What kind of driver are you? Do you depend on radio stations to provide you traffic information for your commute? Or do you just head out, pump up your favorite tunes and hope for the best?
If you depend on the State Highway Administration's variable message signs to be your only source of information, the resounding message in Traffic Talk's inbox last week was: Don't.
Mike Singer was one of those who responded to last week's column on variable message signs along Interstate 95; he suggested that Mark Middlebusher, who had questioned the placement of the variable message signs, and "other D.C.-area commuters," should listen to WTOP 1500 AM. Mr. Singer acknowledged that he listens to the radio station for traffic information every day.
Mr. Middlebusher confirmed that he is a fan of WTOP and has entered the station's phone number on his cell phone's speed dial. "I use WTOP as my main source of info for accidents. If I see something that they don't report, I usually call them, tell them what I saw and - if no emergency personnel, cops or wrecker [are] on the scene - ask that they forward the info to the right personnel."
Radio stations such as WTOP depend on information provided by the State Highway Administration. According to SHA spokesman David Buck, SHA coordinates information with WTOP every day. "It has been an evolutionary process, which began about 20 years ago with lunch meetings with folks like Bob Marbourgh from WTOP," Buck said.
If you have ever wondered about how your Maryland tax dollars work for you, here is one good example: SHA shares incident and congestion information from its network of more than 70 traffic cameras, speed sensors and the #77 call-in number for cell phones with Maryland State Police, emergency traffic patrols and all major radio and television stations daily.
If you are curious about such things as the view from traffic cameras, the average speed on one of Maryland's major highways or want to know about state road closures or construction, go to www.Maryland roads.com and click on the "chart" icon.
While there is no general clearinghouse telephone number motorists can call for quick information updates or to provide information about evolving traffic conditions, Buck notes that a number of traffic reporting services, including Metro Traffic and WBAL, have toll-free hot lines that motorists can call with updates.
What is your favorite source for traffic information? Which radio station provides the best coverage of your commute? Is television coverage of traffic conditions helpful? And how helpful are those variable message signs?
Mary Beth Tung is a fan of those "yield" triangle markings appearing on roads throughout the county, including the entrance ramp from Route 32 eastbound onto Broken Land Parkway just before the intersection with Snowden River Parkway.
"Kudos to whoever thought of it! They are a great reminder of who has the right of way," she said. "Unfortunately, I still see many people not yielding when appropriate. I hope the new markings will ultimately result in fewer accidents."
Ms. Tung, along with others, has noticed other additions to county roads - flashing red turn signals. One is on Route 108 westbound in Clarksville; another is at Interstate 70 and Route 32.
"I am not sure yet if I like the lights, as hardly anyone stops before proceeding [as at a stop sign], and if everyone did stop, traffic would back up even more than it did without the lights," she said.
But Robert Tennenbaum has made up his mind about the flashing red lights, in particular the one at Little Patuxent Parkway for the left turn onto Harpers Farm Road in Columbia.
"The flashing red strobe left-turn signal at the intersection is a problem. The flashing red strobe is so annoying and blinding that drivers look away and pay less attention to the signal," he said. "There must be a more humane way to get drivers' attention instead of blinding them."
What is your driving dilemma? 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 or receive a response.