Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I almost beat a woman senseless in the middle of Central Avenue last night.

After seeing a movie in Bowie, I was driving my family (mother, two daughters, goddaughter) home to Mitchellville. We were driving about 55 to 60 mph, heading west on Central Avenue.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a car moving into the median, where vehicles sometimes wait until the traffic breaks so they can merge.

Instead of stopping, the driver was moving right in front of me!

I blew the horn, slammed on the brakes, to no avail. She continued to come into the traffic. I swerved, which caused the driver on my right to run off the road. The truck behind me (I'm thankful for his quick reflexes) slammed on his brakes and did a 180-degree spinout, causing every other driver behind me to slam on their brakes and swerve to miss this ever-growing mess.

Once my car stopped, I jumped out, almost cutting my neck with my seat belt, and ran over to the senseless driver who nearly killed me and my family.

I can't repeat the angry words that I spat out of my mouth, but I was so mad I immediately headed for the driver side door and pulled on her door handle. At the same time I pounded on her window, trying to break it.

All I thought about at this time was pulling her out of her car and beating her to a pulp.

While I was hammering on the window and pulling at the door, the woman began to scream hysterically that she was sorry and that she didn't see me, and please don't hurt her.

I don't know how long I attempted to get into her car. I remember hearing my mother crying and yelling for me to stop. I continued to curse the woman, that she could have killed me and my children.

Then I kicked her two front lights out and went back to my car.

When I got there my mother was crying and telling me that I could have gotten shot or killed, because that is what happens to people like me.

My children sat in the back seat in dead silence, shaken of course by the near-accident, and also by my behavior.

I didn't calm down until I was home. That is when my mind cleared: No, I didn't know what I was walking into. Yes, I could easily have been killed by my actions. This is a real example of road rage and the bad consequences that could have come from that. I understand that now.

I could have handled this situation much differently. The real tragedy would have been if I had walked up on someone who would have shot me dead in front of my children.

Darlene Rowe-Stukes

Mitchellville

Thank you for sharing your rage, and your traffic lesson. That was courageous, to admit fault in print. I know it's hard sometimes on the road to harness your temper when you feel you've been enormously wronged. Your instinct is to go after the idiot who affronted you. Don't do it. People get killed doing that.

A memorable example occurred in Massachusetts a few years ago. Two motorists were cutting each other off and then pulled off to the side for a more personal exchange of views. One motorist approached the other, who reached into his trunk, pulled out a crossbow and fired an arrow into the other motorist's chest, killing him.

A few years ago, I was driving with my parents in the Sacramento area and stopped near a red light to let in a motorist from a shopping center. He seemed dazed and did not move. So I pulled up to the light, and the next thing I knew he screamed an expletive into my car, for all to hear, and pulled right behind me. In a rage I jumped out of the car and ran up to the motorist, screaming that I had tried to let him in. He looked shaken and apologized to this lumbering maniac standing in the middle of the street.

I could have gotten whacked with a crossbow. Folks, you are invited to draw lessons from these stories and avoid engaging in traffic combat -- no matter how right you are.

P.S. I'm interested in your experiences, either as the perpetrator or recipient of road rage. What can be learned from these experiences?

Some Grid-Notes

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* Dr. Gridlock welcomes your New Year's resolutions for local transportation officials, for publication at year's end. An example:

Maryland state highway officials should resolve to install better signing on outbound Connecticut Avenue as it approaches the Capital Beltway. It would be helpful if there were signs to tell us whether we should use the left or the right lane to get onto the Beltway heading toward Virginia.

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.