Driver tired of police median use U-turns: State troopers turn around on the grass strips along Route 50, leaving the sod destroyed by tire tracks.

The Intrepid Commuter

March 09, 1998

WHEN HE travels over the Bay Bridge to run chartered fishing trips on the Eastern Shore, Baltimore resident Tom Martin says ++ he experiences inner peace.

Nirvana, though, evaporates at the Kent Narrows Bridge.

That's where Martin says he begins to notice the destruction of median strips along Route 50 -- for what he says is no apparent reason. It seems that tire tracks have ripped the sod, even in areas close to paved turnarounds that should be used for U-turns.

Martin took his complaint to a Maryland State Police barracks on the Shore after he witnessed troopers turning about in the medians, either to catch a speeder or to set a radar trap.

A response from Col. Ernest J. Leatherbury, chief of the field operations bureau, was swift.

"I share your concerns and reiterate the position of the Maryland State Police in preserving these grass areas," Leatherbury wrote Martin in May 1996. "Enforcement action will also continue to be strictly enforced should a citizen use these areas to make illegal U-turns. Please know that while you may still see troopers and other emergency vehicles using these areas, we try our utmost to ensure that this happens as infrequently as possible."

Martin recently contacted Intrepid because he has observed the practice persisting today. An on-site investigation by your wheelster confirmed his report.

State police spokeswoman Laura Lu Herman said police have been advised to avoid the grassy medians.

But Herman added: "If the life of an individual depends on it, the medians may be the quickest means used to turn around."

The little car that could push a motor home?

Route 50 footnote: Seen recently chugging east at a pace well below 65 mph was a motor home pulling a compact car. A sign taped to the back window of the car warned, "I'm going as fast as I can. I am pushing this big motor home."

Support groups form to combat road rage

It had to happen sooner or later -- a support group against

road rage.

Look for meetings to convene soon as Youth Against Road Rage (YARR) groups try to tackle this problem. The first is to begin in the Seattle area this summer.

Figures show that fury behind the wheel was responsible for at least 218 deaths and 12,000 injuries in the first six years of this decade -- and that's just the ones that were reported. Firearms were used in 37 percent of the cases and vehicles in 35 percent, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Who's raging? Mostly men, the AAA study concluded. A report last week said the typical road jerk is 18 to 26 years old, poorly educated, with a criminal or substance abuse history. But let's not diminish the rage of a workaholic who is commuting with a cell phone glued to the ear and enough attitude to fry an egg.

Your wheelster thinks the Powers That Be should form a mature counterpart to YARR and name it AARR(gh), or Adults Against Road Rage, as the world moves closer to understanding this phenomenon many drivers say is of bigger concern today than drunken driving.

Towson roundabout yields questions, fender benders

What's becoming the new official sport of Towson?

Watching the roundabout, of course.

The county seat is the location of the metro area's hottest place to view fender benders and a smorgasbord of human behaviors, road rage included.

The five-way intersection through York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads and Allegheny Avenue, sans traffic lights or stop signs, has challenged all who venture through. It clearly is not for the faint-hearted.

Despite attempts to educate drivers about the $2 million circle, State Highway Administration officials said last week they know drivers are struggling to get used to it. They hope the novelty will soon wear off.

But Intrepid thinks not.

"Is the Towson roundabout supposed to be one or two lanes inside the circle?" a commuter asked last week. (The answer: two lanes.)

Others wonder about yielding when in the circle. And then there are the aggressive drivers who bully their way into the roundabout -- a problem witnessed last week as a blue pickup truck nearly slammed a little old lady in a Ford Escort as she slowly circled.

With 40,000 motorists expected to pass through the intersection daily, SHA hopes to complete its construction this summer by landscaping the central island with trees, shrubs and flowers.

But don't expect the Garden of Eden any time soon.


Note Intrepid's debut in Cyberspace. The e-mail address for tips and messages is listed above. Howard County commuters can take advantage of a "bus to the train" service from The Mall in Columbia to the Maryland Rail Commuter station in Savage. Information: 410-313-3707.

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Pub Date: 3/09/98

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