For some, flashing headlights signals lack of highway courtesy


January 27, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LAST WEEK'S column, in which Ted Leffler offered his thoughts about flashing headlights and signaling other drivers to move to the right (on a multi-lane highway) to allow faster drivers to pass, revved your motors more than the original column about the topic did in November. Here's what you had to say.

From Wendy Woods, who e-mailed: "We used to use those signals for such things as `You still have your high beams on,' `There is danger ahead,' `May I please pass?' and `Please, go in ahead of me' - issues you mentioned. In fact, even in a non-passing situation - if a driver put on a turn signal to change lanes, it was common courtesy to allow them in this way. Those signals were never meant for drivers to signal `get out of the way' with the exception of a tractor-trailer having difficulty slowing or coming upon a slow driver but unable to move over. ... It was always meant as a courtesy."

It still is about courtesy, mostly. And, hey, if a driver wants me out of the way that badly, I'll move. I'd rather he or she let me know to get out of their way by flashing headlights than by tailgating (also frowned upon).

"Thank you for the commentary on an issue that seems to have gotten worse over the past five years," e-mailed Steve Sturges. "People in the Washington/Baltimore metro area have a propensity for simply getting in a lane and staying put, regardless of whether that lane is left, right or middle, though I've often found that no one rides in the right lane. What happened to the good old rule of slower traffic keep right?"

That rule is gone with the wind, my friend, gone with the wind. But why aren't we teaching it to the new drivers in our families (preferably by modeling it ourselves)?

Broughton Spence directly responded to Mr. Leffler's comments last week: "If Mr. Leffler is dealing with a driver who is driving below the posted speed limit, and Mr. Leffler is driving at the posted speed limit, the driver who refuses to let him pass may be as boorish as he describes. [But] ... driving faster than the speed limit is a crime. ... If the speed limit is 55 mph and [a driver] comes racing up behind me driving 75 mph, I'm under no obligation to ... [let] him pass."

"... [T]he law is clear. ... No one may drive faster than the posted speed limit," Mr. Spence said.

While I applaud Mr. Spence for following the speed limits, moving to the right when a faster driver pulls up behind you is an exercise in common sense - that and a healthy sense of self-preservation. There is no excuse - even self-righteousness - for not allowing faster drivers to pass, as long as you can safely move over a lane. Again, if someone wants around me that badly, I'll move over.

Here is why, courtesy of Steve Estes: "Here in the Great State of Texas we just inform the person riding the left lane that we would like to pass by using the muzzle flash technique!" he said. "Works wonders!"

What a great state. So glad I don't live there.

Although I include Mr. Estes' comments, I do not advocate violence. (In fact, his response is another good reason for more stringent gun-control laws.) And then, there's this: Ten years ago, another driver, while passing me, showed his or her handgun to me as he or she passed (I was focused on the gun, not the driver). This happened after 15 minutes of driving harassment late at night on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Baltimore. The panic and shock I experienced caused me to swerve dangerously. Luckily, no other cars were around, and I was grateful when the other driver took off like a bat out of Texas.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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