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Turning around bad habit of those who pass illegally


DRIVERS PASSING her illegally really put a kink in Dale Atkinson's crankshaft.

Atkinson noted that starting at Severna Park High School and continuing toward Chartwell, there is a center "turning lane" on Benfield Road.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen this lane being used illegally as a passing lane," she said. She said this happens no matter what speed she is traveling.

"This can definitely be very dangerous, especially if someone swings in that lane at a place where someone is correctly using it [as a turn lane] coming towards that car, to turn into a road. This has happened many times at the intersection of Benfield Road and the community of Severna Forest," she said.

She that she would love to see increased police presence to discourage or nab illegal passers. But Atkinson said she doesn't believe the illegal passers are necessarily aggressive drivers, just ignorant ones.

"I am not sure that people know this lane is only used for turning," she said.

"Several people who passed me simply put their directional signal on, passed and got in front of me. Would it be possible for the county to have signs on Benfield Road saying 'center lane for turning only?'"

I forwarded this concern to county officials.

A relative problem

Of all the drivers on the road, there probably is only one driver we like to criticize more than all the others. But our spouses probably don't deserve the criticism. Mine doesn't.

Yet two weeks ago, I mentioned my husband in the column, labeling him "the most passive, frustratingly law-abiding driver I've ever encountered."

I stand by those words.

Rich Honafous quickly e-mailed some questions in response.

"Why is it 'frustrating' because your husband does not break the law when he is driving?" he wondered.

If you've ever driven behind my husband (and many of you have, until you had a chance to pass him), you'd understand why I call it frustrating.

But mostly, it's a difference of driving temperaments, mine being the more aggressive. He goes the speed limit, to the mile. I fudge a little.

But there are a number of other reasons I find it frustrating, most having to do with so many years of being married.

Honafous also wondered which law states "we have to pull to the right, even though we are going at the speed limit or above, to enable a person to break the law even more than we might be if we're above the limit."

In particular, he argued that "the concept of enabling people to break the law in all sorts of other situations is an interesting idea. For example, if I see a store being robbed, I should hold the door open to make it easier for the robbers to run out?"

The relevant law can be found in the Maryland Traffic Code, Article 21 Section 303.d: "The driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle." The police pointed it out to me several years ago, saying (at the time, anyway) that they have had occasion to cite drivers for breaking that law.

This law doesn't say anything like "unless the overtaking vehicle is speeding" or "unless you feel morally justified to slow the other driver down."

Obviously I am not, and this law is not, advocating enabling law-breaking. In this one case at least, leave law enforcement in the hands of the experts.

Finally, Honafous wondered, "In what ways are you qualified to judge the driving of other people?"

The short answer is: I'm thoroughly not qualified to judge the driving of other people, any more than you, my mother or my neighbor up the street are. What I think Honafous is really asking is how am I qualified to write this column.

The answer is that through some good luck and hard work over the years, I landed the opportunity almost four years ago to write Traffic Talk, which is here solely so that readers can ask questions, vent pet peeves and share driving experiences.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Anne Arundel County, 60 West St., Suite 400, Annapolis 21401. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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