehicle law.

Fines could top $30 with a maximum three-point penalty if drivers don't yield to mourners. Fines could go higher if the bully of a driver forces a wreck in the procession, Maryland State Police officials say.

Michael Ruck Sr., president of Ruck Funeral Homes, said last week that his company requests that all drivers turn on high beams and emergency flashers in funeral processions as a double warning to other motorists.

"When we approach an intersection, we always slow down with the hearse, almost come to a stop and give a little toot on the horn," Ruck said.

Once, Ruck added, "to show you, unfortunately, how some people don't watch when they are driving, I was in a funeral procession with a police escort, and someone cut right in between the hearse and the police car."

Ruck suggests drivers apply etiquette when they see a cortege.

"We hope people will show courtesy to a procession because eventually they will be in one as well," he said.

Few car dealers willing to pull switch on air bags

One week after it became legal, 16 percent of 700 new-car dealerships or repair shops in 29 states say they plan to install cut-off switches for air bags in vehicles belonging to motorists who have authorization to unplug the devices from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The informal survey, by the American Automobile Association, concluded that many mechanics are concerned about being sued by drivers who could have been saved by an air bag for installing cutoff switches.

"Currently, it will take patience and research for motorists to find a shop in their area willing to install the switches," the AAA survey concluded.

As of Jan. 18, about 5,500 vehicle owners, including 110 Marylanders, had received federal permission for the switches, and 1,000 are awaiting approval, which is largely automatic, NHTSA officials said.

Many people became alarmed last year when news reports highlighted a spate of deaths related to the strong force of the bag deployment. Most victims were children or short women, and many were not wearing seat belts at the time of impact, reports said.

Last year, the safety agency announced it would grant permission to have the bags deactivated -- but recommended against it, noting safety studies.

Among the criteria for pulling the switch: Applicants must certify they have read an NHTSA brochure and that they understand the "serious safety consequences" of turning off the bag. Average cost for disconnection is $240.

Public works director discusses construction plans

About $140 million to be spent on 90 construction projects in Baltimore was outlined by Public Works Director George G. Balog last week at Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant at 8201 Eastern Blvd. Balog outlined $17 million in designs for the work, including future street lighting, traffic signals and road resurfacing at a public meeting.

Interested commuters may call 410-396-3310 for details.

Shortcuts

The newly opened, $7.9 million extension of Beaver Dam Road in Timonium is a treat for the senses -- not only does it cut commuting time from Hunt Valley to points south, but drivers are able to get a whiff of McCormick spices along the way. Take note of the mega-speed traps set up on the Jones Falls Expressway by Maryland State Police. Intrepid One witnessed troopers armed with radar guns snagging numerous leadfoots Thursday.

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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