Drivers fed up with tailgaters, others invading their space


May 25, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NOTHING BURNS your bumpers like tailgaters, and the May 4 column, which mentioned my "experiment" of allowing one car length for every 10 mph between the front of my vehicle and the back of the vehicle in front of me generated quite a few responses.

Here is what your fellow readers had to say:

Richard Cairo e-mailed: "Your conclusions [in the May 4 column] are absolutely correct. When you try to leave the required amount of space, it's only filled by others cutting in front of you. It's very frustrating indeed. While it may not be realistic to leave the suggested car length per 10 mph, there is still no need to ride someone's bumper as so many drivers in my rear view mirror do."

I learned that if I left five car lengths (at 55 mph), other drivers would frequently cut in. But if I left only three to four car lengths, that was enough to discourage cut-ins, which in the end, yielded the largest consistent space between my vehicle and the one in front.

Gerald Johnson complained "about those individuals who believe that their brakes and tires will stop their cars on a dime no matter how fast they're going. And like tailgaters [they] end up right on your bumper when they finally stop."

Timothy Syzek calls tailgating "a favorite intimidation/harassment pastime" of Maryland drivers. "Little do they know that if they don't have `assured clear stopping distance' between their vehicle and the one they are following, they may find out if the person ahead of them has to stop suddenly!" he said. "To my knowledge, the one who rear-ends, another vehicle is automatically at fault for following too closely."

I disagree that we Marylanders are all so malicious, but I will agree that it is a bad habit to which we have grown accustomed.

Marilyn Cutick compared us unfavorably with New York-born-and-bred drivers, probably the only group in the world to which I thought we would compare favorably. "Your article hits the nail on the head: Drivers in Maryland are very aggressive and love to tailgate. As a newcomer to this area (Howard County), I find myself very intimidated by the way some people drive. I recently relocated from Staten Island, N.Y., and thought that the drivers there were bad, but there is no competition. The drivers in N.Y. are pussycats compared to the drivers here," she said.

"I go at the designated speed, but it seems that the drivers here feel they have to go at least 20 miles [per hour] over the speed limit. I am learning my way around this area and find the drivers here have no patience for anyone going at a normal rate of speed. Why are these people in such a hurry all the time? Slow down, people, you will live longer," Cutick said.

Paul Johnson observed that perhaps a lack of familiarity with Maryland's traffic law is partially at fault for the chaos on our roads. "There seems to be something of a recurring theme of drivers being ignorant of Maryland's rules of the road. I suspect this is, at least in part, because many current drivers in Maryland were not originally licensed here. As such they never had to learn the Maryland laws.

"What is the solution to this? I don't know a good compromise between not imposing unreasonable barriers to transferring a license and making sure a new resident knows at least the basics of Maryland traffic law (e.g., lights on when your wipers are on, no flashing with high-beams, etc.)," he said.

I've also often wondered how to ensure that drivers new to Maryland know our laws. I'm coming to the conclusion that perhaps there should be standardization amongst the states - anathema to the states' rights crowd, I know.

Sweltering pets

Lynn Neser wrote to correct a telephone number I had provided in a recent column about pets left in hot vehicles.

"Your article is appreciated and contains some very important and helpful information for the public," she said. In regard to animals in hot cars, people should contact Animal Control at 410-313-2780. After hours, she said, police should be called.

Ms. Neser also commented on how we travel with dogs. "Dogs should not be allowed to be loose or even tied in the back of pick up truck beds - that is a recommendation, not a law," she said. "They are easily killed or injured from normal driving maneuvers. New Mexico recently passed a law that hopefully will be considered nationwide for the safety of the public and the animals."

Upcoming roadwork

Keep an eye open for daytime roadwork and lane closures on Interstate 70 east between the Howard County line and Route 197 through the rest of this week for lane striping. Also, through the end of this week, there may be lane closures for road maintenance on U.S. 29 in Howard County at Gales Lane.

For the next few days, lanes may be closed on northbound Interstate 95 at the Route 32 overpass for bridge maintenance. Bridge work will also cause closures on Route 216 between All Saints Road and I--95 north through June 3.

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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