In the Sept. 29 column, reader Ruth Mundell said that since she traded an old station wagon for a Jeep Wrangler, she was having trouble being allowed to merge. It seems that more people wouldn't let her in. She asked why.

Some explained themselves in the Oct. 17 column. Here is another round of driver-thinking about who should get to merge in front of whom.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Haven't we heard about enough from the drivers of subcompact vehicles? You know, they're the ones who feel they are the only drivers who have a right to be on any of the D.C. area roads.

First, we learned that they cannot abide having anyone driving anything larger than their vehicle behind them, because "those headlights are mounted too high, and I can't see." Now, it seems that they cannot stand to have any vehicle larger than their own driving in front of them, either, because "I can't see around those monsters."

The subcompact drivers who wrote to you apparently have no problem with aggressive driving, as long as they are the ones doing it. Kathleen Anderson writes about SUVs, "I prefer not to let them into my lane."

Most of the others also indicate they deliberately block access to larger vehicles and complain about not being able to see anything when behind SUVs or minivans or whatever vehicle may not be the same as their car.

Are not both the SUV and the subcompact legal?

And don't they have equal access to all roadways in the area?

If these complaining drivers would not tailgate, they would find that they could, indeed, see the traffic around and ahead of them.

They must remember, if the car in front of them stops for any reason, and they are not able to avoid running into it, the following car is always at fault for careless driving. The complaint that the driver in front was in a larger vehicle will not excuse the liability related to following too closely.

If everyone would use a little common sense while driving, there would be fewer tempers flaring out there. I won't delude myself that anything will change, though, since it seems that there will always be an attitude of "me; first, last, and always" prevalent among drivers in this area.

Marvin Anseth


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive an SUV and try to be very conscious of the visual impact that I have on others on the road. I know the frustration and potential danger of being behind a vehicle that blocks the view of traffic ahead.

After all, in this area of close, high-speed driving, it is my rear end that will be hit if the following car does not have a safe and adequate view of the traffic conditions ahead. It is with that in mind that I make an effort to bear to the right side of my lane, allowing the car following a bit better view around me. Granted, this endeavor requires some consideration and awareness of others in my driving -- all, apparently, difficult things for many drivers in our area. Share the road.

Derek T. Havens

Mason Neck

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I hugely appreciated the responses you published. My husband and I drive compact Toyotas -- Camry and Corolla -- and we are constantly irritated by drivers who expect me to turn right on red or perform other maneuvers that are visually impossible because of the huge SUVs, etc., blocking my line of sight.

I understand that they may be able to see, but I can't!

Peg Heeter


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As I read that drivers would not let a Jeep Wrangler merge because it blocked their view, I just had to laugh.

While apparently trying to be safety-conscious, some drivers are creating a potentially hazardous situation as well as being discourteous. By not allowing a vehicle to merge, they are likely an unsafe distance from the car in front of them.

Could it be that in this position, their view beyond that car may not necessarily be blocked but is at least diffused or obstructed?

For utmost safety in this situation, their focus should be directly in front of them and on the potential for pandemonium there. By backing away from the car in front of them and slowing down, much of the concern is eliminated. They would be able see a fair distance beyond the vehicle in front of them, as well as immediately in front of their vehicle.

And what do you know, the merging traffic would also have opportunities!

Sigi Barron


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was amazed by the attitude of the Jeep and SUV owners that they thought drivers of mere cars were jealous of them because they had these big vehicles.

I fully agree with all the car owners who said they couldn't see once an SUV/truck/van got in front of them. I drive a gas-saving economy car because I care about the environment.

SUV/truck drivers are too egocentric if they feel it is always about them and their feelings. Maybe they need to understand that it is more about the regular car driver's safety needs. Then they won't be amazed when they are not welcome in the lane in front of cars.

Eileen Rothberg


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As for complaints about my minivan blocking the vision of the driver behind me, all I can say is: Stop tailgating! I try to keep several car lengths away from the guy ahead so the guy behind won't be wearing my bumper as a hood ornament because I won't have to jam on the brakes.

I scan while I drive -- both to be aware of encroaching madmen and to know where my escape route will be in case I have to steer out of a sudden obstruction.

And to be fair, I also most often commute in a 30-miles-per-gallon 1990 Ford Escort to save gas.

But then I'm scared half to death that one of those carefree drivers of mid-size cars who can now see over me is going to run over me because the driver can see so well that he or she forgets not to sit on my bumper.

Bob Garrett


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With regard to the column about the woman who has trouble merging with her Jeep Wrangler, I think there could be another factor at work here: payback.

In my experience, a disproportionate number of the very worst drivers on the road are in this type of vehicle (i.e. the Wrangler-type Jeep, as opposed to an SUV). I have seen more incidents of weaving in and out, cutting off other drivers and all-around reckless driving with these vehicles than with any other six models put together, including "muscle cars" like the Mustang, Camaro and Corvette.

It seems that the off-road Jeeps attract a disproportionate number of twentysomething males whose testosterone levels exceed their IQs by several dozen points and whose style of merging can be described as "get out of the way, I don't care about dents and you do."

A lot of these guys drive like off-duty bicycle messengers. I doubt I am the only one to make this observation, and it wouldn't surprise me if some drivers are less willing to make way for a Wrangler than for other vehicles -- even SUVs and vans that you can't see around.

Ms. Mundell may be the unwitting, and perhaps undeserving, recipient of some of the hostility generated by the many reckless Wrangler drivers.

Robert A. Benzinger

Falls Church

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There's a simple solution to seeing around a taller vehicle, and it doesn't require transparent vehicles (as one reader suggested): Drop back until you can see better, and you're far enough back to stop safely. Doesn't matter whether the taller vehicle is an SUV, a bus, a truck or even -- gasp -- a minivan.

Don Tyson

Falls Church

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read your column today about drivers being discourteous and refusing to let the woman with the Jeep Wrangler merge into traffic (among other vehicles) and the various excuses (yes, they are excuses) for that.

I call them excuses because I drive a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer, and the same thing happens to me. The Lancer is an extremely inexpensive four-door sedan. No one has a problem seeing the road ahead with me in front of them, and I still have problems trying to merge into traffic. The real problem is that everyone on the road has the "me first" attitude.

The thing that really irritates me is when I'm trying to get over to the right, some idiot will undoubtedly try to pass me on the right and not let me over. Here's a hint: If you see a car that was going a bit faster in the left lanes slowing down and trying to change lanes to the right, it's a good bet that the person's exit is coming up and they're trying to leave the highway. Let them over!

J.D. Walker


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive an 18-year-old Ford Ranger pickup and do allow others to merge in front of me, regardless of size; it's part of the courteous driving habits I learned 30-plus years ago during my behind-the-wheel driver's training in high school in California. Heck, I even allow line-jumpers (those drivers who use the merge lane to get in front of others) to merge!

One also wonders just how much our "winning is all that matters" culture affects our driving habits; some people may not allow others to merge just because the merging driver would then be ahead of them, thus "winning."

One thing I've noticed: not everybody signals lane changes, and some of those who do only do so after they've started to change lanes.

I still follow the habit I learned 30-plus years ago: Signal for at least 100 feet before changing lanes or turning. Of course even after doing so, I've still had people honk at me when I do change lanes.

Edward Lloyd Hillman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I can see some logic in the thinking that it is better to cut someone off so you don't have to see the back of their large vehicle, but it would appear to me that another solution would be to simply leave a bit more room between you and the behemoth in front of you so you actually have time to stop when you see the brake lights.

Of course, then you might run the risk of someone else (hopefully, in a smaller car) getting in front of you.

After reading today's column, I am more convinced than ever that people here will rationalize anything they do out on the road in a way that makes them feel they are always justified in what they do.

Mike Oelrich


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Fairfax 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.