Reader Liza Recto of Lexington Park asked why drivers stop well behind the white stop line when they are the first at a traffic light. I asked the audience. Here are some of your thoughts:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Liza Recto's question, I offer a possible answer: In case of a rear-end collision, you minimize the chances of being pushed into cross traffic in the intersection.

Hilbert Turner Jr.


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One reason I stop short is the number of times I have seen people making a left turn cut my corner. I like the extra margin of space between me and sloppy left turns in front of me.

Don Opedal


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I notice the exact opposite to be true. Many people will cross over that line and drive into the crosswalk.

I look to see if the lane to the right or left of mine is a turn on red lane for other motorists. Then, I stop maybe two feet before the line so the turning vehicles have a better view of oncoming traffic from the side I am on.

And, if there are two lanes or more to go through an intersection, I try not to use the right lane as a through lane so those wishing to turn right on red may do so without waiting for me. But, for many, being first in a lane, any lane, at a light is what it's all about. It's all a matter of patience and courtesy.

Bob Beard

Temple Hills

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I personally do this because I was just behind the white line last year when I was hit by a tractor-trailer that was turning into the lane next to me. It damaged my vehicle, and I was in therapy for months because of a back injury.

I will have this problem for life, and it all could have been avoided if I had been sitting back a few more feet from the line. That is why I sit back. Experience.

Elizabeth Knippenberg


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I always stop about a car length behind the white line to see the traffic signal. I am 6 feet 4 inches tall. The windshield curves up to the roof of the car. I can't see the signal unless I lean forward and extend my neck backward to look up. It is very uncomfortable.

I have two alternatives to this painful procedure:

1. Ignore the light and wait for the person behind me to honk when the signal changes.

2. Stop short of the white line at the intersection so I can see the signal without the strain.

The delay in acceleration once the light is green is negligible, so I don't think it inconveniences anyone, but given Ms. Recto's letter, I guess it can be irritating. I hope my reply lessens that irritation for readers who feel that way.

Patrick Noone


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In summer, if there's shade a car length or two back and none at the white line, then I'll wait in the shade for the traffic light to change. What's the big deal anyway?

Bill Akerley

Silver Spring

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't know why they stop far back from the white line, but they may be making a mistake if there is a sensor there that trips the traffic light for them. This is especially true for left-turn signals, where I have seen drivers denied a green signal because they hadn't pulled up far enough to trip the sensor.

John Fay


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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