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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.

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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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