Police presence makes I-270 commute sane — and survivable

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have carpooled with my husband from upper Montgomery County to the office park near Westfield Mall for about four years. As a passenger, the things I see on a daily basis are often horrifying: road rage threatening multiple cars, lane changers in congested traffic at high speed while on the cell, folks texting at 65 mph, drivers who (a) think Interstate 270 is an autobahn, especially in the HOV lane, or (b) drive like a video game with no real sense of consequence to reckless behavior behind the wheel.

Most trips are tension-filled, as it is virtually impossible to progress up and down that highway at 60 to 65 mph, even in the HOV lane, without close calls.

But Wednesday was different! In our 6-to-6:30 a.m. trip to Bethesda, we probably saw 10 cruisers with lights on giving tickets for HOV violators or other infractions. Yes, the result was a bit more congestion as drivers slowed down to gawk or be sure they were not the next target.

But it was the first trip in a very, very long time where the traffic flow was sane, at a reasonable speed, and the lane changers and leapfroggers seemed to change their habits, at least for a day. While speeders and aggressive drivers everywhere are a safety problem, I do not see nearly enough police on I-270.

So I celebrate this day and look forward to our trip home, hoping it is more safe than yesterday and glad that Maryland's coffers will be filled with fines from these irresponsible drivers.

-- Kathy Turley, Damascus

Police did put on quite a show Wednesday with an enforcement campaign in the high-occupancy vehicle lanes of Maryland and Northern Virginia. The I-270 lanes, separated only by a white line from the regular lanes, make enforcement difficult. But as Turley reported, Wednesday's operation seemed to do more good than harm.

She wrote back to say the evening commute was better than usual. The police presence seemed to put drivers on their best behavior.

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