Drivers form poor habits to stay busy in gridlock Behavior: A survey finds that bored drivers display poor behaviors, such as reading, grooming and arguing, while caught in traffic.

The Intrepid Commuter

November 02, 1998

IT SEEMS COMMUTERS have become so accustomed to traffic delays that a new subculture has materialized behind the wheel.

Bored drivers have resorted to antics such as changing clothes, teaching pets to drive and flossing teeth while stuck in gridlock, a national survey reveals.

Such behaviors concern your intrepid commuter, who fears that in 100 years sociologists will look back at our generation of frazzled fanatics and render a judgment based on the recent study by the Pennzoil Products Co. The study also found:

Cash offerings to other commuters for a better spot in traffic.

Quick changes, with some drivers applying deodorant, shaving, brushing hair and plucking facial hair.

A national average of 26 to 30 minutes spent in morning and afternoon commutes, with at least 51 miles driven per day.

Intense arguments with other passengers -- and pets -- along for the ride.

Geographically, Texans read more than California drivers, and Southerners admitted to grooming themselves more than Midwestern drivers.

Some left arrows turn into traffic stallers

Oh, the dreaded left-turn arrow.

You know the scenario: You arrive in a left-turn lane at an intersection that doesn't seem too busy, with no cars coming from the other side of the road -- yet you're stuck because of a red arrow.

Over the past 10 years in Howard County, as traffic has increased substantially, such close encounters with the red arrow have proliferated. Drivers on side roads find the arrows at 20 of the 41 county-maintained intersections, such as Cradlerock Way south and Broken Land Parkway, or at Berger Road and Snowden River Parkway.

Diane Schwarzman, a county traffic engineer who oversees the little green arrows, says road gurus use a sometimes-random formula to decide which side goes first. Schwarzman says when the county's traffic engineers have a choice, they tend to give the green arrow to the least-busy side of the road -- so if there's no one there, the busier side of the road can get a longer green arrow.

State employees soon could work from home

State employees battling commuting burnout may soon have a chance to work from home.

Politicos -- eager to please in this election season -- are starting the home-based strategy as the Department of Budget and Management irons out the details. The General Assembly gave its blessing last session.

Maryland Department of Transportation bureaucrats hope that teleworking will reduce commuting trips by 8 million each year. That also will cut into the $51 billion lost annually in the United States to time spent in traffic delays.

Casting the net wider, state transportation officials got a $600,000 grant last week from Gov. Parris N. Glendening to help promote teleworking in the private sectors of Baltimore and the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

This columnist was enlightened last week to read an optimistic, eve-of-election press release that hawks the governor's view that working at home is a way to "reduce traffic congestion and increase productivity and morale by allowing employees to work in a location other than the office, such as at home."

If only it were such a perfect world.

Park and Ride to close for $598,000 face lift

Shortcuts: The Park-and-Ride lot at Route 80 and Interstate 270 in Frederick County's Urbana community will close today -- but State Highway Administration officials will open another lot nearby. In mid-December, the closed lot will reopen after state workers give it a $598,000 face lift and increase commuter parking capacity to 392 spaces. If you have an opinion about whether a center left-turn lane should be added on York Road between Fairmount and Bosley avenues, plan to attend a public hearing on the matter Wednesday at the Towson Business Association. For information, call 410-825-1144. Beware of repaving work this week on Streaker Road in Carroll County, where road shoulders will also be repaired on Kump Station, Melville and Jim Bowers roads.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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