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Sunday, Feb 24 2013 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: Tailgaters and more: They're everywhere

Everyone has a pet peeve when it comes to driving: speeders, frequent lane-changers, cellphone blabbers and more. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to pull over those ignoramuses and write them a citation? 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 some of their responses:

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The one bad driving habit that irritates me the most is tailgating. The mentality of the tailgater is to try to bully the driver in front of them to drive faster even though the driver in front of the tailgater may be driving at or slightly above the posted speed limit. Even if the driver in front of the tailgater is driving below the posted speed limit, the tailgater should exercise more patience and better safe driving judgment in an effort to prevent the possibility of a life-threatening accident.

If I had the time and authority to pull a tailgater over, the first thing I would do is install a rearview camera in my vehicle. The camera would capture the license plate number, photograph of the driver, and the proximity of the rear vehicle to my vehicle. I would issue a citation that would require the driver to attend a two-hour driver training class or pay a $100 fine. There would be an added stipulation that a subsequent offense would result in a fine and eight hours of community service.

James H. Williams of Bakersfield is the retired chancellor of the Modesto-based Yosemite Community College District.

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In traffic, as in life, we can't control what goes on all around us. We can only control how we deal with what's around us. If we focus on other's faults, we will always be irritated because some drivers will always be thoughtless and even reckless. In fact, when confronted with unexpected circumstances or strange situations, the best drivers can do dumb things. I sure have. So instead of useless complaining, we need to be sure we are helping to solve the problem.

My solution is this: First, I realize in advance I'm certain to encounter drivers who do dumb things. I forgive them in advance. Then when it happens, I've already decided to be patient.

Second, I remind myself, "Never repay evil for evil." Even when tempted to do so, I try never to "get even" or to "teach that guy a lesson." To do so only makes me dumb and dangerous. Third, I try to set a good example. Driving in a considerate way, I find, is contagious. It makes the road more pleasant for everyone. It's possible to be very neighborly on the highway -- to move out of the way for faster cars, to keep one's lights dim even when the other fellow fails to do so, to give space for others to pull easily into the flow of traffic in front of you. In short, driving both reveals character and builds character. The highway is a great way to: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Don Clark of Arvin is a retired broadcaster and fundraiser.

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My very favorite minor driving irritant concerns those drivers who believe that the direction of the gutters determines right of way rather than California Vehicle Code provisions that clearly state that in the case of an uncontrolled intersection, the first one to the intersection has the right of way and, in the event of a tie, the one to the right has the right away.

Keeping in mind that uncontrolled means no traffic control signs or devices. It does not mean that there are no helpful gutters to guide the way. For years, I lived on the corner of an uncontrolled intersection. I would pull to a stop or pause to check traffic, see a car turning into the street on my left (yes, that means I would be on the car's right ), and watch the car accelerate, clearly expecting me, the first car to the intersection and the car on the right, to yield right of way as the driver faced with the gutters.

And yes, occasionally I did pull out -- when safe -- only to be greeted with horns and the usual gestures of indignation.

So, the law says: No traffic control signs or devices means the first to the intersection has the right of way, and in the event of a tie, right of way goes to the car on the right. Or, gutters do not ever determine right of way!

Sharon Mettler of Bakersfield is a retired Kern County Superior Court judge.

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I learned most of my swear words from my husband while he was driving. Drivers who don't care that there are others on the road besides themselves really grinds me.

There's the game of cat and mouse. I signal to change lanes and the turkey next to me speeds up to be next to me, preventing me from changing lanes. I slow down to change over behind him and he slows down and still prevents me from changing lanes. Then I miss where I am supposed to turn. Or how about the character who is in such a big hurry that he or she cuts in and out of lanes without regard for safety. We both end up at the stop sign and have to wait. He has not gained anything.

Any driver who is so busy doing his own thing that he chooses to ignore road etiquette should get to go out for a day with a stunt driver. Have the stunt driver do every trick in the book and scare the daylights out of that inconsiderate driver. I want their knees shaking when they get out of that stunt car. Then to finish the day off, they can sit through a long lecture on traffic laws.

Irene Edmonds of Bakersfield is retired.

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When I moved to Bakersfield from Houston, Texas, in 1986, drivers were civilized. Twenty-seven years later, there are a lot more people here, traffic has increased by leaps and bounds and so have uncivilized drivers.

Case in point: Road construction is going on all over the city and county. These projects are essential for an efficient flow of the increase in traffic. There is one area near my home that has been under construction for a long time (south on Coffee Road at Brimhall Road). The right lane is blocked just past the railroad tracks and for those who travel it frequently, we are very aware that traffic has to merge down to two lanes continuing south prior to Brimhall. I travel that route almost every day. Invariably, two or three (or more) intimidating pickups or fancy sports cars refuse to merge. They speed along in the right lane at 60 mph (deserving of a ticket in construction zones) to the very last foot before the barricades. It brings out the competitiveness in all of us (even I have been known to tempt fate by not yielding to the uncivilized). At the last minute "Charlie and Marie Uncivil" turn on their left blinker (like that gives them permission to merge no matter what). They triumphantly move four whole car lengths ahead of the civilized drivers who take turns like obedient children.

One solution would be to deputize a few people (pick me, pick me) and let them write tickets. With the increased lack of civility, the police are busy enough making sure people aren't being murdered, robbed and raped.

Caroline O. Reid of Bakersfield works part time. She is a retired executive assistant.

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The bad habits of drivers that bother me the most is people who are in a hurry and go faster than the speed limit. This really is quite easy to prevent. The Police Department can put a patrol car in a stretch of the road and issue speeding tickets during the rush hour. In time, those who use that stretch of the highway will know that they can't get away with it and will behave. The Police Department can move the patrol around to different commutes at different times and wise everyone up. No one wants to be stopped on the way to work or have to take time and money to settle a ticket.

Ken Cannon of Bakersfield retired from a career with a telephone company.

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