Frederick L. Orton of Germantown wants to borrow a few inches of space for a worthwhile purpose.

Orton drives a van that carries passengers. He knows that tailgating is dangerous. Every driver must leave what Orton calls "a buffer zone" between his car and the car ahead. The driver of a van, truck or bus must leave an even larger margin of safety because it takes him longer to stop. So Orton tries to leave a sensible gap between his van and the car ahead.

But in heavy traffic, he is usually frustrated by other drivers. Each time Orton drops back a little to create a gap, some cowboy darts across the lane line and fills the void. "Please ask them to give vans a little more leeway," Orton pleads.

And why not? Most of our lane-hopping is futile anyhow. How much time does it save us on an average trip from home to work - 26 seconds?

What's more important is that if there were more "buffer zones" between vehicles we'd have fewer chain-reaction crashes, especially on highspeed roads.

The man who darts across a lane line to position himself in front of a big truck is really living dangerously. If there is sudden need for all traffic to decelerate quickly, that truck may run right up his tailpipe. A few days ago, a truck that couldn't stop quickly enough went off the Cabin John Bridge. So give 'em some breathing room, pleasure car drivers, and maybe we'll all live a little longer.

Having conceded that the average driver ought to give greater cooperation to the drivers of heavy vehicles, I would now like to send a safety message back to the drivers of heavy vehicles. The message is: Please show more consideration for pleasure car drivers, especially at night.

The headlights on a van or truck are often higher from the highwat than those on a pleasure car. Even on "dim," they put too much light into the eyes of the driver of an oncoming car. When they're on high beams, they're a real pain in the retina.

So please, fellows, have pity on us. Every jurisdiction in AMerica has a rule against using high beams when they interfere with other drivers. Don't do it.

One more thought: All of us who drive ought to make periodic inspections of our lights, front and back, to make sure they are functioning properly.

Burned out bulbs ought to be noted and replaced at once. Misdirected headlight beams ought to be aligned at once.

In civilized jurisdictions, periodic auto inspections are mandatory, and help identify malfunctions. However, regular inspections are not required in neighboring Maryland, alas, so Marylanders who care about their fellow drivers must take independent action.

When the Maryland legislature's failure to enact an inspection law came up in a recent conversation with a resident of that state, he made a comment that warmed my heart. "At the next election," he said grimly, "I am going to vote against every incumbent. I figure any change will be an improvement."


A few days ago, i reported that the foul language in the movie "House Calls" had embarrassed me. I couldn't understand why it was rated PG (parental guidance), as if there were some doubt about its suitability. What parent aware of such subject matter and gutter talk would want his 13-year-old son or daughter ro see it?

An Arlington women's response to these comments was, "Where have you been for the past few years? Don't you know that PG now stands for Plain Garbage?"

Owen J. Remington of Burke thinks there's a greater outrage to discuss: "the explicit material that has been coming in over the boob tube lately." He makes his point by describing a sequence from a recent "mixed sex quiz show," but the language is so raunchy that I must decline to quote it here.

I am as much disgusted with this type of "entertainment" as Owen is, but I doubt that it should be censored. So long as it comes to us under an honest label, it can be avoided by those who don't want to see it.

The one thing that Washington probably ought to regulate is the time period during which such programs can be shown. The average American parent finds it hard to say "No" and needs all the help he can get in raising his children.

Arguments can be avoided if children are safely asleep before the nightly sexploitation begins.