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Thursday, Feb 14 2013 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: If I were the head traffic cop for a day ...

We have all experienced it: You hear a faint siren in the distance, and within a moment or two you realize an ambulance is three or four blocks back and coming up fast, lights flashing. You wait another moment to see if the ambulance is turning onto a side street, but it's not, and now it's two blocks behind you. So you ease over and come to a stop against the curb. The ambulance races past you, but only a short distance: It seems other cars have failed to get out of the way. Cars are blocking both lanes, and the drivers don't seem especially concerned about it. The siren wails, the lights flash and still the cars don't move for several potentially vital seconds. Who knows? Maybe these oblivious drivers have been too busy reading text messages to notice a life may be at risk in the shrieking vehicle behind them.

Everyone has a pet peeve when it comes to driving; motorists who refuse to move aside for emergency vehicles that are clearly in a hurry is just one of many. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to pull over those ignoramuses and give them a stern lecture? Maybe even write a citation that costs them enough to make an impression? Alas, law enforcement officers are too busy to pull over every driver they might see who fails to use a turn signal properly, and even if they had the time, there aren't enough officers on the streets to stop all of these violators.

But imagine you had the time and the authority to do it for them. What everyday traffic annoyances drive you most crazy? We asked members of The Californian's Sounding Board for their thoughts. Here are a few of their responses.

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Those people who run through red lights are not only endangering the public and themselves, they actually slow down traffic movement, because we are all afraid to move forward when the light first turns green.

Those people who do not understand that drivers should give way to traffic merging onto the freeway are hazards. Sure, sometimes it is not possible to move out of the right lane to accommodate a merging car, due to other traffic. Guess what: It is OK to slow down or speed up to accommodate the merge.

Those people who do not use their turn signals to indicate a lane change are one of the top causes of accidents. Give your fellow drivers a chance to guess what you are going to do. Weaving back and forth in traffic at a high speed puts all the responsibility on other drivers to avoid a collision. Is that fair?

Those people who throw waste out of their windows, or it flies out of the back of their pickups, are not only trashing our community, they are creating a driving hazard for other. Those items may block vision.

There are not enough Highway Patrol or local police officers to turn their attention to all of these events, all of the time, for all of "those people." Instead, we should all take the responsibility for our actions and stop being one of "those people."

My other answer is to lock them up in stocks and drive them around on the top of cars or in the back of pickups.

Sheryl Barbich of Bakersfield is a business consultant.

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Drivers are human beings and their behaviors cannot be incorporated in either empirical or mathematical formulas. That's the reason why a near-perfect traffic flow could not be achieved in synchronized traffic corridors. A motorist driving at 30 mph in a 55-mph zone is not only an annoyance and a traffic hazard but he also destroys the timing program in coordinated road segments.

Making a very slow right turn from a major arterial with no deceleration lane into a local street is another source of irritation for drivers following on the same lane -- more so if the right-turning motorist does not turn on his right-turn indicator. Motorists coming up fast from behind need adequate warning time in order to prevent rear-end collisions.

From a traffic engineering standpoint, there are times in some situations when being too courteous becomes more of a vice than a virtue. To our credit, Bakersfield motorists are known to be very considerate, unlike those in metropolitan areas. This happens in synchronized major roads especially in peak periods just before a signalized intersection. Vehicles already on the major road should have the right of way. Sometimes a motorist on the major road is too courteous to drivers on the side streets or driveways and allows them to maneuver onto the major corridor to the detriment of the long line of vehicles following him. A couple or more vehicles inserting from side streets or driveways would disrupt the supposedly synchronized traffic flow and may cause an intersection gridlock in worst-case scenarios.

Manuel D. Fuderanan is an engineer with the city of Bakersfield.

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The most common traffic violation I see every time I drive a car is people talking or texting on their cellphones. The distraction of cellphone calls and texting leads to bigger safety issues, such as failing to use turn signals, merging into lanes without looking and even blowing through traffic signal lights because they didn't see the light change from green to red.

Obviously, our law enforcement officers can't pull over everyone they see using a cellphone as sometimes they are en route to a call for assistance when they witness it. I would bet the usage of cellphones is as high as 1 in every 5 cars on the road. While the fine is already stiff for the first offense, I believe if it were more like $500 for the first offense, fewer people would be inclined to talk on their phone or text while driving. The next time you are stopped at a major intersection, I challenge you to look around and see how many people are talking on the phone or waiting for the light to change. The ones that are really amusing to watch are the ones that turn their speakerphone function on and hold the phone a foot away from their mouths. Sorry, folks, that does not qualify as "hands-free." You're holding the phone!

Jim A. Luff of Bakersfield is the general manager of a transportation company.

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I wish drivers would realize that a parking lot is just that, a parking lot. Many forget that when they pull off a public street that they are entering a pedestrian-dominated zone. Be it private or public property, people on foot, vehicles backing out blind or in awkward positions need courtesy and consideration.

Scaring people by honking to get them out of the way is particularly rude and selfish. This area is not a thoroughfare and a vehicle bumper can do a lot of damage to skin and bone.

Video cameras documenting dangerous driver behavior put on YouTube could be used as evidence against these thoughtless bozos and to sue their pants off. Public humiliation might alter their aberrant behavior, but I doubt it.

Don't think of speed bumps as challenges. Carelessly kill or maim someone and it could ruin your life.

Rich Partain is a retired Bakersfield College professor.

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My pet peeve is the number of unlicensed drivers found during the random DUI checkpoints. More unlicensed drivers are discovered than those who are cited for DUIs. How many times does a person need to be cited for driving without a license before we all should know who they are? I would have my can of spray paint right there and paint large fluorescent X's on their trunk and hood indicating how many times they have been found to be driving without a license. For every DUI, I'd paint a big fluorescent D, again for every time they have been arrested for driving under the influence. Right now, we all look alike when driving. We have no way to know who we are in traffic with. Obviously, the repeat offenders don't care, but this way the rest of us would know to be extra cautious whenever we would see a marked car. Too many innocent lives are taken due to these individuals. It's time for us to know who they are. Profiling? Absolutely! I've got my spray paint ready.

Darlyn Baker of Bakersfield is the co-owner of Interim Health/Care.

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