Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The stupidity of drivers in our area is way out of hand and getting worse. Apparently, people just don't care about their own safety and the safety of others. An overwhelming number of unconscious drivers on the road are oblivious to other vehicles around them, and that's the way they drive. They don't have a clue they are doing anything wrong. Speed limit signs and the signs that warn you of merging lanes don't compute in their brains.

Why leave space between vehicles at red lights? There are a number of reasons I do it. I've been rear-ended a few times while stopped at a red light, but I had enough space between me and the vehicle in front of me so I wasn't pushed into that vehicle.

Then there are the smart people who do not buckle in the kids and let them go wherever they want in the vehicle. I give this vehicle a lot of space. I don't want to be rear-ended and forced into a vehicle with kids in the back of that vehicle.

Also, leaving enough space between the vehicle in front of me gives me the opportunity to get out of the way of emergency vehicles that need to get through the intersection.

You have people who can't read or speak English, and they can get a driver's license faster than I can get mine renewed at the DMV even though I was born in America and have been driving for 40-some years. It doesn't make sense to me.

Take common sense, intelligence and courtesy and throw those things out the window. This is what driving on the roads has come to.

Steven A. Billig


An Unneeded Diversion

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I thought your answer to Mike Mills on Sunday [Sept. 29] was inappropriate. We have enough distractions to be listening to Books-On-Tape while we drive. Driving here demands our full attention. Who can concentrate on a book?

Sharon Anderson


Many readers have highly recommended audio books as a way to combat commuter tedium. I haven't heard them express your concern.

Getting Away With Meter Feeding

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is in response to Tim Cline's letter concerning meter feeding and moving your car ["How Close Is Too Close," Metro, Sept. 28]. Over the past 20 years, I have parked intermittently on the streets near my workplace in downtown Washington.

My co-workers and I have never been fined for meter feeding. We park in one place all day. As long as the meter is fed, I don't believe the city cares who is doing it.

The parking control aides appear to monitor only those cars on streets with two-hour free parking.

Tracy Frazier


Count yourself lucky. What you are doing, in feeding the meter, is a violation of District parking rules. Parking control aides have been known to make notes of which vehicle parks where and issue a ticket if the car is still there beyond the posted time limit. This is regardless of whether the motorist still has time left on the meter.

No Exceptions to Speed Limit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Today on my way to work, I was in a 25 mph school zone on Edsall Road in Alexandria. A car came up behind me in the left lane and started honking his horn.

When I reached the end of the school zone, I sped up to 35 mph, the speed limit for that section of road. When the right lane was clear, the person passed me on the right, clearly agitated that I had been moving so slowly in the passing lane.

When we came up to a red light, he had moved back over to the inside lane several cars ahead of me. I pulled up beside him and put down my window and explained that when he honked at me, we had been in a 25 mph school zone. He proceeded to explain that I was in the passing lane and that the 25 mph didn't apply to the passing lane.

All I could say at that point is a 25 mph school zone is 25 mph. . . . I was dumbfounded.

Would you mind reinforcing to your readers the importance of the school zone traffic laws?

Margaret Loewenstein


What could be more important? Also, I would not recommend engaging a lawbreaker; the chances of an escalating incident are probably greater than converting the oafish stranger to reason.

Double-Thinking an Idea

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It seems clear that we will never solve our traffic problem with new roads because of the political difficulty of gaining approval for new routes.

The solution to our overburdened traffic system is to increase capacity without building new roads. Why not simply double-deck the existing roads?

Doubling the capacity of the Beltway and Interstate 95 will do an enormous amount to solve our traffic problems.

The engineering problems will be difficult but solvable. I envision building the upper-deck sections in modules and positioning them with helicopters. That may not prove feasible, but our society is good at solving difficult construction problems.

This will cost an enormous amount of money and will save an enormous amount of time, money and hassle.

Stuart Plattner


Every now and then, I get a letter suggesting the Beltway be double-decked. One of the problems is that building an elevated interstate highway (in effect, on a bridge) is infinitely more costly and more expensive to maintain than building a new road on a flat right of way.

Look at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge: $2.5 billion to build a new bridge and interchanges on each side. That is a fraction of the length of the Beltway.

I don't think the money is there for double-decked undertakings.

Go-and-Stop Method?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wonder if you have any opinion on the British way of handling traffic lights. It's been a while since I have been there, but at the time their lights went from red to yellow to green. From green, they went directly to red.

This avoided having people mashing down on the gas when the yellow light warned of the light turning red, as people do here. Green to red means stop -- now.

Yellow means that cars waiting at a red light could proceed with caution, after checking for any cars not able to stop for the instant red light.

Robert Boise

Temple Hills

And we think we've got a problem with red light running now! Wow. You mean you're tooling along a secondary road at 45 mph, and as you approach a green light, it suddenly and without warning changes to red? Can we say "Screeech!" and "Ka-boom!" and rear-end collisions?

I don't see how this could work here, but as always, I will consider the wisdom of the readership. I'd like to hear your views.

A Tailgating Target

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there a profile for people who tailgate? It happens to me quite often. I drive a small four-cylinder car. When the air conditioning is on, my car will not accelerate quickly.

Do I forfeit my right to drive on I-95 because of this?

I do the speed limit, but a tailgater will attempt to push me faster in the right lane.

Laurel Jade


The fact of driving life in our area is that no matter what lane you're in, or how fast you're going, some nut will try to run over your car. If you're staying right and still getting tailgated, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe readers have a suggestion.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Loudoun Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.