On Dec. 13, Dr. Gridlock ran the startling tale of a Prince George's County woman, Darlene Rowe-Stukes, who, when cut off in traffic, leapt from her car and tried to break into the offender's vehicle. Ms. Rowe-Stukes wrote that she was bent on "pulling her out of her car and beating her to a pulp."

She failed to break into the car and wound up kicking in the woman's headlights before storming back to her own car. Ms. Rowe-Stukes later realized that this was bad behavior and that she could have been shot in such an encounter. Her letter brought a spirited response from the readership:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Dec. 13 column, where you and Darlene Rowe-Stukes shared recent and past road rage experiences, I found it striking that you both reached the same conclusion: that responding as you both did was wrong because you could have gotten killed.

So, if you could know that you wouldn't get killed, then it would be okay to unleash the fullness of your fury upon another human being, perhaps causing injury or death, with disregard to what sort of example you set for your daughters, not to mention the possibility of arrest and jail time.

Kenneth Willis

Washington

No. I never said I intended to harm the other person or his vehicle. That's a difference. Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Ms. Rowe-Stukes never expresses remorse or regret for her inability to control her own rage. She never expresses shame about the example she set for her small children or the effect on them of seeing her so utterly out of control.

She never expresses any concern about what it was like for the other driver, to be assaulted by a woman who clearly wants to hurt her as much as she can.

She never reflects on just how she got herself to the point in her life that she would respond to this situation in such an enormously inappropriate way.

No, in a stunning display of self-absorption, her response to her own behavior is, "Gee, I didn't even think about the fact that I might get hurt."

Yowsa! Ms. Rowe-Stukes scares me a whole lot more than the driver who almost caused the accident.

Everything I know says that it is a driver's responsibility to curb their own emotions and deal with the situation calmly and wisely.

Something that Ms. Rowe-Stukes failed at, stunningly.

And you, Dr. Gridlock, thanked her for her "courage" in telling her story. There was no courage in her story, only self-righteous indignation that someone would do this to her and that she might get hurt while terrorizing someone else.

Sorry, dear doctor, I think you missed the boat on this one.

Kelly Bowers

Washington

Ms. Rowe-Stukes acknowledged that her behavior was wrong. She realizes she could have been killed.

While there may be other levels of regret or apology she could have expressed, for whatever reason, she didn't.

I thought the letter was courageous, if imperfect. No one has written me such a road rage mea culpa before. I welcomed it.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I do not think I would ever like to meet Darlene.

Tim Simpson

London

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My husband and I were driving on a rural, narrow, winding, road in Maine when a young man behind us began to tailgate. The young man was practically touching our car and was flashing his lights.

As soon as we could, we pulled over and let him pass, which is what my husband should have done.

Then my husband did something he shouldn't have done: As the young man passed, my husband screamed expletives out the window.

The young man kept speeding up, then slamming on his brakes. He forced us across double yellow lines into a pull-off area. I was crying.

I kept expecting the man to come back and shoot us, or to be waiting for us ahead.

As he pulled away, the young man looked back at us and smirked. I'll never forget that face.

Did my husband learn from this? No. He still yells expletives at people out of car windows. And I get hysterical every time.

Arlene Halfon

Washington

This could have an unhappy ending. I hope not.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Several years ago, when U.S. 1 still merged into I-95 from the left at Woodbridge, and the HOV lanes had not been extended, something occurred which became a road rage epiphany for me.

I had been driving in a vanpool for a long time, and the increased traffic congestion and aggressiveness of drivers had taken its toll.

I was in the left lane, driving my 15-passenger van, when a pickup truck zoomed down the entry ramp lane from Route 1, shot past me on the left, and cut in front of me at the last possible moment. It caught me by surprise, and I jammed my brakes to avoid hitting him.

I immediately shot the driver the universal one-finger welcome sign, at which point he stopped his truck in the middle of the Purple Heart Bridge and walked back to my window.

All this in the middle of evening rush hour! He told me I'd better watch out what I did with that finger; I told him where I was going to put it if he didn't get back in his truck and get moving.

I was in a blind rage. I chased him at speeds of up to 85 mph, all the way to the Stafford exit, where he got off in one direction and I in another.

All of this while my wife and 12 passengers watched. All the way home, I had thoughts of wanting to kill the man, and wishing I had gotten out of the van and pushed him over the bridge railing.

I was still trembling when I got home. When I finally calmed down, these wild thoughts really hit home.

I realized that if I had a gun, I would have shot the man for cutting me off in traffic. I was that much out of control.

This has changed my outlook forever. Nothing bothers me any more, and I don't mind who cuts me off in traffic. They can have all the room they want.

My life, and the lives of my family and passengers, aren't worth the aggravation.

Mike Casey

Fredericksburg

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am amazed. You published an article by a lady who was the victim of a stupid driver error ("I didn't see you and I'm sorry"). What is so amazing is that the writer never once expressed remorse for the crimes she committed! I found assault and vandalism among them.

Saying that she later realized she could have been shot, and that is what she is sorry about, is outrageous. Does she mean that her conduct was okay because she and her family didn't suffer any consequences from her criminal behavior?

The only thing worse is--you didn't point that out!

Bill Mooney

Olney

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As you noted, it was courageous for Ms. Rowe-Stukes to admit her fault. But I'd like to make other points: While it would indeed have been tragic if her children had seen her shot, wouldn't it have been equally traumatic for them to see her assault the other driver and be hauled off to jail?

As a woman who often drives alone, this is the type of scene I live in fear of, and the reason I keep my door locked at all times.

I don't understand where people get the attitude that any mistake by another driver is a personal insult that must be avenged. Whatever happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?

Lisa Shanholtzer Quirk

Bethesda

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After reading your Dec. 13 column, I would like to share my experience with road rage and the temporary insanity it brings.

About six years ago, my best friend asked me to baby-sit his brand new Nissan Pathfinder truck while he went on vacation.

I was apprehensive to take out this shiny new toy, but I convinced myself it would be perfect for some of my basketball buddies to ride in. After all, I was a good driver. What could go wrong?

After driving without incident and parking six feet from the nearest vehicle, my worst fears came true. Some guy driving a company vehicle sideswiped the parked truck and sped off.

After hearing the crash and alarm, I looked up from where we were playing ball and got a glimpse of the car.

Without even thinking a second, I grabbed the keys, jumped in the truck with one of my friends and went after them. They had a head start on me so I had to improvise to catch up.

I drove down the wrong side of the street for a quarter-mile, swerved in and out of traffic, and then beat them to the next light. After stopping in front of three lanes of traffic, I jumped out of the truck and attempted to pull the driver through his open window.

Thankfully, the friend who drove with me had a calmer head and told me not to hit the guy, because I would probably be arrested for assault. Instead, he removed the keys from the ignition and we waited for the police to arrive.

It turned out the guy had been drinking and using the company truck without permission.

When the police arrived, they arrested the driver for DWI and leaving the scene of an accident.

After getting all the information I needed to contact his employer, who was kind enough to pay for fixing the truck, I appeared at the driver's court date to make sure his license was suspended and that he was given an appropriate fine. I learned later that he was also fired from his job.

Only now do I realize how differently things could have turned out. I put myself, a friend and the drivers around me in danger by driving like a madman.

I did not think about what could have happened if the guy had a weapon. The right thing to do would have been to call the police, give them a description of the car, and call the insurance company.

Until recently, I did not even consider this "road rage," until I began to read stories about it, such as in your column. Thanks for the "vehicle" to help carry the message.

Don Peete

Gaithersburg

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.