Breaking laws of man and sense

The Baltimore Sun

Mike Schaefer's name used to be seen on a lot of campaign signs in town during his spectacularly unsuccessful 2006 run for the U.S. Senate.

Now, having recovered from his 1.3 percent showing in the Democratic primary, he'd just like to see his name in print addressing one serious problem. It's not quite in the league of global warming or world hunger, but it matters to him.

"The law clearly and specifically provides that a vehicle on a one-way street can turn RIGHT or LEFT onto a one-way street if there is no traffic in the intersection," Schaefer wrote. "But most drivers think you can only turn RIGHT after stopping at a one way/one way intersection."

Schaefer added that a disagreement over the issue was the "last straw" leading to his breakup with a "bossy, know-it-all type" girlfriend.

The two were late for an event, heading south on one-way St. Paul Street and stopped for a red light at one-way, eastbound Eager Street with "no traffic anywhere," Schaefer reported.

"[I] asked her to turn so we could make the next light and get onto 83, she refused, lectured me on how you can turn only RIGHT after stopping, even at one-way onto one-way; I am a former prosecuting attorney, have worked with these laws for years, and knew what I was talking about, asked her to at least humor me, if she did get a ticket I would pay it, but was sure she would not, could not. She just sat there for the longest minute I have experienced. That's why I remember it so, and why you should raise this issue."

COMMENT: Is this real life or a Seinfeld episode?

Anyway, while this column can't vouch for Schaefer's skill in nurturing his romantic relationships, it can verify that he's absolutely right about state traffic law. The Maryland Driver's Manual is crystal-clear on the issue: If traffic is clear, you can turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street after stopping for the light. And you'd better, because that might be Mike in the car behind you.

Other correspondents had strong reactions to the column two weeks ago dealing with the question of "passive-aggressive" drivers. Readers may recall I suggested that aggressively aggressive drivers were a slightly more pressing problem.

Charles Lawrence of Lutherville begs to differ. He finds nothing more annoying than "some dope clinging to the fast lane."

When possible, if the offender refuses to yield to passing traffic, I make it a point to place myself directly in front and to his right - not more than a few feet laterally and position-wise - then signal that I'm moving to the left lane and do so not more then a second or two after my turn signal is engaged.

I pull quickly in front of him/her with only a few feet at most between the back of my car and the front of theirs. In the many hundreds of such automotive maneuvers I have never once had the offender accelerate. It is an instinctive reaction for the dopes to hit the brakes - sometimes hard. Just the effect I'm looking for and a reality check for such blockheads.

COMMENT: I must have been sick the day they taught that in driver's ed.

Jean Palmer of Brooklyn Park could qualify as one of the targets of Lawrence's slick moves.

Several years ago, I decided that it was wrong for me to break the law: any law. That includes the speed limit. Since that time, I always stay in the right-most lane, unless the rare occasion happens where there is someone going slower than me that I have to pass, or when I'm getting ready to turn or exit left. I can't even begin to count how many people this has outraged. I get tailgated constantly, even though there is a very open passing lane that could be used to go around me. Slowing down to encourage them to pass doesn't help. I've even slowed down so much that I was no longer moving, and still had cars refuse to go around me. Instead they sit behind me, blaring their horns.

OK, I'll admit that when I come to a complete stop, I'm being passive-aggressive. But the nut behind me who still refuses to go around is more than aggressive. ... They must be drunk or something.

COMMENT: A complete stop? That's not passive-aggressive; it's passive-ridiculous. Are you trying out for a role in Road Rage: The Brooklyn Park Massacre?

The revealing phrase here is "I get tailgated constantly." Most of us get tailgated occasionally. But if happens really, really constantly, there might just be a clue in there. Think about it. Hard. In front of a mirror.

Charlie Rice of Eldersburg seems like a guy who goes with the flow. He wrote:

I get behind people who drive either right at or below the speed limit and I can't pass them but I'll take that inconvenience over some nut running up on my rear bumper at 80 mph.

People need to consider driving as a team effort - the more you look out for the other guy and try to be helpful (let them merge, slow down for the trucks trying to enter, stay out of the fastest lane unless you are actually passing, keep your distance, etc.) the easier the flow of traffic and the quicker and safer we all get to our destinations. Problem is most people don't see it that way - it's "I am the center of my universe and I have an inalienable right to do whatever I want!" Well, not really, not on a public highway.

Next time you try to merge and an old guy waves you in, smile. It might be me.

COMMENT: Rice claims to have been born and raised in Maryland. Who does he think he's kidding?

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