No-flash red-light cameras being installed

TRAFFIC TALK

March 09, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I LOVE red-light cameras. Gotcha! I think, every time I see one flash. And when someone asks me the best way to "get out of paying" a red-light-camera ticket, I just grin. There is no "best way," and if their cars are in the photo, even my best friends don't get my sympathy. How hard is it to stop at a red light?

Dawn Malmberg, also a fan of red-light cameras, is wondering why one appears to have disappeared: "What happened to the red-light cameras on Little Patuxent Parkway at Broken Land Parkway? Since the cameras have disappeared, more and more people are running that left-turn light. The cameras were the best thing that ever happened to that intersection," she said.

Don't celebrate yet, anyone! The camera is still there. According to Mark Deluca, chief of the Traffic Engineering Division of the Howard County Department of Public Works, the county has been installing newer, more advanced red-light-camera equipment.

"Drivers familiar with the old equipment and poles may notice that they have been removed. The new equipment looks different and in some cases is mounted differently, too," he said.

Drivers beware. "Drivers who expect to see the distinctive camera flash of the old equipment will no longer see it with the new cameras. They now magnify ambient light and essentially see in the dark," Deluca added.

Parking redux

Three weeks ago, I ran Laura Gensler's complaints about "pull-throughs" in parking lots. "I have seen so many people lose a parking space because some inconsiderate idiot pulls through," she said. My response to her comments defended pull-throughs. I heard from Gensler the day that column ran.

"If someone is waiting, it is inconsiderate [to pull through]; however, you can't always see the car coming around the corner because they spotted an empty space. Not only have they lost that spot, but the one you vacated has also been taken. I just think it would be more considerate to everyone if people would back out," she said.

I also heard from many readers defending pull-throughs.

"Does [Ms. Gensler] mean that pull-through parkers tend to not end up correctly positioned in their chosen space, and leave their tailgates hanging over into the space behind them?" asked Susan Webber. "If that is her complaint, then I agree with her, though I don't see that as strictly a fault of pull-through parkers. Many drivers selfishly park their vehicles without courtesy for others.

"I am a pull-through parker for safety reasons. When I started driving a minivan a little over two years ago, I deliberately selected a spot away from vehicles already parked, and would pull through because I found it difficult to judge the placement of the van when pulling into a single spot next to someone else. I have continued this practice in both the van and my car for safety reasons," she said. "It is much safer to pull forward out of a parking space than to back out. There can be a blind spot when reversing, you have to reverse a good 4 feet before you can truly see all traffic or obstacles in the lane you are backing into."

Webber also noted that some parking lot lanes are part of the main thoroughfare in a shopping complex, and safe parking lot speeds are not always observed.

"At Verizon, where I recently retired, our safety record is maintained by following certain rules about safe driving," Don Oliver said. "We receive training that includes some easy-to-follow rules. One is: Never back up if it is possible to avoid. We are taught to pull through in parking lots whenever possible. Driving forward out of a parking space is much safer than backing into a traffic lane."

Regardless of what type of vehicle I'm driving, I pull through a parking spot when I have the opportunity, since I believe that is safer, overall, than backing out into a busy parking lot in which too many parents allow their youngsters to scamper about, often many feet away from them. Kids are all but invisible to minivan, pickup truck and SUV drivers backing out, and the very littlest of them are invisible to car drivers, as well.

But I also understand Gensler's frustration with losing a parking spot. It has happened to me. But quite frankly, that's life. You win some and you lose some, and at the end of the day, it's really no big deal. People - including, perhaps, even me (given how much time I spend thinking about driving and traffic) - need to lean back and stop taking ourselves so seriously. Is all the worry and competitiveness (such as over parking spots) necessary?

On the other hand: That worry and competitiveness are what this column is all about.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, 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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