DR. GRIDLOCK

There were 376 people killed in traffic accidents in the Washington area last year, including 60 in Prince George's County, the most for any area jurisdiction.

Here's a breakdown by jurisdiction, followed by information about a safety group and Dr. Gridlock's solicitation of traffic safety tips:

Alexandria: 3

Arlington County: 5

Anne Arundel County: 36

Calvert County: 12

Charles County: 18

District: 48

Fairfax County: 42

Fauquier County: 18

Howard County: 15

Loudoun County: 12

Montgomery County: 30

Prince George's County: 60

Prince William County: 18

St. Mary's County: 42

Stafford County: 17

A letter from James S. Baron, director of communications for the American Traffic Safety Services Association, of Fredericksburg, says that much of the media discussion on traffic/gridlock leaves out the important element of safety.

"Our worldwide membership pool is dedicated to saving lives through safer roads," he writes. "Our members manufacture and install guardrails, barricades and signs, stripe the roads and so much more.

"Our association also leads the way in training work-zone workers."

The group's Web site is www.atssa.com.

Over the years, readers have commented on several areas involving traffic safety:

Many lane lines are hard to read, especially at night and in the rain. The common answer from road officials is that the raised, reflective disks used elsewhere in the country can't be used here because snowplows would scrape them off.

Betty Hager Francis, the transportation chief in Prince George's, along with the Maryland State Highway Administration, has been installing recessed, reflective devices along lane lines with road construction. I have one if anyone wants to study it. How to get them installed everywhere is the challenge.

Ever paused at an intersection at night, trying to read the sign for the intersecting street? This can be dangerous. The thing that struck me most on an afternoon bus tour in Prince George's recently was that every significant intersection we passed had overhead, easy-to-read street signs with large letters. Northern Virginia traffic managers could make roads safer by funding such signs.

Driving habits lead to hazardous situations. How to change the habits of people who speed, cut others off, zoom to the front of the line, refuse to let drivers merge, tailgate, block intersections, etc. Some readers have suggested TV and radio safety spots and overhead electronic signs on highways to post safety tips.

Dr. Gridlock is willing to entertain safety ideas. Any suggestions?

Deer Season

We are in the midst of the deer mating season (October-December), when deer are most active and unpredictable, and the American Automobile Association reminds us to drive with caution. Already one person in our area has been killed in a car-deer accident, when an oncoming car hit a deer and propelled it through the windshield of the victim's car. Here are some AAA tips:

Watch closely for deer, and if you see them, slow down.

Dodging a deer at any speed is risky. Many accidents occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or leave the road and roll over.

Motorists should brake when they see a deer in the road, rather than try to avoid it. If a collision cannot be avoided, release the brake at the time of impact, making it possible for the deer to go underneath the vehicle rather than through the windshield.

Once a deer clears the roadway, proceed cautiously because other deer may be following.

If you hit a deer, report the crash to the local police and your insurance company.

The average collision causes about $2,000 damage to a vehicle, AAA said.

What's the Deal, Metro?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In a September column, you said we could leave our cars at the Greenbelt, Huntington or Franconia-Springfield Metro facilities, then take Metro to Reagan National Airport, be away for several days, and we would be charged for only one day's parking.

Metro's signs, however, are confusing on this point. At the Greenbelt station, one sign points the way to the "Multi-Day Lot," but another says "Parking Limited to 24 Hours."

What gives?

MARGARET SIMON

Greenbelt

Several other readers lodged similar complaints. I faxed them to Metro spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson, and she reported that Metro agrees the signs are confusing. Workers will be correcting them over the next month, she said.

Meantime, you can park at those three stations for multiple days (and be charged for only one day's parking), she said. Parking is at the first level, Row J, at Franconia-Springfield; the east end of the Greenbelt facility; and the south parking lot at Huntington. There is no limit on the number of days you can park in these spots, she said. Keep the doctor posted.

A reminder: Starting Friday, Metro is extending to 1 a.m. the closing times of its rail service on Fridays and Saturdays.

This is an eight-month pilot project to determine whether it is feasible to extend the hours permanently. On other days during the test period, rail service will continue to shut down at midnight.

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

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William Extra. 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.