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:

People who stop one or two car lengths behind the white stop line at an intersection are probably worried about being hit by cross traffic turning left onto the lane next to them. I do not know how many times cars have come inches from my vehicle bumper as they made their left turn.

In addition, twice I have had to back up from the white stop line because a tractor-trailer did not swing out wide enough to complete the turn without entering my lane of traffic.

Donna Sweeney


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, have wondered why drivers do not pull up to the stop line. I'm not sure if it is done flagrantly or for a particular reason, but what many fail to recognize is that there is a sensory strip at some traffic lights and unless that strip senses there is a vehicle waiting, the traffic light will not turn green.

About a month ago, I was literally stuck in such a situation where the car at the front of the line had not moved up far enough and therefore the sensor was not activated. After unsuccessfully attempting to get the driver's attention who was in front of me, I was forced to make a right turn (still on a red light) at the intersection and then double back by making a U-turn a few hundred yards down the road. When I passed through the intersection the second time, this driver was still patiently waiting for his green light.

For whatever reason, many drivers seem ignorant of the fact that it's often necessary that you move up to the white stop line or you just may be stopped at that intersection indefinitely.

Scott Heemann


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Isn't it mind-numbingly obvious that people who stop well behind the white line are doing so to be able to see the stoplight without breaking their necks? A much bigger problem is people who stop ahead of the line, then count on others blowing their horns to let them know the light has changed.

Gar Enders


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 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


Shaking Off Tailgaters

Reader Laurel Jade of Columbia complained about being tailgated constantly in her four-cylinder car. I asked for your advice. Here is some:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Many people complain of tailgating. My friend, who finds herself a victim more often than I do, has a solution. When I've been in the car with her, it has worked every time.

She slowly but deliberately takes her foot off the accelerator, slowing both her vehicle and the tailgater behind her. Inevitably, the guy will move quickly into the left lane and pass.

Kevin Hackett


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

People will tailgate in this area even if you are going 10 miles above the speed limit in the fast lane! When I have a tailgater behind me, I first try to change lanes to let them pass.

The driver in the right lane who is being tailgated might also try putting on the emergency flashers. Usually the person who is tailgating will get exasperated and pass at that point.

Sharon Anderson


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Prince William 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.