A Civil Response to Inconsiderate Jerks in the Next Lane

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart:

Regarding the readers who object to drivers who don't signal before making a lane change: Ask them if they are the same drivers who, when spotting a motorist signaling, speed up to close the gap, thereby making a safe lane change impossible.

I have a perfectly clean driving record and consider myself a very safe driver. I used to signal. But I found out the hard way that a signal really means "Don't let me in." I have found it much safer to not signal, but to simply look over my shoulder and change lanes when it's safe.

Am I happy about this? No. But too many drivers see the signal and take it as a personal affront that somebody actually wants to gain access to the same lane.

I'll stick to my method of non-signaling. Unfortunately, it's a much safer commute.

Susie Dotan

Canoga Park

Dear Reader:

It's pretty gutsy of you to admit to being a lawbreaker. Granted, it's not like you're confessing to being a serial killer, which can lead to years in jail, an interview with Geraldo Rivera and your life story retold in made-for-TV movies and books.

Changing lanes without a signal is a simple infraction, punishable by a fine of about $50 and a black mark on your driving record.

California Highway Patrol Officer Glen Dominguez said many motorists share your complaint about other drivers closing up when they signal to change lanes. But he stressed that in addition to breaking the law, such actions can get someone hurt or killed--including yourself.

Dominguez suggests that you signal and make the lane change quickly, but safely, before those other drivers have a chance to close up.

As for those of you who freeze them out when Susie and others try to make a lane change, please, cut her some slack.

Dear Street Smart:

I live on a street in a house built 27 years ago. During this time our street has never been repaved. I have seen streets around us repaved, although they are only 10 or 15 years old. I called the Street Maintenance Department many times. They are always quite courteous but say there is a budget crunch and no streets are being paved. I will gladly pay a fee to cover the resurfacing of our street.

Is there anything we can do?

Eleanor Glassberg

Woodland Hills

Dear Reader:

First, let me set the record straight: Although many streets in Los Angeles resemble a boulevard in Beirut, a motorway in Mogadishu or an avenue in Azerbaijan, the city has not stopped laying down pavement.

What has happened is that budget problems dramatically reduced the amount of repaving work, from 140 miles of the city's 7,000 miles of streets last year to 100 miles this year.

Either way, that's like trying to bail out the Titanic with a tablespoon.

I called Greg Scott, a street maintenance superintendent, and asked if residents can pay a fee to have their street repaved.

"It's very unusual," he responded. "We've only had one other request, years ago in Pacific Palisades, and when they saw the cost they changed their minds."

Scott said the fee would depend on how much street frontage your home has. He declined to guess at the fee for your street, but assured me that it would be so much that you would not be willing to pay it.

For a short-term solution, he said the city still has crews that fill potholes or pave short stretches of road. You get them by calling the Los Angeles Street Maintenance Department at (213) 485-5661 and telling them: "My street looks like the surface of the moon. Please help."

Dear Street Smart:

Every time there is a sizable rain, there is a flood under the railroad bridge at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Tuxford Street in Sun Valley. Sometimes it gets so deep that the road is blocked. After the last rain, I counted five cars stalled under the bridge.

I suggest installing a pump on the southeast side of San Fernando Road and pumping the water from under the bridge to the storm drain.

Herb Sanders

Van Nuys

Dear Reader:

This sounds sensible: Maintain roadways so they don't become waterways.

I relayed your suggestion to the Los Angeles County Public Works Department, which oversees flood-control problems countywide. Spokeswoman Jean Granucci said her agency is already aware of the flooding problem and is considering solutions as part of a regional drainage project.

However, she couldn't say when the project would be completed or even how much area it is expected to serve.

But again, that vile, redheaded beast known as the state budget shortfall rears its ugly head; Granucci said the state has drained the county of $40 million in flood-control project funds, reducing the chances of getting the project completed anytime soon.

For now, the best solution is for the county to keep existing drains at that intersection clear of debris. If you see the water backing up on this or any other intersection in the county, you should call the Public Works Department's 24-hour help line at (818) 458-HELP and say: "My street looks like the Mississippi. Please help."

Dear Reader:

After reading in this column that the name of Chevy's Nova means "won't go" in Spanish, Fred Sanson of Northridge wrote to submit his nomination for strangest car name: the Geo.

He points out that in the Pacific Northwest you can enjoy a seafood delicacy called "Geoduck," which is a strange-shaped clam. But up there, the dish is pronounced "Gooey duck."

Thus, he suggests the car should be pronounced in the same manner.

Imagine calling AAA to get your Geo towed: "My gooey is stuck in the mud. Please help."

And if you were in Mexico, you could say: "Mi gooey no va."

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