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Monday, Feb 18 2013 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: If only we could all issue driving citations

By The Bakersfield Californian

Knuckleheads who won't get out of the way of emergency vehicles whose sirens are wailing. Ignoramuses who speed through strip-mall parking lots like they're on the freeway. Dolts who have to slam on their brakes because they've just looked up from their text-message conversation.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to pull over those bad drivers 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 who deserves it. 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:

There are a variety of annoyances but the following are ones I frequently encounter on the roadways:

1. Drivers running to jump in front of me and cut me off to make the freeway exit we are approaching when there is no one behind me for a quarter-mile. They should be ticketed for reckless and careless driving as well as public endangerment.

2. Running red lights. I see this at least once daily. These drivers should be cited for failure to stop for a red traffic light.

3. Drivers ignoring the flashing red lights and stop signs extended by school buses. They should be cited for this serious offense.

4. Many vehicles display expired license plates. These seem to be plentiful and in most cases their owners likely do not have liability insurance coverage. Their vehicles should be impounded and citations given for both offenses.

If Kern County would hire me to issue these and other moving violations and pay me 10 percent of the fines, I could really add to my retirement income. Having previous law enforcement experience helps me recognize these offenses. I wish I had the authorization to cite these uncaring drivers.

William Palmer of Bakersfield is semi-retired from a career in an oil-related industry.

My biggest "pet peeve" concerns reporting bad drivers to the police. Several times I have observed drivers behaving erratically, swerving from lane to lane, or drifting so far to the left as to rub their tires on the center divider, or once, an elderly woman carefully navigating down Stockdale Highway smack in the middle of two lanes by using the dotted line as her guide. But when I've called in these concerns, complete with descriptions of the cars and license plates, the police have basically said, "We can't do anything unless a patrol car observes this." I'd like to see these drivers at least get a warning in the mail!

Jenell Mahoney of Bakersfield is a retired Christian minister who served in the pulpit for more than 30 years.

I need only drive around Bakersfield for 20 minutes to make a list about a mile long of bad driving habits. Drivers who run red lights should be thrown in jail. Those who text or talk on their cellphones while driving should be given hefty fines. What about the guy driving his Beemer with his knees, reading a newspaper and shaving? Or the lady in the SUV who is late for work and using the rearview mirror to put on her mascara? Don't believe me? Check out Highway 178 at about 7:55 a.m. These habits are not only stupid, they are quite often deadly.

Before I retired, I used to get really upset with people going too slow in front of me. Now that I'm retired, I get upset with people who get up on my tail because I'm going too slow. Blood pressure medication would work wonders for the latter. I always pay my bills and taxes, so why are there so many high-end cars with expired plates and probably no insurance? Guess who pays for that?

Even the best drivers make mistakes, and I have received plenty of one-finger salutes in my time. It was explained to me that use of our public road system is a privilege, not a right. When driving mistakes become bad habits, that privilege can and should be revoked. Slow down, be courteous and drive safe.

Tom Haslebacher of Bakersfield is a hydrologist.

My biggest pet peeve is when I am in the left-turn lane at a stoplight and cars are slow in moving through the intersection. When the light turns green the lead car has a big responsibility in quickly moving through the intersection so the rest of us can make the light. The second car and all the rest must keep up with the car in front of them. There is always some idiot who doesn't keep up and keeps the rest of us from making the light. The penalty should be a public beating.

Paul Thomas of Bakersfield works in insurance.

Several years ago, I was behind a farm truck waiting for the light to change at Old River Road and Ming Avenue. In the bed of the truck were several dogs, and more were in the cab. The light changed and the truck and I moved forward. I am so grateful I wasn't traveling fast as one little black dog fell out and landed right in front of me. I honked my horn and when the truck completed the turn the driver pulled over to the curb and put the little dog back in the bed.

I got out of my car and berated him, whereas he told me to mind my own business. I took his license number and said I was going to notify the police, which I did, and then was told they couldn't do anything. Lesson learned here was if this ever happens to me again, I will make a citizen's arrest and then maybe the police will pay attention. (Guess I was lucky he wasn't packing a gun.)

Just think of all the money Bakersfield could bring in by tackling the problem of dogs in truck beds. This could have been serious if I had swerved to avoid the dog. People like this should be made to help at the SPCA and also learn the rules governing dogs in truck beds.

Betty Stewart of Bakersfield is the retired office manager of a medical clinic.

I have many pet peeves, and I'm no angel, but driving would be safer for all if everyone drove like the people in the cars around you were relatives, friends and acquaintances, and the car behind you was a police car.

David M. Keranen of Bakersfield is a retired math teacher.

Most bad drivers share one of two traits, if not both: ignorance and apathy. They don't know the traffic laws and/or they don't care to obey them. My peeve is with the latter. Their indifference is exacerbated by impatience (tailgating, red-light running and unsafe passing) and myopic inattention (texting while driving, failure to anticipate potential accidents and careless parking).

While I am most annoyed by inconsiderate drivers, my chief concern is traffic safety. For that reason, I would crack down the hardest (not withstanding drunken drivers) on running signal lights and stop sign violators. Tailgating leads to rear-enders but they are not nearly as fatal nor injurious as being T-boned in an intersection by some yahoo. Since you can't legislate common sense and civility, instituting mandatory traffic school and license suspension for repeat offenders would be a good start. If the justification for stricter gun control laws is that saving just one life is worthwhile, then cracking down on the aforementioned violators is called for. Reducing the number of needless, avoidable deaths and injuries by taking stronger steps to discourage these violations is a worthwhile undertaking.

Angelo Haddad of Bakersfield is an insurance broker.

I expect my pet peeve will be right up close to the top. Yellow-light runners! I don't remember the last time I stopped at a red light when at least one vehicle didn't come through, usually making a left turn on the yellow. These people are either brain dead or they simply don't care about anyone, including themselves.

Joel Park of Bakersfield is retired from a career in private security.

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