Common sense and courtesy often missing on the roads


May 07, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE MORE we drive, the more, it seems, other drivers drive us crazy. Here's what you're saying:

Ben Leibowitz of Woodstock responded to my March 26 column, which discussed proper signaling at roundabouts: "Your column presumes that the knuckledraggers who infest the highways and byways of our fair state signal at all, much less for right or left turns, or lane changes. They are far too pre- occupied with yakking on their cell phones, or seeing if they can get close enough to smell your exhaust firsthand. The last thing you can expect of these troglodytes is intelligence, common courtesy or common sense," he said.

Highland's Carol Lorton weighs in on another disturbing aspect of those cell-phone yakkers: "While substitute teaching at a Howard County elementary school, I had the morning `car pool' duty - helping children out of their cars and generally keeping traffic moving and accident free. I was absolutely appalled at the number of parents who, while dropping off their children who they won't see for another seven hours - were talking on their cell phones," she said.

"Not only were these parents not paying attention to the traffic directions given by the teachers, they were certainly not paying attention to their children who were bolting out the cars with less than a goodbye from mom or dad. Come on parents ... no phone call is that important that it cannot wait a few minutes while you say goodbye to your son or daughter, give them a smile and a kiss on the cheek that will last the day."

Not only are these parents ignoring their children, but by deliberately distracting themselves in an area where there are a lot of kids, they're also endangering those kids. Let's hope they recognize themselves and change their ways.

Reader Joe Maranto takes issue with red-light runners and is a fan of red-light cameras. He says he smiles "when I see the flash as I watch another cheater being caught." But the numerous flashes also are a warning, he believes, that too many drivers ignore.

"On two separate occasions, I have witnessed erratic drivers swerve around a vehicle whose driver was in the process of stopping for a red light so that they could advance ahead of traffic," he said. "Both of these impatient drivers were tailgating and obviously not the least bit concerned about how their actions could affect others' lives. When they realized they could not tailgate their way through the red light, they swerved into the right lane and proceeded through the intersection in total defiance to the universal signal for stop.

"Both were lucky to avoid collision while making this split decision to brake, swerve and speed through the intersection. The next time your light turns green, proceed with caution and glance in both directions. Don't assume that everyone drives by the rules."

People who drive in the left lane on a highway 5 mph below the speed limit bug Andy Levine of Ellicott City: "Who do they think they're passing?" he wonders. He asks lane straddlers to "pick a lane and go with it, pal." But that's not all that peeves Levine. Lane weavers in traffic jams also make his list. "A lane change or two is understandable, but the 14 lane changes that you just made to move you three car lengths ahead are really going to get you to your destination a lot quicker, huh buddy?"

Cigarette-butt rebuttal

Ellicott City resident Steve Clarkson, who identifies himself as a former smoker, provides another perspective on littering smokers: "I completely agree that cigarette butts are both unsightly and dangerous," he said. He points out that I erred in last week's column in assuming that cars have ashtrays. "Ask at any dealership - car ashtrays are either optional or unavailable in many models. This causes smoking drivers to toss their butts out the car window for lack of anyplace else to put them," he said.

What about portable ashtrays? Clarkson believes there's a reason that littering smokers don't resort to that solution and suggests it's "another aspect of drivers in general - thoughtlessness."

Clarkson contributes to the beauty of Howard County's highways and byways by walking along three miles of roadway connecting to his neighborhood and picking up roadside litter. "It's astonishing how much stuff people toss out of their windows," he said. "If I had a nickel for every cigarette filter (the tobacco portion usually disappears after a couple of rains) I see on those excursions I'd be driving a Mercedes. But I don't think littering is a conscious act. It's a matter of convenience and usually occurs out of thoughtlessness rather than malice."

Thank you, Mr. Clarkson, for the effort you expend to make Howard County more beautiful and pleasant. Wouldn't it be nice if such efforts weren't necessary?

Contact Jody K. Vilschick at with your worst place in Howard County. 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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