No matter the lane, watch the speed


October 08, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I GOT an earful about last week's column, in which I identified three breeds of drivers who cruise the left lane. Some readers, such as Columbia's John Snyder, suggested other categories.

"Of course there is another category of driver you could have brought in," he said. "The speeder down the right lanes avoiding all the slow pokes in the left. As you must witness on Interstate 95, there are an extraordinary number of low flyers rolling down the right lanes drifting in and out of pockets to skip around the other cars creeping along at 80 mph. I used to run up to Philly all the time and would return on cruise control at 5 over the limit in the far right lane. Just chillin', digging the tunes, keeping the fatigue off by not getting too wired up driving. I was still going too slow in the slow lane. These cats would ride up on me, headlights filling the mirror, slide over a lane and whiz past like I was tied to a tree. Not that I minded, except they were having way too much fun while I was being cautious and abiding by the law."

J.T. Merryman of Ellicott City turned the tables on last week's column. There are "three breeds of speeders who cruise the left lane," he said. "The Righteous: They feel they have a constitutional right to speed in the left lane even if they're breaking the law. If you ask these drivers why they're in the fast lane, they'll answer, `We're in a hurry. Get out of the way.' The Clueless: They're not really sure why they're in the left lane, other than that they probably needed to leave five or ten minutes sooner from home. The Aggressive: Even if they're not passing someone at the moment, they probably will be soon because they're exceeding the speed limit by at least 15 miles per hour, so they need to stay in the left lane because it's safer than changing lanes. They believe turn signals are for wimps."

Most of the responses I received suggested that I'm aiding and abetting increasing lawlessness on Maryland's roads.

Of course I'm not, and I'm not advocating speeding either. I do, however, advocate safe driving, and if that means getting out of the way of speeders, then so be it.

"I have always enjoyed your column, but I'm writing to take issue with what you wrote in your latest, specifically [where you wrote] `The Righteous: They feel they have a constitutional right to cruise in the left lane even if they're traveling slower than the prevailing speed. If you ask these drivers why they're in the fast lane, they'll answer, `We're doing the speed limit,'" George Spence said.

He then asked, "Since it is illegal to exceed the speed limit, why do you feel people have a duty to facilitate other people breaking the law? The fact is that if the speed limit is 65 mph, anyone going faster than 65 mph is breaking the law. People have no right to break the law. Are you advocating breaking the law or aiding and abetting others in breaking the law?"

No, I don't advocate breaking the law, but as always, I am advocating safe driving. It's not your job to slow other drivers down, so let them go - think of them as police bait.

"Speeders may think it is discourteous for drivers to get in the way of their lawlessness, but bank robbers probably view innocent bystanders with equal disdain," Spence said. "The fact is that no one has a right to break the law."

"Some states mandate that slower traffic keep to the right, but to my knowledge Maryland is not one of them. Your statement may be an unwritten custom in the culture of lawlessness that pervades Maryland's highways, or law on the German Autobahn, but it isn't law in Maryland. But now, thanks to you, the criminals have a handy newspaper clipping to reinforce their perception that they have the right to break the law."

"Where does it end?" he wondered. "I'll tell you where it ends: It ends at the posted speed limit. It isn't a matter of opinion; it's a matter of law."

Spence concluded: "In my opinion, speeding is a serious crime because it endangers the lives of others, and the speeders should be vilified, not the people who get in their way."

I'm certainly not defending speeders, but they're a fact of life on our roads. Given that reality, what can we do to make our roads safer? Slow down is one. Get over to the right is another.

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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