Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Could you please remind your readers how important it is to clear snow and ice not only off their vehicle windows but also off the roof and hood?

It creates such a driving hazard if the wind lifts those large chunks of ice and snow off the hood or roof and blows it back into traffic. I saw several close calls on the road last winter.

Bonnie Potter

Reston

Gladly. I know it's a pain to stay out in the freezing weather longer than necessary to clear your windows, but the added moments it takes to sweep off your trunk, roof and hood may save someone's life.

Here are more winter driving tips from the American Automobile Association:

* Once the vehicle is started, warm it up gently by driving slowly for the first few minutes. Excessive idling can actually slow down the warming process and damage the catalytic converter. Don't race the engine.

* Keep the gas tank at least half full.

* Carry a winter survival kit in your vehicle. Such a kit should include blankets, a flashlight, flares or reflective triangles, a shovel, road salt and jumper cables.

* Have your antifreeze checked to make sure it is at the proper cold-temperature protection level. Battery connections should be free of cracks and corrosion.

* If you become stranded in your car in cold weather, do not leave the vehicle. It provides excellent shelter until help arrives.

* Don't grind the starter for more than a few seconds at a time.

* To prevent a lockout, carry lock lubricant, available at most hardware stores.

* Read your owner's manual for cold-weather starting procedures.

Dr. Gridlock also will be happy to pass on your winter driving tips.

Road Rage Repentence

Darlene Rowe-Stukes was the Mitchellville woman who wrote about wanting to attack another motorist in Prince George's County during a fit of road rage, yanking on the other woman's locked car door in order to drag her out and "beat her to a pulp." Unable to get in, she kicked out the woman's headlights and walked away. She realized later that she could have been shot by such a stranger.

Her letter drew many responses from readers who said that she was not contrite enough and that she regretted her actions only because she could have been shot, rather than what she could have done to the other woman.

Now that we have digested all those responses, we hear from Ms. Rowe-Stukes again:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to those who commented on my road rage tale, I must say that I agree with each and every one of them in one way or another.

Yes, I was very, very angry. But that is no excuse for my actions, and I apologize if my letter came across as such.

My reason for writing to you, Dr. Gridlock, was to give an honest account of what transpired that night and to state that my actions were out of line and inexcusable, and if I could take it all back and find the woman who I berated, in order to apologize to her, I would.

So, if she is reading this, I am sorry.

The point I was also trying to make was that this type behavior is in all of us. Anyone who knows me knows this was out of character for me. I snapped. I used poor judgment. I reacted inappropriately to a situation. I lost it.

Never say never until you are put in a situation where you react in a way that you would later regret.

Darlene Rowe-Stukes

Mitchellville

That's enough contrition for me. And I hope, Ms. Rowe-Stukes, that you will be less likely to leap from your vehicle if a car pulls in front of you in the future, no matter what's inside of you. Thanks for the courage to share your story.

Has anybody else been the perpetrator--or the victim--of a road rage incident?

First Riddle of 2000

Now, Jessica and I present the first license plate riddle of the New Year.

Roger Dewey, of Burke, says he saw a car with a Virginia plate that read GSNDHT. That plate can be used to figure out the car make. What was it?

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

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on 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.