Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What can be done when a private citizen witnesses an aggravated act of reckless driving? I'm not referring to those rude people who cut in front of you, or the morons who flip you an obscene gesture at a glance. I'm concerned about the absolutely reckless driver who swerves in and out of traffic at 30 to 50 mph faster than the traffic flow, and the maniac who moves into your lane in traffic to the point you're forced off the road.
I have discussed this problem with the D.C. police, the Fairfax County police, the U.S. Park Police and the Virginia State Police. They all tell me there is nothing they can do unless they see these acts.
If our society is powerless to act on a citizen's complaint, then perhaps the power of the press (also known as Dr. Gridlock) could be brought to bear on the problem.
I propose that you publish the name and address of the perpetrator and the date and time of the reckless driving that are presented to you in a sworn, signed statement, and let the power of public exposure deal with the matter.
I'm sure The Washington Post could obtain access to the DMV files by license plate number to obtain the necessary information.
What do you think? GREGORY W. MASON Springfield
Can you imagine the volume of mail if Dr. Gridlock started publishing reports of reckless people? Some readers already send in such reports, complete with details and license number. The complainants want justice, understandably. Enough of these letters are received that there needs to be some explanation: The fact is, it's more difficult for a journalist to get into these accusations than it is for the police.
What if the eyewitness report is wrong? What if the "defendant" denies wrongdoing? What prevents someone from making up a story (we don't yet have the power to charge a person with perjury), or from checking the name and address of the offender in the paper and then going to that person's house to settle accounts?
You begin to see the problems, not the least of which could be the suffocation of the doctor with too much mail bonding.
Police generally do say they can't make a traffic arrest unless they see the infraction. Some readers want to know why this is so because they investigate burglaries, assaults and murders without witnessing them.
Police say that reports of reckless driving, when ranked with other investigative needs, do not get a high priority. Also, there are problems finding evidence and witnesses to moving violations. Some of these conflicts boil down to one person's word against another.
But there is some slim hope. Police say they will alert officers -- if time permits -- to be on the lookout for a driver exhibiting dangerous behavior. You would need to use a cellular phone or a nearby roadside phone booth to report this. Police ask that complaints concern motorists who clearly present a danger to themselves and others. It needs to be more than a sloppy merge.
District police say they will dispatch officers if someone is being assaulted with a car, or reports a driver weaving erratically or ignoring stopped school buses. State police generally are interested only in offenses on interstate highways, because that is one of their primary responsibilities. They want to know as many details as possible, including the location as indicated by the green and white mile marker signs off the right shoulder, and direction, and if possible the make, model, color and tags of the other car.
The numbers to call are: the District 202-727-1010, Virginia State Police 703-323-4500, and Maryland State Police 1-800-525-5555. The 911 number should be reserved for emergencies that involve injury. City or county police also may be willing to respond to your complaint; the best bet is to get their number through 411 and ask.
This is not the remedy you suggested, Mr. Mason, but it does offer a starting point. Let the doctor know if this seems to work.
Expanding Sunday Metro Service
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Is there any chance that Metro could be scheduled to operate earlier on Sunday morning? It opens at 10 a.m. now. If it began running at 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m., it would be such a help to early churchgoers, families who want to be at the Mall museums at 10 a.m., or people who work on Sundays.
Can you help? RUTH K. TAYLOR Washington
Afraid not. Your points are good, but Metro is trying to find $37 million to fund the next fiscal year's budget, and is considering raising the fare to a minimum of $1 on bus and rail. With the current concerns about budgets in all the localities, it is unlikely that there would be enough support to finance this expanded operation, according to Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg.
Changing HOV-3 to HOV-2
The following letters are in response to the ongoing consideration of changing the restrictions on Interstate 66 from HOV-3 to HOV-2. Virginia is considering such a change on I-66 and the new lane to be added to the Dulles Toll Road to encourage more pooling.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Just a word of support for the idea under consideration of having the Dulles Toll Road HOV restriction become two instead of three. It is obvious to all who use the road daily that the vast majority of cars have only one person. Thus, the immediate benefit would be substantial if only half of them became two-person cars.
It seems highly likely that if the restriction remains at three that there will be minimal -- if any -- improvement in the current situation (which as you know is intolerable -- especially since we PAY to endure the misery).
Because of the diversity of the population in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties, the prospect of finding three people who know each other, work somewhere in the same vicinity and have similar hours is nearly impossible. SUSAN A. MEREDITH Reston
Let's talk HOV-nothing. HOV lanes are not the answer to anything. Mass public transportation is the answer. I am not clear why we need HOV lanes on I-66 to parallel a Metro line. Those folks who want to avoid the backup can simply take Metro. HOV is being imposed on a great number of folks who simply have no choice but to drive. Some of us have no prayer of finding a partner to HOV with because of job location, schedule, or other factors.
I live in Silver Spring and work in Tysons Corner. If it were up to me alone, I would move. My wife is a tenured associate professor at the University of Maryland; she is not about to move. There are no positions for her in Northern Virginia, and why should SHE have to commute instead of me?
My work day varies from nine to 12 hours per day, and yesterday I left work and went to Frederick. Does anyone seriously expect me to find a HOV partner? BOB BAILEY Silver Spring
I read with sincere agony your agreement with your readers about easing the HOV-3 rules on I-66. I must disagree with that suggestion for the same reasons that people write who want the rules lifted -- pure, unadulterated self-interest.
I am an Arlington resident. For years those in Fairfax, Loudoun and several other counties wanted to pave over Arlington in order to make it more convenient for them to live outside of Arlington. In other words, they felt that we owed it to them to make it easy for them to run roughshod over our parkland and our rights. Those of us who lived in Arlington disagreed, since it wasn't our decision that they move away from Washington -- it was their decision, and their responsibility.
So, for a number of years, Arlington fought successfully in the courts to keep I-66 from being built through our county. Finally, an agreement was reached between Arlington, Virginia and the federal government. The road would not be eight lanes wide -- it would be four, and it would have HOV-4 rules on it during rush hour.
Then the rules were reduced to HOV-3. I feel that if the state and the feds are not willing to uphold their end of the bargain, then Arlington has no obligation to uphold its end. If HOV-2 goes into effect, Arlington should close its section of I-66 completely until the rest of the organizations and people involved are ready to meet their part of the bargain again. Let's see if they like no road at all better than a sometime-restricted road. ELLEN AARON Arlington
Your concerns are valid; there is a strong memory of the spirit and vigor with which Arlingtonians fought that road. The 1977 decision by U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, however, provided that the restrictions could be amended after consultation with local governments. The HOV-2 concept faces a number of hurdles, but sounds worthy of a test anyway to determine its impact on the highway.
Dr. Gridlock appears in this section each Friday to explore commuting matters. You can suggest topics by writing (please don't phone) to DR. GRIDLOCK, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.