Who were those two mysterious men taking photographs of motorists on Route 32?


September 25, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

AS MARC LEGOFF was driving to work just before 10 a.m. Sept. 20 on Route 32 west near the Broken Land Parkway exit in Columbia, he noticed a couple of men wearing orange road worker vests on the right shoulder. One of the men started walking closer to the road, and Mr. LeGoff noticed that he had something in his hands.

"Call me paranoid, but I'm pretty sure it was a silver camera and could have sworn that he took a picture of the back of my car as I drove by," he said. "Have you heard of anything like this before, or am I imagining things?"

Mr. LeGoff said that it really seemed as if the camera was directed toward him and not toward the middle-island strip between westbound and eastbound lanes.

He wondered whether the two men were plainclothes police officers or State Highway Administration workers, discounting the possibility that the two men were prison inmates who work along our highways.

The same thing happened the next day, he said. But that time, Mr. LeGoff noticed that the two men were not too far away from a vehicle on the shoulder that could have been an unmarked police car. He e-mailed me that morning.

"I didn't see a radar gun or a silver camera this morning, but then again maybe that's because I wasn't speeding today," he said.

Howard County Police Sgt. Frederick von Briesen said police officers would have been in uniform if they were doing radar enforcement.

"We are not aware and have no knowledge of who is there in the morning or what the people were doing," he said.

SHA also denied any knowledge.

"We checked with our SHA contacts in Construction, Maintenance, Utilities, Plats and Surveys, Traffic and our Statewide Operations Center," spokesman Dave Buck said. "We are not aware of any SHA personnel in the area nor would any SHA personnel be authorized to take pictures of vehicles."

"Maybe I am just being overly suspicious or paranoid," Mr. LeGoff said, after I filled him in on my findings.

And here's my answer: No, you're not being too suspicious. In this day and age, you really can't be.

The next time you see something like that, call the police, von Briesen recommended.

"If a motorist sees something suspicious, he/she should call 410- 313-2200 in our dispatch center, which will in turn send an officer to investigate," he said.

Courtesy on the road

Traffic Talk congratulates Howard High School student Martin Bauman, who was "caught" driving courteously by Courtesy on the Road Inc., an organization promoting courteous driving by drivers of all ages. Kudos also are due the student drivers of River Hill High School, who are in the lead in participating in the safe-driving initiative.

Courtesy on the Road President Lisa Morrow said that Wednesday two volunteers from the organization walked through the parking lot of one of the high schools.

"We are pleased to report that about 20 cars had [Courtesy on the Road] magnets on them," she said. "The same was true in another school we scouted last week. This is a good beginning - but it is not enough."

In August, this column covered Courtesy on the Road's campaign to encourage student drivers to drive more safely and courteously. Part of the campaign was a participation competition among Howard County high schools.

The winning school will receive a party at the end of the year. In addition, representatives of the organization are driving around the county looking for student drivers with orange "campaign for courtesy on the roads" magnets in an effort to catch them "driving courteously."

"We received a very positive response in general to our presence in the high schools," she said. "About 250 students have signed up thus far."

`Here we go again'

Don Oliver detected a familiar refrain in last week's column, which discussed a community's efforts to lobby for a new overpass over U.S. 29 at Old Columbia Road.

"So here we go again," Mr. Oliver said. "A builder purchases farmland and plans to build expensive homes on the site. The county approves, and the homes are built. No mention is made of infrastructure needs. Then, after buying the houses, the community wants to see something done about the dangerous intersection. What a surprise!

"Why can't the county get it through their heads that every new house is more than a source of tax revenue? These houses ought never to have been approved unless the builder was willing to foot the bill for the road improvements required to keep traffic flowing smoothly on U.S. 29 while providing safe access by the new community."

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.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. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published.

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