Clear the windows and use the defroster


January 14, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ON WEDNESDAY, a reader e-mailed me about something he encountered on his way to work: a dangerous driver.

"There was a woman on Route 32 eastbound this [morning] heading into the rising sun who didn't know how to work the defroster on her car. The bright sun combined with the frost/condensation on her windshield, effectively blinding her. Rather that pull over and work the problem out, she weaved all over three lanes at speeds varying between 45 and 55. Maybe a column dedicated to safely driving on cold mornings into bright sunlight would save a life."

I'm constantly amazed at drivers who do not engage their common sense before getting behind the steering wheel. But in this case, the driver had no clue long before she put the key into the ignition.

Common sense - actually, one's sense of self-preservation - dictates that you make sure you have complete visibility through the windows of your car. It is hard to avoid other bad drivers when you are peering through tiny peepholes in the windshield through ice or snow. Take a few extra minutes to thoroughly defrost your car on cold mornings.

If snow, ice or frost is on your car, completely clear your windshield and rear window. Don't forget the side windows and mirrors. Good drivers use all these while on the road.

While you're at it, grab a broom and get rid of ice or snow on the top of your car. If you come to a sudden stop, ice and snow on top of the vehicle could slide onto the windshield or the rear window and blind you. Or it could fly off and blind the driver behind you. Driving is dangerous enough without sudden whiteouts.

Lights out

And from another reader comes this question: "I constantly see street lights, along Cradlerock Way, Broken Land Parkway, U.S. 29 at the Broken Land exit, etc., that are periodically out for days and weeks. Who fixes these?"

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. fixes the lights, according to JoAnn Maxfield, a customer service representative for Howard County Department of Public Works. Call BGE customer service at 410-685-0123 and stay on the line (rather than choosing a number in the telephone menu) until a customer service representative answers.

BGE needs, at minimum, the pole's location - a street address or hundred block. Ideally, technicians prefer to get the pole number, a series of five to seven numbers that are on the pole 6 to 15 feet off the ground. This allows BGE to identify the pole and know what bulb is required or other relevant information.

It generally takes 48 to 72 hours to get a light fixed if the problem is a simple one.

Worst nightmare

Periodically, readers submit their picks for worst places to drive. Here is one from Columbia's Carol Levy.

"My nightmare is at Routes 108 and 175. People coming off of northbound Interstate 95 heading west on Route 175 and want to [exit to] Route 108 during rush hour is a real nightmare. They have to maneuver across four lanes of solid traffic; they virtually have to just move over and pray that no one is in their way," she wrote in a recent e-mail.

This stretch also must handle traffic coming from I-95 south. "People that are already on Route 175 heading west and need to go to Route 108 cannot get over because those coming off of I-95 absolutely will not let anyone over," she said. "Heaven forbid someone else is in front of you."

But that's not all about that general area that sends Levy's transmission into overdrive. "At the traffic light at Routes 108 and 175, coming from 108 to go east on 175, if people would stay in their own turning lane things would be a lot safer," she said. "But no, they turn left into the [middle] lane instead of staying in the left-most lane."

Why they drive badly

Philip von Ehrenhelm of Columbia offered his theories about why some bad drivers drive badly.

"It seems that most people disregard the traffic laws because it interferes with their sense of time," he said. "Meaning that they don't have enough of it and need to make shortcuts when and where they can.

"It also occurs to me that people not obeying the rules can be laid to laziness also. As for aggressive driving, time [again], impatience, lack of experience and just the general stress of today's crowded roads and society in general all seem to be factors in this."

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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