All drivers 'above average'?

Saturday, December 25, 2010; 9:09 PM

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am sure most drivers think they are good drivers. I have been driving for many years, still drive daily around this area, and I don't think there is such a thing as a good driver, myself included. A good driver consistently obeys all traffic laws and is courteous to others. The traffic laws I see violated daily and showing drivers to be bad drivers are: Exceeding speed limits by more than 10 mph and failing to come to a full stop before turning right on red. Many drivers don't even slow down. A full stop means the vehicle is not moving.

Also: Crossing solid white lines on the road. There are many such lines around construction areas on the Virginia side of Interstate 495, and drivers consistently ignore them while talking on hand-held cellphones.

Gordon F. Brown, Bethesda

There is a Lake Wobegon effect among drivers. Tom Vanderbilt cites it in his wonderful book, "Traffic ," in trying to explain surveys that show a majority of drivers consider themselves above average. We tend to rank ourselves higher, he says, when the activity in question is thought to be relatively easy and the skills in question are ambiguous. An Olympic pole vaulter, comparing her performance with the other athletes, would be under no illusions about her ranking. But how about a driver who simply makes it home without crashing?

Along the way, he might have gotten a ticket for speeding, or running a red light. Wouldn't that serve as a measuement of driving skills since we were trained back in driving school not to do that? No, drivers often tell me, "they're just trying to raise revenue."

Metro & 'Wilson Bridge'

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I went into D.C. last Sunday via Metro and knew there was single-tracking on the Blue Line between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street stations. The reason given on was "maintenance work related to the Wilson Bridge project." Do you know how this relates to Metro?

Nancy Jerdan, Springfield

The Wilson Bridge? Hasn't that been done for a while? Yes, but the lengthy and large-scale project to rebuild the bridge and four nearby interchanges is now focused on its final phase, the reconstruction of the Telegraph Road interchange and the widening of the Capital Beltway in that area.

That includes a Telegraph Road bridge on the north side of the Beltway that crosses over the Blue Line tracks. Work on the bridge foundation and piers could be done safely only while Metro trains were sharing a single track to avoid the bridge work zone.

So why not do the work overnight, when the rail system is shut down? There are only about four hours overnight when Metro isn't using its tracks to move trains around. It's not enough time for the bridge workers to make any significant progress.

Move over everywhere

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On Thanksgiving morning my son-in-law was driving on Interstate 81 in Tennessee near the Virginia border, going the speed limit and driving in the far right lane. A police car was sitting at the side of the interstate with its top lights revolving.

The police car came after my son-in-law after he had passed by and stopped him because he had not pulled over into the middle lane when he saw the police car sitting there with its revolving lights on. The policeman said it was state law in 50 states that a driver must pull over into the left lane when there is a police car sitting on the side of the road with its lights revolving.

Since that happened, I have found myself in similar circumstances and have found it difficult and possibly unsafe to switch lanes into a faster-moving lane of traffic to my left to comply with this law.

Leonora Burger, Annandale

Hawaii is the only state that has failed to pass a Move Over law to protect police and other emergency workers on the sides of highways (The District doesn't have one, either). Virginia has had such a law since 2002. In October, Maryland became one of the last states on the continent to implement one. New York's law takes effect on New Year's Day.

They require drivers to change lanes, if possible, to give more clearance to the police and emergency vehicles. But if changing lanes cannot be done safely, drivers are required to slow down to a reasonable and safe speed.

How slow is that? The laws don't say. But err on the side of caution and stay well below the speed limit if you can't change lanes.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer's name and home community. Write to Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. By e-mail: His blog: On Twitter: drgridlock.

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