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Tossing butts, texting names

The Baltimore Sun

The electronic mailbag runneth over, so to speak, with the observations, exhortations and ruminations of readers.

Let's hear from the folks.

Kathy Dodson of Baltimore was appalled that the General Assembly didn't take action to ban the all-too-common practice of driving while texting when it had a chance.

The General Assembly members need to stop being stupid and/or stop taking bribes for their votes. They also probably do a lot of texting or their kids do, therefore do not want to ban texting. Between their greed and stupidity, we don't have a chance. Don't politicians have any common sense at all? Don't people in general have any common sense at all? My only hope is that when someone is seriously hurt or killed because some idiot is texting, it is the idiot that is hurt, not an innocent bystander.

Having covered our legislature for many years, I can attest that most of them don't take bribes and many of them are quite intelligent. But collectively they tend toward timidity, and it's their nature to take even the simplest proposition - say, that DWT is dangerous both to the perpetrator and anyone in the vicinity - and "what-if" it to death.

For instance, a typical legislative reason for not supporting a DWT ban might go like this: "What if the driver were a secret agent like Jack Bauer who was a former NASCAR racer and the most skilled driver-texter in the world and he was texting the president to tell him an atomic bomb was about to go off at Camden Yards and if the agent got a ticket he would lose his secret agent's license and the rest of us would be left unprotected while the government gets rich off DWT fines?"

Before long, the honorable member would have convinced himself/herself that banning DWT would be promoting Islamic fascism and that maybe motorists should be required to text in any and all suspicious activity.

So, no, Kathy, politicians don't have common sense. They have political sense. As for the "people," well, who put the politicians where they are?

Mike Klein of Hanover is suggesting I start a crusade, obviously unaware of the historically high mortality rate of such endeavors. The object of his wrath? "Smokers who regard the world as their ashtray when they drive, flicking their ashes and tossing their cigarette butts haphazardly out the window."

I am not the least bit anti-smoker; I'm actually a dogmatic libertarian, and I think it's each person's right to decide what to do with his or her life and property. By the exact same principle, though, it is not the right of smokers to cause harm to property that does not belong to them.

I've started addressing this situation - perhaps somewhat to your chagrin - by tooting my horn to let these filthy people know they're being watched. But I think a much bigger movement is needed to shame discourteous smokers into changing their behavior.

Littering from a vehicle is against the law already, but a case could be made that discarding burning litter should be treated as a more serious offense because of the possibility of starting brush fires. But in legislative logic, such a proposal would be met with the objection that the law isn't needed because it's a rainy year.

As for "tooting," are you sure that's an accurate description? Might the sound not be a little closer to BLAAAAAANNNGGG? A good old rip of the horn that shatters the fillings of anyone within 100 yards?

That's the problem: Car horns are too hard to aim at a specific offender. Maybe a heat-seeking missile ...

Kyle Pike of Baltimore writes:

I have been continually annoyed by the lack of enforcement for the Rush Hour parking restrictions on eastbound Goucher Blvd. in Towson, between Fairmount Ave. and Providence Rd.

I see the same three or four cars parked illegally, without tickets on the windshield, every single day on my afternoon commute. It is my understanding that parking is prohibited in this time frame to allow for a third lane of eastbound traffic (the road becomes three lanes at Providence Rd.). Why is there zero enforcement for this rule?

Consider the Baltimore County police notified. If those chronic offenders are still there in a week or so, e-mail me and we can check 'em for law enforcement decals.

Gene Bracken, spokesman for the Greater Baltimore Committee, spoke for himself in reaction to my column about the Towson roundabout. He noted that the cardinal rule of roundabouts - yield to traffic already in the circle - may not apply everywhere.

The example that comes to mind for me is New Jersey, where they have circles all over the place. It appears that the drivers on the primary road entering the circle have right-of-way, and that cars already in the circle must yield to cars entering the circle from the primary route (U.S. 40, for instance).

I've gotten myself into trouble a few times by comfortably assuming I had the right-of-way within in a N.J. circle, only to get myself a near-miss with a car entering from another road and a less-than-friendly hand salute from its driver. I've always wondered, are N.J. motor vehicle laws different for roundabouts or are N.J. drivers even more oblivious to the driving rules than Marylanders?"

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission drivers' manual begins thus:

"There are no set rules for driving into, around and out of a traffic circle in New Jersey. Common sense and caution must prevail at all times. In most cases, the circle's historically established traffic flow pattern dictates who has the right-of-way."

So there it is: Don't drive in New Jersey unless you're a historian.

And as for relative obliviousness, there's no easy answer, but we'd give them a heck of a contest.


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