On Dec. 13 in the Metro section, 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 ["From a Formerly Enraged Driver, a Lesson in the Importance of Staying Calm"]. 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 readers:

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 van pool 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 anymore, 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.



Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wonder why Ms. Rowe-Stukes considered the real tragedy would have been her getting shot. Would it not have been just as tragic if she could have gotten to the lady in the car?

This woman is rightfully thankful that the woman in the car didn't have a gun, but she should also be thankful that the car had good windows and door handles. If Ms. Rowe-Stukes had been able to get to the offending driver, her kids might have a mother locked up for murder.

By the way, I wonder what her kids and her mother think of her after seeing her so out of control? I'd worry about some other thing rolling her over the edge.



Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Dec. 13 column, you highlight the mea culpa of a confessed road rager. I was prepared to forgive her up until the point where she said:

"I could have handled the 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."

The real tragedy was that this woman treated another person with such callous lack of respect and understanding. Moreover, her actions toward the woman who pulled out in front of her were criminal (assault, destruction of personal property).

I feel sorry for the woman's children more than anything. Perhaps you could have recommended an anger management course for her.



Dr. Gridlock would like to hear of any anger management classes that have worked for you folks, especially ones dealing with road rage.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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


London, England

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 drgridlock@washpost.com. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.