Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I went to dinner at a downtown restaurant and had my car parked by a valet. This was on May 9. On July 3, I got a notice from the District government that because I hadn't paid a ticket for parking in a bus zone, I now owed $100.

I never parked in a bus zone. Using my calendar, I checked the date and time and determined the valet service at that restaurant--the Daily Grill--must have parked my car in a bus zone, and then gotten rid of the ticket. Neither the restaurant nor the valets informed me of the ticket at the time.

Obviously I'm upset and feel deceived. Do I have any recourse? I have thought about contacting the restaurant manager. I feel they should pay the fine, not me.

Chris Kaufman

Bethesda

Dr. Gridlock contacted the restaurant manager, Jim McVeigh, and he agreed with you. He said the restaurant contracts with a valet service that is supposed to park the cars in a nearby garage, but that sometimes the valets park on the street so they can get the cars back faster when the customers are ready.

"I have talked to our valet service, and they are going to pay Mr. Kaufman the $100," McVeigh said. "I have sent him some gift certificates as way of an apology."

Kaufman now says: "Jim McVeigh was very apologetic, sincere, made me feel good. The valet service says it will pay. Of course, it has been 11 days since they told me that, and I haven't seen the check. I think they will send it."

Dr. Gridlock salutes the restaurant for the way this problem was handled.

While looking into this incident, I heard this story: A man turned his car over to valet attendants, who parked him on the curb in a legal spot. Turns out the vehicle had numerous unpaid parking tickets, and while the gentleman was dining on veal picatta, the city was towing his car to an impound lot.

Anyone else have any interesting tales about valet parking?

Pluses, Minuses of Car Features

Two features on cars that I like:

* Turn off the engine and the headlights go off. This eliminates the dead batteries when you have been driving in daytime with the lights on and forget to turn them off.

* Drive away and the interior locks automatically lock. A nice safety feature.

Two features on cars that I don't like:

* Turn off your ignition, turn off your headlights, lock the car, head for the house and the headlights nevertheless stay on for a few minutes. This leaves you wondering if you left your headlights on, and passersby reminding you that you have.

* The same feature with interior lights. Head for your house, and they stay on for a few minutes. What a nuisance!

Do you have any nominations for best or worst features on vehicles?

Long-Term Transportation Plans

The Transportation Coordinating Council (TCC) of Northern Virginia, composed of 37 local officials, is seeking public comment on a $28.7 billion transportation plan for 2020.

Among other things, the draft of the plan calls for two new highways; 46 more miles of Metrorail and 33 miles of light rail; upgrading and expanding commuter bus service; and adding pedestrian trails. Details are posted on the 2020 Plan Web site at www.nova2020.org

Here is the September schedule for the public meetings:

Sept. 9, Fairfax County Government Center, Rooms 9 and 10, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14, Prince William County, 1 County Complex Court, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21, Alexandria City Hall, 301 King St., Room 2000, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 22, Arlington Career Center, 816 S. Walter Reed Dr., 7 p.m.

Sept. 22, City of Fairfax, Old Town Hall, Main Street and University Drive, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27, Arlington County Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 29, Dranesville District, Town of Herndon, 765 Lynn St., 7:30 p.m.

For further information, call 703-383-2020.

Where to Go When Turning Left

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I hope you can settle an ongoing debate in our family. When making a left turn, from a single lane designated for left turns, onto a road with two lanes of traffic, which lane should you turn into?

Sometimes it is difficult to go into the left lane because the turn is so sharp. But if you move into the right lane you risk running into drivers making right turns on red.

What do you say?

Kathy Gross

Fairfax

Norman Grim, safety guru for the American Automobile Association, says that Section 46.2-846 (2)(3) of the Virginia Code requires that such a turn be completed by turning left into the left-most lane.

In AAA's "How to Drive" book, the instruction is to follow the turning path so that you arrive in the lane that corresponds to the lane you turned from (see illustration), Grim says. (To order the book from AAA's Mid-Atlantic Traffic Safety Department, fax to 703-222-5809 or write to 12600 Fair Lakes Circle, Fairfax, Va. 22033. The total cost is $11.25, including shipping and handling.)

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.

CAPTION: LEFT TURNS; A driver making a left-hand turn from a left-turn lane onto a two-lane road should turn into the left-most lane.

SOURCE: AAA

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