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


Why Stop Short?

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:

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


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:

A reader wondered why some people don't pull all the way up to the white stop line at a light. I can think of one reason: to avoid being slammed into by a car turning left from the cross street.

Nowadays, many drivers never even touch the brakes when turning left, so they have to start the turn much earlier and take the risk of clipping cars in the lane next to one they're "aiming" for. But at least they've saved a couple of nanoseconds on their commute.

I suggest your reader drive down Massachusetts Avenue NW one evening during rush hour. If she's the first car at the stoplight at 11th Street NW and her bumper is anywhere close to the white line, she'll understand.

Jessica Fagerhaugh


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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