Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My roommate was recently traveling through Georgetown when she was stopped by a police officer. He gave her a speeding ticket for going 32 mph in a 25 mph zone. The ticket had a fine on it of $150!

What's going on here? One hundred and fifty dollars seems like an exorbitant amount for going seven miles above the speed limit.

Paula Selzer

Washington

That is an outrageous fine. Someone made a mistake. The D.C. government levies a $30 fine for speeding up to 10 mph over the speed limit. (See Page B5 for the schedule of fines.)

What your roommate should do is go to the officer's district station (noted on the ticket) and complain to his/her supervisor, who should make whatever adjustments are needed, according to Sgt. Joe Gentile, spokesman for the D.C. police.

Are there any other similar outrages?

Pluses, Minuses of Readers' Cars

Dr. Gridlock asked you folks for the things you like or dislike about cars. We got answers, some so passionate that we should refer to them as love-hate. Here's a sample:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Remember the old, small, triangular "vent" windows you could open at the front of the driver and passenger windows? You could let a breeze in, get air when it was raining, circulate the heat in winter with cool air. Now you can't open a window in the rain without getting soaked. It drives me crazy!

Susan Warren

Rockville

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In September 1998 I purchased a new Ford Crown Victoria, not realizing the top of the front passenger and driver doors slanted up with a sharp point on the end. My first time closing the door, the point struck me across the head. Now I have to tell everyone getting in or out of the front seat to watch out for the point on the end of the door when closing it.

The seat covering is like velour. You cannot move one way or another once you get into the car. You stick to it like glue. I have to sit on a piece of plastic in order to slide out. The car operates like a dream; otherwise it is miserable to be in.

Bette Albanesi

Hyattsville

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My nomination for the worst feature on vehicles: those high beam light levers that are attached to the windshield wiper lever, which is attached to the steering column. I have to move my hand off the steering wheel to switch on the high beam lights. This is dangerous. The indicator ought to be returned to the left floorboard, where they used to be.

Dolores A. Bowles

Leonardtown, St. Mary's County

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Things I like about my 1999 Volkswagen:

(1) The remote key device that opens the door also has an ignition key that folds into the remote--meaning no holes punched into your pants pocket.

(2) To open the hood on many cars, you pull your hood latch from inside the car and then grope around under the hood to release the safety catch. VW has a device inside the car that, when pulled, pops out a T-shaped device in plain view in front of the hood. Pull the device with two fingers and the hood opens. No one has to feel under the hood for the release.

George Royal

Springfield

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One car feature that I've found to be incredibly helpful is the back windshield wiper. When the rain is really bad, the back windshield wiper is the only thing that can help you see the traffic behind you. The wiper is also helpful in the winter, brushing away snow or ice. Every car should have one.

Barbara Goffman

Bethesda

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The worst feature on new cars is their color-coded, painted bumpers that show every scratch. Those of us who have to parallel park soon have lots of scratches and dings on the bumpers. That's especially irritating after buying a new, relatively expensive car. Painted bumpers are a worse idea than vinyl tops--at least you could avoid the latter.

Donald E. Polk

Washington

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My dash and information lights dim when the headlights are on. It's hard to see them. Now that we have to use our headlights in daytime when wipers are on, we need bright, readable dash lights all the time. It's irritating to have to turn off your headlights to see how much gas you have.

George Symanski

Alexandria

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Best: Noises that sound when I take the keys from the ignition but leave the lights on.

Worst: Driver's seats that cannot move up and down. My Honda Civic LX does not have them. I'm 5'3" and have to sit on two cushions to see properly.

A.B. Morgan

Washington

Thanks for your suggestions. We'll have some more soon.

Clarification

Dr. Gridlock recently wrote that the recent opening of the Green Line Metro stations at Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue/Petworth completed that line in the city. Actually, there is one unfinished station. It is Congress Heights, near the Prince George's County line. It is scheduled to open in spring 2001.

Jessica Medinger, Dr. Gridlock's assistant, 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.

Schedule of Fines

Civil Charge

Up to 10 mph $30

11-15 mph 50

16-20 mph 100

21-25 mph 150

Over 25 mph 200

Unreasonable speed* 25

Driving too slowly 15

Criminal Charge

Excess of 30 mph: Driver must appear in Superior Court and pay a fine or $200 or more.

*Based on road conditions: snow, ice, rain.