As this column noted one morning last week, thousands of Virginia suburbanites were at least an hour late to work because one car stalled on the northbound 14th Street bridge and wasn't towed away for more than two hours, backing up Shirley Highway traffic for 16 miles.

That kind of situation will end, one hopes, as the result of new procedures put into effect this week by order of D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr.

Let's back up before giving details. A week or so before that messy traffic jam, the radio reporters who monitor this kind of stuff on a minute-by-minute basis met routinely with police officials. They noted the problem of getting timely removal of stalled cars from arterial streets and bridges.

According to Lt. William White, a police spokesman, Turner agreed to reforms before the horrendous 14th Street bridge jam, but too late to head off that incident.

Effective May 1, White said, these reforms were instituted:

* The duty hours of police department tow truck drivers, which involved shift changes during the middle of the morning rush hour, were changed so that the workers will remain on duty and be available for a quick dispatch to remove disabled vehicles on major traffic links.

* Dispatchers were told to give priority to removing stalled vehicles during rush hours.

* Police supervisors were told to go out in the streets and monitor rush-hour traffic conditions.

* Motorcycle officers were told to patrol arterials and bridges to avert jams when they are not otherwise engaged.

* It was agreed that tow trucks assigned to the Department of Public Works' civilian traffic enforcement program will stand ready to provide service.

All this might not avert some big future traffic jam, but it could go a long way toward easing such situations.

And while we're at it, let Metro Scene correct a recent error: We managed somehow to merge into one name the two-member WTOP radio traffic team. The two are Bob Marbourg and David Statter. Poor Example

On the subject of traffic, there are curb cuts in the 1400 block of K Street designed to let eastbound K Street traffic onto the service roads to make a southbound right turn onto 14th Street. They're not intended to provide U-turn capability for eastbound cars in the service road to swing west onto K Street.

But we saw a D.C. government car -- license tag GVT 3305 -- make that maneuver at about 1 p.m. Thursday. One car screeched to a stop to avoid hitting the government car broadside and was almost rear-ended by another vehicle. Three other cars swerved half a lane into the paths of westbound cars.

Shouldn't government cars set an example for obeying the law?