Volume XI, Issue 9 ~ March 6-12, 2003

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Burton on the Bay

Our Lawmakers are Driving Me Cracy

I tell you folks, all politics is applesauce.
Will Rogers: The Illiterate Digest, 1924

To those words of America’s foremost humorist of all time, I say Amen, though I might add the applesauce is bitter — and we should be ashamed of ourselves for some of the politicians we have elected.

Like, for an example, the 90 legislators in the House of Delegates at Annapolis who voted for the bill that insists if we’re in the left lane of any super highway and cruising along at the speed limit or maybe even exceeding it by a mile or two — if along comes another motorist barreling down the same left lane, we are obligated to move right to let the speeder pass to endanger motorists farther down the road.

Come back Will Rogers, come back from that 1935 airplane wreck in Alaska that also killed your pilot Wiley Post. Perhaps a comment or two from you on this insidious piece of legislation might awaken some of those 90 delegates whose votes passed the bill in their house — or at least jolt the Senate, whose members must still deliberate the proposal — into realizing this legislation is not in the interest of safety on our roads.

What Will They Think of Next?
What’s next? Will it be that if my eyes catch a burglar climbing a ladder at my neighbor’s second story window, and the ladder starts to slip out from under him, by the laws of Maryland I would be obliged to pop out and steady the ladder? That’s ridiculous, of course, but so is the bill to which those 90 legislators offered an aye.

It’s strongly suggested that if I’m poking along at 60 mph in the left lane of a highway posted for that speed, when somebody in a menacing SUV comes up behind my rear bumper tooting and blinking and giving me the bird, I should grant him the right of way in the interest of avoiding a road-rage situation.

Put that burglar back on that shaky ladder that’s about to dump him from a second story window and perhaps put a knot on his noggin. Should I steady that ladder so he won’t get enraged and perhaps break a few windows or shoot up the neighborhood?

There are some other doozies in the current session in Annapolis, where greedy lobbyists and nitwit politicians hang out at this time of year. We’ll get into one or two of ’em in a moment, but this one takes the cake, the applesauce cake.

I’d like to encounter the state cop who would ticket a law-abiding motorist for failing to give the right of way to a speeding road-rage driver blowing the horn and blinking the lights to continue doing 80 mph or so, weaving in and out of traffic. I don’t have enough fingers on my hands to give either that trooper or the idiot driver the appropriate bird.

Let’s be realistic for a moment. Is there just one valid reason why one motorist must give the legal right of way to another to continue to break the legal speed limit and endanger the lives of still other motorists?

Is there any valid reason why the motorist who is obeying the speed limit should get the ticket? Is there any valid reason why AAA’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter should endorse such a law in the interest of safety on the highway? Makes me think I was wise when I dropped my AAA membership in favor of another plan some years back.

Curious Wisdom
Our legislators have some nitwit opinions on highway safety. They obviously think that in the realm of highway safety it is less dangerous to allow a person to talk on a cell phone while weaving in and out of traffic than it is for a motorist to obey the speed limit while in the left lane.

That’s the thinking these days in Annapolis where those very same legislators quickly dispatched the latest of several bills introduced over recent years to curb the use of cell phones while driving. This despite the latest statistics that convincingly prove a driver with a cell phone in one hand (and attention more on conversation than driving) is in fact endangering the safety of other motorists.

Perhaps the passage of the get-out-of-the-way, left-lane bill is philosophically tied in with the cell phone’s defeat. Could it be the Solons figure that to deny the use of a cell phone while driving would create road rage among those who might want to call home from busy I-97 at rush hour to ask if there was any mail today?

Hey, what do we have to do to appease idiotic road-rage drivers who seem to think that anyone who drives legally on ‘their’ road should get out of the way and let them do their thing? Coming up in the not-too-distant future, will there be a bill to eliminate the motorcycle helmet law to lessen chances of Harley Davidson riders being afflicted with road rage?

To this motorist, who has never had anything more than a parking violation in 63 years on the road, it appears the officialdom will pay any cost to appease those vulnerable to being afflicted with road rage. They have the problem, and rather than be forced to control it, our legislators figure I — or you — must go their way or get out of their way.

Curiouser and Curiouser
Come to think of it, isn’t that the way much of our society has come to in recent years? Take the death penalty debate also now underway in Annapolis as an example. It matters not, we’re told, how heinous the murder, but whether the sentence was assessed on race or the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred. Once upon a time, the paramount factor was whether the person on death row had in fact committed the crime. Something’s wrong here.

Also in this legislative session there’s the curious bill by Del. Henry Heller that would allow the state to market the naming rights for bridges, with 70 percent of the proceeds going to highway projects, the remaining to the county or city where the bridge is located.

The only good thing about this bill is that the funds won’t end up in the pockets of a greedy professional sports team owner whose stadium was built with public funding.

On the flip side: In the interest of money, are we about to wipe from history former governors Millard Tawes, Thomas Johnson, William Preston Lane, Emerson C. Harrington and Harry W. Nice, all of whom among others have bridges named for them? Let’s not forget Maryland’s biggest booster ever Louis Goldstein, whose name is on a bridge that spans the Patuxent River west of Prince Frederick.

Admittedly, in more recent years, some former governors have too many things named in memory of them, from buildings and parks to streets — anything but culverts. But let’s not go overboard by wiping out tradition, heritage and recognition. Maybe Del. Heller hadn’t thought of it, but methinks there’s a big difference between crass and class.

Enough said …



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Last updated March 6, 2003 @ 1:57am