The white-lines debate: Use common sense and courtesy

January 07, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE LAST word on whether white lines are crossable goes to the man whose words started it all a month ago: Martin Kirchhausen.

"Your `clarification' of the solid white line problem in [last week's column] was nothing more than legal mumbo-jumbo," he wrote in an e-mail.

According to Mr. Kirchhausen, I should have provided "a simple statement" that conflicting sections of Maryland's laws and regulations created this confusion over whether drivers should never cross solid white lines or merely be "discouraged" from doing so.

He also said I should have advised readers "to follow the rules of common sense and common courtesy to not cross a solid white line."

"Police discretion in matters such as this doesn't help motorists and, as you pointed out in your column, generally isn't involved until too late; after an accident," he said. "The column should then have made a recommendation to state legislators and state motor vehicle administrators to remedy this situation."

Thank you for saying it for me, Mr. Kirchhausen.

Meanwhile, I also heard from Patrick Piet, who originally had contacted me about lane-change markings on U.S. 29 north leading to the exit to Interstate 70 east. The lanes had been rearranged to accommodate construction, but there had been no indication that the lane markings were anything but permanent. David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, indicated that the lanes would be changed back to the original configuration by the end of this month.

Piet writes: "I thought you'd like to know that the lane configuration at the interchange between U.S. 29 north and I-70 east has been returned to the original configuration. However, there are no signs indicating that the configuration has been changed, and the overhead sign indicates that [only] the right-hand lane of 29 north exits onto I-70 east, while the lane markings allow both the right-hand and middle lanes to exit onto I-70," Piet said.

One morning last week he saw several cars make unsafe lane changes to get into the right-hand lane because of "the misleading signage only to discover that they could have remained in the middle lane and exited onto I-70. I can only imagine what the situation will be like [this] week when traffic is at normal levels," he said, adding, "I won't know because I will be using U.S. 40 instead."

New Year's resolutions

Mr. Piet starts off the New Year's resolutions: "My resolution is to not automatically jump on the interstate or the beltway, but to consider using secondary roads and avoiding the Indy-type speeds and driving maneuvers frequently encountered on limited-access highways."

Phil von Ehrenhelm submitted these resolutions: "Not to get upset when a driver takes away my three-second safety zone because they figure that there is enough room for them to fit between the car in front of me and me. To obey the speed limit more; to not get upset at the chaos around me!"

He added, "The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers."

And Gail Raskin offers this resolution. "I resolve to allow the other driver to get in front of me, whether it's into my lane on the highway, or allowing him/her to turn before me.

"I tried this at Christmastime, and it not only seemed to help the other driver, but also kept me calmer on the road," she said. "Courtesy always helps, no matter what. Why wait for someone else to be nice?"

But Gene Green took issue with Jackie Duda's resolution, published last week. She said: "I resolve to give other people the chance to turn if I'm coming down a straight-away ... like when there's one car waiting to make a turn in the opposite lane, and they're holding up a bunch of traffic behind them waiting to go straight, I will stop and let them turn. I mean, it only takes what, 10 seconds to do that, and then the other cars behind them can go on their merry way."

Mr. Green maintains "that is a sure way to cause an accident. When I drive, I expect the person in front of me to follow the law and not stop on a through road to let somebody in. There are too many fender-benders and close calls because people change the rules of the road to be nice."

"People being nice is great when traffic is slow and the road's empty. But what is not nice is being behind somebody that will stop or greatly reduce speed to allow a left or right turn to be made. If the traffic is flowing at 55, then do 55. The person making the turn can complain and get the intersection modified. It is not for a driver to decide what the new rules will be when I am behind them doing the speed limit."

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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