Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been noticing more and more drivers who don't seem to know the definition of the term "alternate feed" when encountering a merge situation.

Have they never learned how to do it? Or are there so many people in a rush around here that they must cut people off to keep on schedule?

Judy Schweitz

Potomac

Drivers take turns in other parts of the country. Not here. Too many of us regard the space in front of our car as our personal space and race to close the gap no matter what another motorist is reasonably trying to do.

Why? Perhaps it is because we live in a competitive, ambitious, me-first metropolitan area. Perhaps it is because my time is considered more important than your time.

What do you think? Why won't so many of our drivers let another person in?

Foggy Thinking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On clear nights, with nary a wisp of fog in the air, District streets are teeming with cars using their "fog" lights.

Are these specialty lights needed for road illumination? Are they for safety? The answer is no. They are unsafe because they throw light into the eyes of oncoming drivers. They serve no purpose other than to lend a distinctive appearance to the vehicle.

The District should not allow the use of fog lights or any lights other than low beams.

Lars E. Peterson

Washington

I agree. Fog lights are a nuisance in a metropolitan area where we have little fog. Too often they are poorly aimed and wind up hitting us in the eyes. You need to contact your D.C. Council representative to initiate legislation that would mitigate--if not eliminate--fog lights.

What do you folks think of fog lights?

Airing on the Side of Safety

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The radio/TV stations could do an enormous public service by broadcasting short driving tips throughout the day. For example:

"Use your turn signals well in advance of a turn. The signal is to inform that you intend to turn, not that you are already turning."

Maybe some coaxing from you could get the radio stations to routinely add such messages during their rush hour reports. Could really make a difference in driving in Washington.

John B. Grimes

Fairfax Station

Many of you have asked for the same thing. Radio stations should know that any such effort on their part would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gridlock will try to come up with something along that line. We've asked Norman Grimm, safety director for the American Automobile Association, to provide us with safety tips, such as the proper use of anti-lock brakes, and explanations of traffic laws, such as where you can make legal U-turns in Maryland, the District and Virginia. Our intent is to publish these pointers periodically. Here's a preview:

Q. What are the fines for violating HOV lane restrictions?

A. The fines in Northern Virginia are:

* $50 for a first offense.

* $100 for a second offense.

* $250 for a third offense (within two years of a second offense).

* $500 for a fourth offense and subsequent offenses (within three years of a second offense).

The fine in Maryland is $70 for each offense.

If you have safety or traffic law questions for Mr. Grimm, please send them in.

Seeing Red Far Too Much?

What is the longest red light in the metropolitan area? Dr. Gridlock is interested in that. Would you like to make a nomination? I can check some of the most egregious ones with traffic officials. Maybe they're just not operating properly.

Please tell me what road you are on and what direction you are headed. And the name of the cross street. Get out your stopwatches!

Be It Hereby Resolved . . .

Dr. Gridlock is ready to receive your New Year's resolutions for traffic officials. For example:

"Local transportation officials should resolve to use reflective devices on all major roads in the area. At night and in the rain it is hard to see the lane lines."

Or, "Northern Virginia road officials should resolve to put large, easy-to-read, overhead street signs at each major intersection. Stringfellow Road at Route 50 is one dark intersection where these signs are needed."

Or, "D.C. officials could resolve to ease gridlock by ticketing illegally parked cars in curb lanes during rush hours."

Please send in your nominations. We'll print them around the end of the year. Sometimes we get positive results from the officials.

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

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and 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.