Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Today I saw a woman with a stalled car at Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane who kept walking around her car, daring the traffic to hit her.

Could you do something in your column about what to do with yourself in such a situation? Sit in the car? Get off to the side of the road? Or what?

Linda Silversmith


Dr. Gridlock consulted with Norman Grimm, the AAA's safety director, and here is his advice:

"Determining what to do when your car is disabled is not always easy. For instance, time, weather, grade of the road (on a curve, on the crest of a hill, etc.), distance to go for help and other factors all come into play.

"Certainly exiting the vehicle and walking around it, being exposed to traffic as Ms. Silversmith observed the woman doing, is very dangerous. Safety for the driver and others is the utmost concern. Replacing property is secondary."

Generally, Grimm said, it is best to do the following:

* Do not stop in a traffic lane. If at all possible, move the vehicle as far out of the roadway as possible and to a safe spot.

* Turn on the hazard lights. This warns other drivers.

* Stay in the vehicle for protection. Only when it is obviously safe and you have checked traffic from all possible directions should you exit the vehicle.

* If you exit the vehicle, stay far out of the traffic lane and away from the vehicle. Get to a safe place.

* If safely possible, place warning devices (reflective triangles or flares) in the road to alert other motorists. Be sure to place them far in advance of the vehicle (200 to 300 feet).

* Call for help.

There's a primer. Thank you, Mr. Grimm. Dr. Gridlock welcomes additional suggestions from readers, including what to do and what not to do.

Catching Speeders on Film

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There is a recently installed device near the Gravelly Point parking lot on the George Washington Memorial Parkway just north of Reagan National Airport that looks like some form of traffic camera. It's called "Auto Patrol," according to a sign on the device.

It looks a lot like the red-light cameras installed around the region, but there aren't any traffic lights on the GW Parkway. What gives?

Jeff Arnold


The camera catches speeders. Park police check the film and issue the citations. There's another one near the CIA.

This is part of an experimental six-month program to encourage compliance with posted speed limits. A recent survey by the American Automobile Association found that 65 percent of the people in the Washington area supported using cameras to catch speeders. Count me among them. However 22 percent were against cameras, worrying they are an invasion of privacy.

Those who should be most worried would seem to be speeders.

Weekend Metro Parking

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, wondered if she could park at a Metrorail station on a weekend and then take Metro to Reagan National Airport. Are the parking facilities open on weekends? What would be the cost?

I thought that was a good subject to share with the readership. Here are the answers, provided by Cheryl Johnson, Metro spokeswoman:

The parking facilities at the Greenbelt, Huntington and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations allow parking on weekends. The cost is $1.75 a day at Greenbelt and $2.25 a day at the other two stations. A customer would be charged for only one day because Metro doesn't monitor length of stay. That would seem to be a bargain.

At the other 38 Metro facilities, parking is limited to 24 hours. Police will cite violators.

The satellite parking lot at National is $8 a day.

It would be nice to take Metro to National on the weekends. It would help if there were widespread inexpensive weekend parking near the stations. We've got Huntington, Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt. Anyone know of any more?

Steering Around a Problem

I'm hiding the identity of the man in this item in order to protect what little masculine pride he has left.

This hapless creature got into his car at a shopping center, inserted the key snugly into the ignition lock and found that the key would not turn. It seemed stuck in the ignition lock (which, as in most vehicles, was on the steering column).

He stood up and tried to turn the key from a different angle. He applied more and more pressure on the key to the point he was worried the key would break. He tried turning it from a dozen angles. It was making an indentation in his thumb.

Finally he went into a nearby health care clinic to ask for a phone to call AAA roadside service. A nurse, Michele Poblador, overheard the man's problem and said: "Let me try."

In an instant, she was in the car moving the steering wheel back and forth. That seemed to free the key. She turned it and started the car. Total time to fix problem: three seconds.

"I used to do a lot of work on cars," she said.

The man, who had never touched the steering wheel, drove quietly away.

Dr. Gridlock assumes everyone in the metropolitan area already knew this fix-it tip, but just in case there is one person who doesn't and encounters the same problem, then recognize this might be a two-step problem. [1. Turn the steering wheel. 2. Turn the key.] Don't be shy to admit it. Your anonymity is safe with me.

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 The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.