Dr. Gridlock, inspired by an e-mail from an American in Bangladesh, recently asked you folks to share your transportation experiences abroad and what we might adopt here. What a rich collection of responses. Here are some:
From David Jernigan, Lovettsville:
The main thing I liked about driving in Europe was that the left lane was used for passing only. The few drivers who ignored this rule were reminded of it quickly by bright headlights flashed from behind. Traffic moved smoothly. In the United States, I find I can make better time in the right lanes because everyone is crowded into the left lanes, trying to get ahead.
From Mary LeCompte, Manassas:
Two years of driving on the rough roads of the Philippines was quite an experience. However, it has one habit that I liked. When two oncoming vehicles arrive at a narrow passage, the first to turn on the vehicle's headlights claims right of way and the other yields.
I still find myself reaching for the light switch whenever I cross one-lane bridges.
From Fil Feit, Annandale:
When I was in Munich I noticed that the traffic lights would blink yellow before turning green. I asked a local why, and he said it was to allow drivers waiting at the light to shift into gear.
By the time the light turned green, everybody was ready and not a second of green was wasted.
From Jeanne C. Nash, Oakton:
While traveling in Canada, I learned they have a law that all cars manufactured and sold in Canada must have the headlights wired to the ignition, so when the engine is running, the lights are on.
This would be much more effective than our law requiring the headlights to be on when the windshield wipers are used. They would be on all the time the car is in use, and you could get rid of that law. Doesn't this make sense?
From Robert B. Zuehlke, Vienna:
An interesting feature of Bangkok, Thailand, traffic jams is the motorcycles weaving their way among stopped cars. You grit your teeth just waiting to hear the scrape of handle bars along your paint, but that rarely happens. When a major light changes, scores of cycles race forward like a mad, motocross race, spitting clouds of black smoke for the cars to enter.
From Peter Laine, Fairfax:
Things I liked from abroad:
(1) Mandatory ignition turnoff for vehicles stopped at city traffic signals, to ease pollution (Switzerland);
(2) Traffic lights that have the green blink slowly three times before changing to yellow (Austria).
From George A. Tralka, Vienna:
While in Curitiba, Brazil, last year, I noticed speed bumps everywhere, and they work. Curitiba is about the size of the D.C. area. The speed bumps slowed down buses, autos and trucks without any noticeable disruption of traffic.
We should have more of them here.
From Bruce K. Nivens, Clifton:
In downtown Seoul, Korea, lane markings are observed until a certain level of congestion occurs, and then drivers begin filling in the gaps. During rush hour it was normal to see four to five lanes of cars driving abreast on a road marked for three lanes. I saw cars so close that their mirrors were touching.
Don't get me wrong, though. Even with all this the Koreans were very competent drivers. The prevailing attitude on the road was: "We're all in this together. I've got to get where I'm going, and so do you."
From Tom Mills, Springfield:
In Japan, drivers will switch to parking lights (versus just keeping their headlights on) at stop lights. I thought that was extremely considerate--all too often we can be blinded by the person on the opposite side of the light who has their bright lights on.
From William R. Mentzer Jr., Silver Spring:
The Germans did many things to help drivers, including:
* They don't allow the use of fog lights unless there is fog present. Also, those lights are wired to go off if high beams are used.
* They mark their routes well and keep the signs clean and clear of obstructing vegetation.
* They have auto clubs providing mobile facilities that travel throughout the country, providing the opportunity for drivers to check the aiming of their headlights.
* They clean their roads frequently to prevent gravel damage to cars.
From Claudia Lipschultz, Bethesda:
While driving in France, one thing that struck me was that cars entering a stream of traffic in most cases have the right of way! The other cars have to change lanes or slow to let you in, by law.
I cannot describe the lack of stress that results from this practice. Would we dare try such a thing here?
Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Thursday in Loudoun Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.