TOM GRIMES asked recently about the tinting of car windows.
"I have heard that they were illegal and yet see them all the time when traveling the highways," he said. "What is the law on that? I really don't see how law enforcement can do their jobs when they can't even see inside of the windows. In addition, they provide an obstacle for the rest of us drivers when we can't see through them to check the traffic."
Yes, window tinting is legal, but with limitations. But first, although I acknowledge looking through cars to the road ahead, too, my gut reaction is that if you need to look through a vehicle to check traffic, you may be driving too close. But that is another column.
Back to window tinting. Section 22-406 of the Maryland Transportation Article covers window tints on cars and other vehicles. It says that cars and station wagons "may have add-on (aftermarket) window tint on any window except the windshield, provided that the tinting material allows a minimum of 35% light transmittance through the glass." The same applies to rental vehicles, trucks and "multipurpose vehicles," except that on windows other than the ones to the side of the driver and front passenger seat, there is no maximum tinting limitation.
However, "mirrored, reflective, or one-way effect" tinting is not allowed in any case.
So does that mean a police officer will stop a car or other vehicle with apparently improperly tinted windows? Yes, according to Cpl. Lisa Meyers of the Howard County police. "If a window is too dark, it is obvious to a police officer," she said. "If we can't see the operator of the vehicle, we'll stop them. But we don't issue a citation -- a ticket. We issue an equipment repair order."
If a "safety equipment repair order" has been issued for a window tint violation, the problem must be corrected and the vehicle reinspected within 10 days by a member of the Maryland State Police Automotive Equipment Safety Division.
New I-70 ramp
"As a commuter who travels from Columbia to Woodlawn daily, the new on-ramp to I-70 towards Frederick is very bad news," said Debbie Drake.
The new ramp from northbound U.S. 29 to Interstate 70 opened Jan. 21.
"While I appreciate the need to reduce the lane weaving of motorists trying to use I-70 [northbound] using the original on-ramp, the reality is that drivers today are paying less attention to safe driving, common courtesy and directional signs than ever," she said, noting the prevalence of cellular telephones, drivers drinking gourmet coffee, and those more interested in quality time with their children than with traffic conditions.
"As one who commutes to Woodlawn in the morning using 29, I just can't wait to `dodge' drivers who aren't really paying attention to what's happening on the road and weave towards a lane with no stoplights to I-70," she said. "And who would want to miss drivers bypassing the wait for the exit lane to zoom to the front of the line and charging into the exit lane without a thought about the drivers who have gotten into the exit lane earlier? Have you seen the exit from I-70 to 695 when there's lots of traffic with drivers weaving around like they're on a NASCAR track?"
Drake believes that the problems won't be confined to her morning commute. She travels on southbound U.S. 29 past the exit (which crosses the southbound lanes) on her way home.
"And my peaceful commute home to Columbia in the afternoon will now be filled with either watching or participating in `near misses' with drivers who can't or won't understand common courtesy and the laws of physics while trying to zoom onto I-70," she said.
Signaling not an option
Drake also notes: "Most [drivers] can't even figure out that turn signals are installed on cars, SUVs, trucks, etcetera, for a reason."
Columbia's Hilbert Turner Jr. shares this pet peeve.
"Turn signals are supposed to signify intent to make a turn at an intersection or change lanes," Turner said. "However, too many motorists, including police officers, either don't use turn signals at all or flip them on after they are more than halfway into the next lane. The latter is like taking food off someone's plate, then asking for a bite. If drivers learned to associate using turn signals with the word `please,' a lot of strife could be avoided."
I agree. All vehicles come standard with turn signals, and there is no reason but laziness not to use them.
Last week, I encountered an ambulance racing to its destination. I quickly pulled over to the right shoulder. But I saw cars racing ahead, pulling over to the left, getting over toward the right but not stopping -- and then, incredibly, racing in the wake of the ambulance.
What are your experiences with fire and rescue vehicles? Is this dangerous driving behavior common?
What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.