Md. drivers' ignorance about traffic sign yields more anger, contempt

Traffic Talk

August 06, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE DISCUSSION of yield signs has thumped some sensitive bumpers.

"Thank you so much for finally helping me understand what has been a pet peeve of mine since I moved to Maryland from Michigan. I thought Maryland drivers' total disregard for the yield signs on entrance ramps to highways and interstates was because of an epidemic of rudeness and aggressiveness that made both New York City and Los Angeles drivers seem downright polite by comparison," said Terry O'Brien, who lives in Ellicott City. "How enlightening and refreshing to find that it is simply a matter of ignorance, that not only don't they know what a yield sign looks like, they don't know what it means!

"Just [two weeks ago] as I came to the YIELD sign on the entrance ramp from U.S. 40 east to U.S. 29 north, and yielded to a car going from north 29 to 40 west exit ramp, a truck [that was] two vehicles behind me crossed the solid white line - the non-traveled portion of the roadway - and another solid white line onto the right-hand northbound lane of U.S. 29, pulling in right behind the car I was yielding to," O'Brien said.

No matter where drivers are from, there's no excuse for that sort of driving.

Karen Gilbert of Columbia offers this gripe: "I am forced to sit through another light cycle at a left-turn signal because so many drivers left so much space between the car in front of them and I am unable to get to the signal," she said. "That's more air pollution on these Code Red days."

Speaking of gripes, Jim Johnson, also of Ellicott City, offers this complaint about police radar speed checks. He recently drove down Bethany Lane, passing a police officer with a radar gun in his hand. "I noticed in my rearview mirror that other motorists turned on their headlights after going by the policeman. I assume they were trying to warn approaching motorists of the radar speed check. I'm wondering what this says about the motoring public," he said. "Do we ... or don't we want the laws enforced?"

Mr. Johnson's comments prompted me to question the widely accepted practice of warning other drivers about radar speed checks.

Howard County police liaison Pfc. Diana Peters said this practice is illegal and that police officers can "use [their] discretion on whether or not to issue a citation."

Peters also said locations are chosen for speed enforcement in several ways. "Residents of Howard County will call and request speed enforcement in a specific area," she said. Or places are chosen based on their high incidence of motor vehicle accidents related to speed. Howard County police also periodically choose roads from a designated list and check speeds of motorists there.

Mr. Johnson also commented on the traffic-calming work recently completed along St. Johns Lane. The work included installation of a blacktop island in the middle of St. Johns Lane, south of Frederick Road at Dunloggin Road. "I suppose this island was meant to slow drivers down since they would have to swerve around it," he said.

"I drove through there and, would you believe it, they have now installed a four-way stop in addition to the island. What in the world is going on? This is the most ridiculous road improvement I have ever seen. Are we paying for experiments?" he wondered.

For the answer to this question, I went to Bill Malone, chief of the Howard County Bureau of Highways Traffic Division. "Multiway stops are not installed to slow traffic down, but are installed for safety reasons," he said.

According to Malone, the county's analysis of the St. Johns Lane/Dunloggin Road intersection indicated that there were "issues with left-turn conflicts." Apparently, enough drivers turn left from both northbound and southbound St. Johns Lane onto one or the other leg of Dunloggin Road to justify the criteria for installing the multiway stop.

"The traffic has increased dramatically on this portion of St. Johns Lane, especially during rush hours. Our counts show the directional volume during the morning rush hour had gone up 80 percent in less than one year between this intersection and Montgomery Road," Malone said. "This strongly suggests that St. Johns Lane is taking the overflow traffic from the U.S. 29 rush-hour congestion." The continuing road construction on U.S. 29 is likely to put even more traffic onto St. Johns Lane, he warned.

Finally, Malone said, "The work we have done with the intersection controls, rumble strips and traffic islands are to help St. Johns Lane continue to serve the local residential traffic as the through-traffic load increases."

Construction alerts

Look for roadwork and closed lanes through Aug. 23 along Route 216 east at Fulton School Campus Drive.

And beware. It looks as though the roadwork and patching (and lane closures) along Route 32 north from Frederick Road to Old Frederick Road will continue through mid-September.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at or send faxes to 410-715-2816. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044.

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