Traffic laws don't matter to 'death wish' drivers

March 07, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

I'm not prone to flights of fancy. My imagination seldom works overtime. So you all tell me: Are drivers getting more stupid, more aggressive and more downright dangerous lately?

It's not a jungle out there on the streets, roads and highways. It's an insane asylum, one with so little supervision the inmates are running completely amok.

Driving east on Belvedere Avenue recently, I stop at the intersection with Reisterstown Road. The light turns green for traffic on Belvedere. But one car traveling south on Reisterstown runs the red light. A second car follows it through the light, followed by a third.

Red lights don't mean a thing to some drivers anymore. When these Evel Knievel wannabes see a yellow light, it doesn't mean the same thing to them that it means to us. You and I think a yellow light means to hit the brake and slow down because the light is about to turn red. The daredevils think a yellow light means hit the accelerator and speed up to run the red light.

The concept of yielding the right of way is lost on some drivers. They'll have no truck with it, if you'll pardon the pun. They'll change lanes with your car practically in their blind spot. They'll pull out of a driveway, a shopping center, a gas station even though you're barreling down on them at speeds that might be 40 mph, not realizing that if you have to hit your brakes to avoid a collision, they haven't yielded the right of way, you have. That is not how the law is supposed to work.

You've all had this happen, haven't you? You're at a red light at an intersection, ready to proceed straight ahead. Some dolt on the other side of the light has on a turn signal. The light changes, and the boob makes the turn as you start through the intersection. Then he or she looks at you as though you've done something wrong. It's happened to me enough times to leave me pining away for horse and buggy days.

Ever been on a narrow street in a residential neighborhood where the posted speed limit is 25 mph? On these streets a child or pet might dart out from anywhere. So why are some drivers hurtling along these streets at speeds of 40 mph and up? Children and pets are nothing but potential road kill to these people. Their driving says it all: Kill a child or animal while exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph or more, and it's no big deal.

I don't know which of these characters is worse. Driver A comes to a red light, slows down a bit and then makes a right turn on red while looking directly at you as you proceed through the green light. Driver B comes to the red light and not only doesn't stop or slow down at all, but doesn't even look to his left to see if any cars are approaching through the green light.

Safe drivers these days have to drive safely and intelligently not only for themselves, but for the stupid drivers creating havoc on the streets.

Truck drivers, who I used to think drove safely, have gotten in on the act. I was in the middle lane - not the fast lane - and driving back from Virginia early one morning when a trucker behind me (( and in the fast lane decided to change lanes, missing my car by mere feet, if not inches. Farther up the road I had managed to pass this truck. Driving in the middle lane behind me, he flashed his high beams, moved to the fast lane and then back into the middle lane, narrowly missing me again.

"This idiot is trying to either intimidate me or kill me on purpose," I muttered to myself. After that I noticed other truckers mercilessly tailgating cars not in the fast lane and doing well above the speed limit. There exists a small but ornery cadre of truck drivers who think it's a game to intimidate drivers in smaller vehicles.

What can be done about this pathetic state of affairs? Let's first repeal the right-turn-on-red law. It only encourages stupid drivers to be more stupid. Those who protest that repealing right-on-red will only make the rest of us suffer should be reminded that most traffic laws are made with the intent of protecting us from the stupid anyway.

Next let's add an offense to the books. We already have DWI and DUI - driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence, respectively. Let's add DWD - death-wish driving. The speeders, tailgaters, red-light runners and the others clearly have a death wish, either their own or somebody else's.

Let's make the penalty for DWD as stiff as the ones for DWI and DUI. The incurably stupid among the nation's drivers need a wake-up call. Perhaps being slapped with a DWD charge will give them one.

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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