Drivers' dangerous acts draw anger from readers

TRAFFIC TALK

March 12, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE column started, I asked you to let me know your pet peeves - and you did! Oh, sure - I got an earful about drivers hanging out in the left lane and cell-phone yakkers. Those bug me, too. But I also heard some peeves that gave me the chills.

"In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies, it amazes me that people continue to treat fire lanes [and handicapped parking spaces for that matter] as personal convenience spaces where the laws and regulations that govern our society do not apply to them," says Jon T. Merryman of Ellicott City. "Surely, now we should be able to comprehend and appreciate the importance of keeping fire lanes free and clear at all times. Police, fire and rescue crews should be able to perform their duties without having to worry about the unattended vehicle of some lazy slob who thinks `I was only gonna be a minute' is a defensible excuse."

Another reader, Ellicott City resident Lisa Schwartz, remembers an incident last fall on the Long Gate shopping center parking lot in front of Safeway:

"A man left his baby in the car while he ran into the store. It was at least 70 degrees outside and sunny, so the inside of the car probably got hot. Another man, who had parked next to this vehicle, noticed the baby in the back seat. He waited for the other guy to come out of the store. When he did, he confronted the man, who said he was only in the store 10 minutes and that it was none of his business.

"The good Samaritan said that the safety of the baby was his business, but the other man didn't reply. He just got in his car. I shouted over that he should take down his license plate, but I'm not sure if he did."

This is just plain dangerous, and it's a shame that a parent is willing to put a child at such risk. For starters, it's against the law, according to Howard County police, to leave young children in a car in a public space unattended; the good Samaritan should have called 911 right away - for the child's sake.

It's worth repeating: It is against the law to leave a child younger than 10 years old unattended - whether in a locked car on a parking lot or in your home.

You good Samaritans out there can report such incidents anonymously. The police need only a tag number and car description (make, model and color) and the vehicle's location. Next time, get on those cell phones right away.

Here's another parking-lot pet peeve, submitted by Columbia resident Don Oliver, that most of us probably have muttered about as we're cruising for parking spots. "I have a pet peeve about drivers who are using handicap permits when they are clearly not handicapped," he says.

"Specifically, I refer to permits issued because a family member is handicapped but used by a driver even when the person the permit is issued for is back home. We need the police to follow up on persons claiming the privilege of parking in the handicapped spaces. If the handicap is not sustained by documentation, the permit privilege is revoked, the driver is fined and the spaces become available to those that actually need them."

What documentation are you looking for? A missing limb? While I value your point about not abusing handicapped permits and, like you, some days have longed for up-close parking, please remember that not all disabled drivers limp.

There are disabilities, such as lung or coronary disease, that merit the handicap permits and that may not be obvious. Visit the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's Web site, at www.mva. state.md.us/disabilities/disabilities.html#1 for a discussion of the disabilities that qualify drivers for handicapped permits, how to apply and what certification is needed.

Although the rules require permit holders to carry a copy of the medical certification whenever they use the placard or plates, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with stopping every handicapped permit holder who can walk to ask to see their documentation. Sounds like something the Taliban - not the United States of America - would do.

What's your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.

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