Beating rush may cause a crash


OTHER THAN changing your route, there's no realistic way to beat waiting in rush hour traffic on the Beltway. So why is someone always trying to beat the crush by driving recklessly?

For example, each morning on the ramp from White Marsh Boulevard to the Beltway (Exit 31C), scores of cars soar along the shoulder and try to squeeze into traffic before the road merges onto the Beltway.

And if they can't get onto the Beltway right away, many of those same motorists are content to ride the Beltway's shoulder until they can wedge in.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Jim Durkin, who commutes twice daily on the Beltway between White Marsh Boulevard and the Jones Falls Expressway. "They're squeezing through and trying to cut in at the last second."

Michael McKelvin of the Maryland State Police said troopers monitor the Beltway heavily during rush hours and often cannot patrol the ramps. He said motorists do frequently call state police via cellular phones to complain of shoulder drivers. Improper passing carries a $40 fine.

A long wait

Impatience of another form occurs daily on Timonium Road at Green Spring Drive near the Timonium State Fairgrounds. There, the lack of a left-turn signal on eastbound Timonium Road makes for a long wait for drivers wishing to go north on Green Spring Drive.

"I was in a line of nine cars trying to turn left. Four made it, two almost got hit, that left five left in the line and more coming behind them," Carolyn Woy, who lives in nearby Cockeysville, said of a recent bad experience there.

The Intrepid One went there last week for a look-see. Unfortunately, it was during the evening rush hour, and we got stuck in the scads of traffic.

We parked and observed that about five cars go through per light change; never did the entire string of vehicles make it.

Steve Webber, a Baltimore County traffic engineer, said recent studies of the intersection show that a left-turn signal is not necessary. But, he added, traffic patterns may have changed to warrant another study to determine if a signal is necessary.

License tag lacking

A colleague recently asked why the Intrepidmobile does not )) have a front license tag. Simple: We keep it in the trunk to show any police officer who asks why it's "not affixed to the front bumper." (We love that lingo.)

We know that Maryland residents must have a tag "affixed" on the front and rear of their cars and face a $40 ticket for not having both. But the tag never fit the Intrepidmobile properly; the screws never fit the bumper holes, causing it to rattle when it's loosely "affixed."

Apparently we're not alone. Other motorists said their cars were either not made to have a front tag, have lost the tag or feel that it diminishes the beauty of their vehicles.

Several states -- including nearby Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- require only one tag.

John Remmins, who recently moved here from Pennsylvania, where only one tag is required, doesn't plan to use a front tag.

"It serves no purpose as I see it," said Mr. Remmins, who lives in Columbia. "It's important to see the tag if fleeing an accident."

Mr. McKelvin of the state police said troopers don't necessarily cruise looking for one-tag drivers, but they pull them over if spotted. Again, it's a $40 ticket.

No sale here

Finally, from the normally quiet Hilltop neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore, we issue a plea from Karran O'Connor Chaney: No community yard sales or flea markets are conducted during the week, so there's no need for motorists to slam on the brakes to check out the dated signs plastered on utility poles on Walther Avenue and Bellevale Road touting the sales.

Those signs are old. We repeat: They are old.

"Where I live, yard sales are a weekend staple. We constantly witness near misses because of cars slamming on their brakes to read a month-old sign on a telephone pole," Ms. Chaney said.

She routinely sits on her porch and watches as drivers cause close calls to read the dated signs. Vehicles back up, stop, creep along and pause to read the signs, she says. The signs are also on the grass median of Bellevale Road.

We've never been a big fan of yard sales, but we've seen some that have caught our eye -- like the one we saw recently on Eastern Avenue in Middle River that was twice as large as a stop sign.

Zack Germroth, spokesman for the Baltimore Housing Authority, said the signs should come down the day after the sale at the latest, and it's the responsibility of the person having the sale.

If the signs remain for a lengthy period, the party having the sale is eligible to be fined by the housing inspection division of the housing authority, he said.

Police said they have not heard of accidents from motorist stopping to check out yard sale signs.

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