Hudson's Corner: Baltimore drivers live up to city's dubious distinction in annual Allstate report

After my husband and I had a recent, but too-brief beach getaway, we knew we were back in Baltimore the minute we drove onto Russell Street. There, we were greeted by erratic drivers, who shifted at speeds close to 80 miles per hour.

In September 2011, Baltimore ranked 192 out of 193 on the annual "America's Best Drivers" report issued by Allstate. According to that analysis, Baltimore drivers were 88.7 percent more likely to have an accident than drivers in other parts of the country.

This comes as no surprise to those who navigate city streets regularly. Our great-nephew just started school several miles from our house, yet I am afraid to pick him up at dismissal. I am not worried about my driving or my husband's. We are uber-cautious. It is some other drivers, who regularly run red lights and change lanes without looking, that frighten me.

On St. Paul Street on a recent Wednesday, a driver sped right through a red light. Fortunately, my husband, who thought the driver would stop, hesitated and we were not broadsided. It will be interesting to see what the 2012 annual report on America's drivers says. I am not holding my breath that Baltimore has moved up from its spot next to the bottom.

When night fell our first evening home from the beach, police helicopters hovered over Cold Spring Lane. Behind our house, sirens wailed non-stop for almost an hour.

"Leave the CVS parking lot now," a voice boomed from above, over and over again. Then, "Leave the gas station parking lot!"

Apparently, teens had congregated along Falls Road. It was reassuring to know that the police were vigilant, but not so reassuring to picture trying to enter one of those neighborhood stores that Friday night with mobs of teens in their lots.

A few weeks later, a neighbor reported he had found a man going into his garage mid-afternoon and asked him to leave.

"Did you call the police?" I asked.

No, he had not. When I thought about it, I realized that I had seen the man walking down the street a few minutes later. He was just walking, not looking at houses or cars, and I was talking to a 87 neighbor. Now I know I should have excused myself and gone inside and called the police.

That is what Northern District police urge residents to do. Addressing the September meeting of the Roland Park Civic League after a recent spate of brazen bike thefts in the neighborhood, they said not to hesitate to call 911.

Sadly, I was only slightly surprised when a friend emailed me that a dead body had been found under the pier of her home at the Inner Harbor. There is no word yet what the cause of that death was, but after the recent killing of an National Institutes of Health scientist outside his home in northeast Baltimore, it is not hard to imagine possible scenarios.

As much as some rail at the picture of Baltimore painted by "The Wire," that picture must not be denied. Even from our lush, green perch in Roland Park, the effects of poverty and drugs are seen regularly. City property taxes in themselves are what they are because of the size of the tax base and the high cost of running a city.

Many Roland Parkers work hard, either in jobs with area nonprofits or through volunteer efforts to fight the causes of and fallout from crime, addiction, little education, teen pregnancies and broken families. Many work to give inner city youth opportunities to find lives out of the downward spiral of joblessness, drugs and crime.

Still, every time I hear a siren on Cold Spring Lane, I am reminded that more improvement is needed. These omnipresent sirens signal trouble every few hours in the Northern District — and Northern is one of the city's safer areas.

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