Opinion, Commentary and Perspective on News, Politics, Sports, Lifestyle and Entertainment

Stacks Image 13021
Photos: top left: David Maril with the late Chuck Thompson, the voice of the Orioles and Colts, the summer he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993; top right: a perspective shot of Maril at Wrigley Field; featured photo: journalist Ken Decoste with the late, great Harry Caray and Maril.

Cavalcade of Columns

Lane switchers the route of most road and highway problems

Too many self-centered drivers
ignore traffic flow, safety of others

Widening the highways and adding more lanes
isn’t the only answer
when selfish drivers are to blame

By David Maril

Traffic jams and lengthy delays caused by accidents become worse every day. If you commute to work anywhere close to cities, and densely populated growing communities, driving times can be doubled and tripled by uncertain and unstable road conditions. Accidents and traffic tie-ups have gotten even worse because with lower gasoline prices this year there’s more encouragement for people to drive.

It’s not only on working days. People headed to getaway resort areas on weekends and holidays are often subject to the same delays with traffic problems exasperated by access roads and bridges that are not designed to handle these bursts of vacation activity.

The solutions usually offered are to widen the highways with more traffic lanes and build more express toll roads. But you know something? That solution is nothing more than the old “Field Of Dreams,” philosophy of “if you build it they will come.”’ Or in this case, more will come.

Want a simple, cost efficient solution? Here’s a simple, but because of human nature, not so easy answer.

Traffic would be greatly reduced and even the worst road quagmires would move along if we could find a way to convince the growing army of “I’m the only one who counts” to stay put in their lanes. Too many drivers have turned aggressive lane-switching into a deadly weapon, making it impossible for crowded highways to maintain any semblance of traffic flow.

These aggressive lane-switchers, who are oblivious to everyone else on the road, are even worse than the clueless legion of slowpokes who block traffic up in the passing lane, going 10 miles per hour under the speed limit.

Reducing traffic congestion is all about maintaining traffic flow. You see it all the time on Interstates, city highways and urban parkways. Four lanes, plus the breakdown track, are crammed with cars, creeping along at slow speeds. Just when one lane of cars gets up to about 30 mph, someone from a slower lane finds a way to force into the flow. Usually it’s done without a directional signal.

The abrupt, discourteous and unsafe maneuver forces brake lights to flash as cars, trucks and busses have to practically stop on a dime to avoid rear-ending the vehicle they are trailing. In seconds, the once free-flowing lane is stopped, thanks to the knucklehead who switched into the lane.

Just as that lane stops, the one next to it starts moving and the same type of abrupt lane-switching takes place, causing more chain-reaction sudden stops and another halt in the traffic flow.

These days, practically every type of driver is switching back and forth, trying to gain an extra second here and there, cutting other vehicles off. Sports cars, trucks, SUVs, luxury boat-sized vehicles, and compact high-mileage cars all partake in this foolhardy competition. You see them cutting in and out from the far left to the far right, making everyone else responsible for not running into them when they cut you off.

Many of these morons even have to have the last word when they exit the highway. They take great delight in cutting over to the right at the last possible second from three lanes over without even a turn-signal blinking. The few times directional signals are used, they are turned on as the car is barging into your lane, long after you’ve slammed on your brakes. Apparently it’s no longer necessary to put the signal on a few seconds before you move over into someone else’s lane.

The irony is that these reckless stunts gain very little time. Often, even the most active lane switcher will gain is a couple of car lengths over a five-mile ride. We need to find a way way to convince these knuckleheads they would actually get where they are going faster if they’d stay in their lane and let the traffic reach a steady flow.

But that would be tough to do. There’s some type of militant, hostile and self-centered attitude that seems to influence many of these people. They are the ones who will jump over to the breakdown lanes that are not supposed to be used, while everyone else is putting up with slow traffic, and go flying by.

The lane switchers are even a problem during off-peak time periods on wide open roads when there isn't any congestion and the traffic is moving along above the speed limit. With these fools on the road, it is practically impossible to create and maintain a safe driving distance between your car and the vehicle in front. You can be cruising along, maintaining a safe distance from the car in front, and the lane-switcher insists on squeezing over in front of you as part of a move to pass five cars in four different lanes in less than 200 yards.

It gets so bad, you actually end up rooting for tickets with heavy fines when these selfish speedsters get stopped by a surprise police cruiser waiting out of sight around a curve or over the hill. That’s a far cry from the days when many of us would flash our headlights warning vehicles on the other side to slow down because they were approaching a speed trap.

David Maril has been a columnist, sports editor and copy editor at three newspapers published in Massachusetts, winning numerous writing and section-design awards. As sports editor of the Milford Daily News, he covered the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and the New England Patriots. At the Brockton Enterprise he served as vice president of the newspaper’s guild, dealing with contract negotiations and workforce issues through difficult economic times. He also served on the board of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, where he is a lifetime member and voter in Major League Baseball’s annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame balloting. For several years was a columnist for Voice Of Baltimore. The son of the late artist Herman Maril, whose work is included in over 100 museum collections, David splits his time between Cape Cod, MA and Baltimore, MD. He currently serves as president of the Herman Maril Foundation, which supports curatorial projects, art education programs and exhibitions related to the study of his father’s work. The website, featuring his father’s artwork, is hermanmaril.com. A graduate of Park School in Brooklandville, MD, David majored in English at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

If you wold like to comment on this blog David can be reached at david@davidmaril.com.