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LIFE ON WHEELS

Pet Peeves? Car-Pool Freeloads Lead List

July 07, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Serves me right, I suppose, for asking.

Life on Wheels readers have listed their pet peeves about driving in the county--and I am one of them.

It started with my offhand revelation last month that once, on a desperate deadline, I brought my 10-year-old daughter along to the office so that I could use the car-pool lane on the Costa Mesa Freeway. That confession appeared the same day we began soliciting comments from readers, and for John Horger of Anaheim, "it was just too good to pass up."

He wrote: "I consider myself an expert of sorts on Orange County freeways for the following reasons: I'm almost a native . . . having lived in Orange County since 1956, when I was 3, so I've seen the county grow to ridiculous proportions, and in just the past 8 1/2 years, I've driven more than 325,000 miles, all within a 100-mile radius of Costa Mesa."

Horger said the car-pool lane is one of his biggest gripes: "It is abused beyond belief! People cross the double yellow lines all the time; single-passenger vehicles cruise in the lane at all hours of the day, and my personal favorite, the technically legal abusers such as your columnist Jan Hofmann, who skirt the law by hauling kids around to comply with the two-or-more-per-vehicle law.

"The object of the law is to 'reward' people who lessen the amount of cars on the freeway. People who haul kids around with them, or pregnant women who beat tickets in court by saying that there are two people in the vehicle, should be permanently banned from the freeway."

Horger suggested that "the law should be rewritten to state that both or all passengers must possess valid driver's licenses, or otherwise these cheaters are cheating everyone stuck in the other three lanes of the freeway."

But even that wouldn't guarantee that the vehicle contained a bona fide car pool, now would it? Better amend that to require that those licensed drivers carry notarized affidavits to the effect that they would all be traveling in that direction at that particular time anyway.

Then there is the enforcement problem. A California Highway Patrol officer would have to have a pretty sharp eye to check the expiration dates on not one but two or more driver's licenses through a car window at 55 m.p.h.

Horger thought of that too. "If the CHP can't enforce the law as it is, or as I suggest it should be," he said, "then the only fair solution is to open up the lane to everyone."

OK, OK, consider me chastised. In my defense, let me point out that I wasn't breaking, or even bending, the law. But I do understand that while my daughter and I were indeed two people in one vehicle, we were hardly a car pool. A car pool is in fact defined as three or more people on some other roadways around the state, which presents a mother with a bit more of a challenge: rounding up more than one youngster.

So I will let you, fellow drivers, decide. If you agree that I should stay out of the car-pool lane unless I am actually car-pooling in the strictest sense, I will abide by your decision--as long as you promise to do the same.

Betty O'Donnell, who lives in Leisure World at Laguna Hills, also complained about car-pool lanes. But instead of eliminating them, she suggested expanding the concept:

"There are at least two freeway ramps in the area that have lanes for more than one person in a car; all too frequently one sees this improperly used by a single person. On the freeways with lanes for car pools, we 'singles' are sitting there watching families, daters, car-poolers fly by. Doesn't seem fair.

"My suggestion is that the freeways be widened to include lanes for all classifications: school/college drivers, the dangerous 20s, the yuppies, the slowing-down 50s, and last but not least, senior citizens. No lane changes, no speeding up to beat someone out.

"Even ramps for different groups would be interesting. Leisure Worlders funneled into their area; college kids deposited in theirs, and workers into the industrial areas. . . . Would take some money, but developers have money to spare."

Truckers, too, should have a lane of their own, O'Donnell proposed: "Somewhere out in the hinterland, if possible. I hate their aggressive driving.

"We could all sail along in our own lanes then and be happy ever after listening to our self-help tapes, ocean music, whatever. How to exit? I leave that to some as-yet-nonexistent brilliant person to solve. So far, it has all just been bad planning."

Martine Micozzi of Anaheim wrote to suggest that Ed McClean, the Mission Viejo real estate salesman featured in a Life on Wheels column on folks who don't mind traffic, "could provide a valuable service to all commuters by taking some passengers with him. This would remove the overstressed and out-of-control commuters who drive like maniacs and arrive at work a bundle of nerves. Reducing traffic and air pollution are also additional benefits.

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