Freeway calm

THE string of freeway shooting incidents in California does not have to continue, nor does it have to be copy-catted across the country. It is tempting to see these incidents, which have so far led to a number of deaths and five injuries, as the result of some ill-defined ``breakdown of the family,'' poor transportation policy, or simply the ``summer crazies.''

Steps can be taken to minimize freeway congestion, even in an area as bound up with the automobile as is southern California: encouraging car pools, staggering work hours, and the like.

But perhaps the most helpful thing right now is for individual drivers to be calm, to be alert to avoid possible confrontations - to do, in short, everything they can to preserve the tacit social contract that governs highway travel.

Millions of miles are safely driven in a day by an immense variety of people who have nothing in common with one another except that for a few moments they share a stretch of freeway. Without a basic trust that certain norms of behavior will be observed, a society cannot function. Freeway drivers have an opportunity to prove that the social glue still holds.

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