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Traffic that drives them up the wall

The battle lines have been drawn.

Locals say the tourists drive too slow, don't know where they're going and should stay off the roads during rush hour.

Tourists counter that Florida drivers are impatient and never signal before they turn.

These and other comments came from last week's TimesLine questions about traffic and the tension between tourists and locals.

Because of the tourists and other winter visitors, Tampa Bay area traffic reaches its annual peak this month, with some roads carrying 20 percent more cars than normal. A series of TimesLine questions about this phenomenon brought more than 100 comments about everything from synchronized stoplights to doughnut-eating.

Many people complained about individual roads. U.S. 19 was especially unpopular, but there also were complaints about Interstate 4, Park Boulevard, Tampa Road and Ulmerton Road.

"I've had tours through museums that went faster than trying to get down Ulmerton," said Kris Self, a computer systems integrator from Largo.

Many people made cracks about visitors from Canada and New York.

"Generally people from the New York area are the rudest people I've ever been around in my life," caller John George said. "They scream, they holler, they give you the finger. They're just awful."

He paused and then said, "People from Michigan and other states are pretty reasonable."

Katie Watts, a St. Petersburg housekeeper, said she drives a big yellow Jeep, but "evidently it's invisible to anybody who has a blue and white license plate (a reference to Canadian and out-of-state drivers) or has blue hair."

Several callers suggested a tourist-free rush hour. Tourists would be prohibited from using the roads during peak hours, but would be free to drive during other times.

"It's impossible for us to get to work when all these people are going out to have doughnuts and coffee early in the morning," said Eileen Maginn, an office clerk from Clearwater. "Snowbirds should stay home during business hours."

A caller from St. Petersburg Beach suggested a special lane for tourists to "go as slow as they want and take as many pictures as they want."

One man suggested a special tax on Canadian cars. A woman complained about tourists gawking at women in bathing suits. But several people acknowledged that tourists contribute millions to the Florida economy.

Only a few tourists or Canadian visitors called TimesLine, but nearly all mentioned Florida drivers' problem with turn signals.

One visitor told a joke about a Florida driver selling an old car with a turn signal that had never been used.

"Most of them are not too bad, but a lot of them are arrogant," said Don Howard, a visitor from London, Ontario, who is staying in Largo. "Hardly anyone down here uses their turn signal. About 10 percent of the drivers use them. The rest don't."

_ TimesLine editor Robin Mitchell contributed to this report.

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