Thou shalt not defend Md. drivers' reputation


November 06, 2006|By MICHAEL DRESSER

Three weeks ago this column was a cruel, unprovoked, gratuitous and downright nasty attack on the skills and behavior of Maryland motorists.

It seems everyone agreed.

Out of many responses, not a single reader stood up for the reputation of the state's drivers. Nobody protested that the article was unfair. Sure, there was one reader who worried that some folks would take my proposed Ten Commandments of Maryland driving literally - as if they don't already. But many more just wanted to pile on.

Is this a great place to live or what?

Colleen Hanna proposes an Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt harass any driver who does not travel at least 10 miles above the speed limit in a residential area that is only one lane."

"I guess as long as they aren't `my' kids, they are expendable. And for crying out loud, why should a driver have to cool his jets behind a slow driver like me, with no extra lane for passing, for a full 10 minutes? And where do I get the nerve anyway to drive like a slug going 42 mph in a 35 mph?" she wrote.

Hanna apparently is under the delusion that because an area has houses and kids, it's "residential." Under the unwritten rules, anything that connects to a street that leads to an avenue that intersects with the road where the bar is located is a highway.

Ray Badders had multiple suggestions, but one stood out: "If tailgating doesn't induce the driver in front of you to speed up, try flashing your high beams and honking your horn."

This reader must be familiar with Interstate 97.

A reader who signs his name Burt Bachrach writes:

"Thou shalt not illumine thy headlights until absolute, complete, total pitch black has descended from the heavens. Lord knows, the other travelers might see you."

Nor shalt I do so when raindrops are falling on my hood.

Patrick K. Lackey suggests a Golden Rule for Maryland driving: Do unto others as they had better not do unto you.

"That includes, of course, cutting them off, flashing the finger, and in general behaving with the least possible consideration for others," he writes.

That's overstating the case. The finger is optional.

Observing that "communication between drivers is essential to safe driving," Lackey proposed a rule saying: "Thou shalt honk upon each and every provocation."

Who needs a provocation?

Lisa Burton, who lives on busy Route 32 in western Howard County, has noticed that drivers on that road to Sprawlsville frequently take umbrage at her for residing on that highway.

"I have every right to turn into my driveway so don't blow your horn at me for putting on my signal and turning into my driveway," Burton writes.

Obviously, Burton is at fault here. The sudden flash of a turn signal is likely hurting the trailing motorist's eyes. Blowing one's horn to express pain is protected free speech under the First Amendment. And in asserting her so-called "right" to turn, Burton is creating a "hostile commuting environment" for more expressive drivers. She's cruising for a lawsuit.

In her defense, when Burton wrote she was still shaken from a close encounter with a tractor-trailer that ran a red light and nearly crushed her near Route 32 and Frederick Road before scooting onto Interstate 70. The near-smooshing experience was enough to ruin her day.

"Don't people think about the consequences that their actions could cause to another person's life and family?" she wrote.

No, Ms. Burton, not when they're behind schedule. Remember, this is Maryland.

On the bright side

After reading a couple of columns griping about highway interchange design, a spokeswoman at the State Highway Administration wondered whether this column had anything positive to say.

As a matter of fact, yes.

The next time you go to the airport on Interstate 95 - in either direction - please try to notice the graceful, elegant interchange taking you to Interstate 195 with little weaving. It also does a commendable job of getting motorists to Catonsville.

The interchange at I-97 and Route 100 in Anne Arundel County: wonderful design when you're coming from the south. Love that flyover and the long merge area.

And if you approach Baltimore from the south, consider the interplay of soaring ramps and other infrastructure where I-95, I-395, Martin Luther King Boulevard and the light rail come together in the shadow of the stadiums.

It's more than transportation. More than a welcoming entryway to downtown. It's sculpture on a grand scale.

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