In a recent letter, Dick Bentz of Bethesda said he was hearing radio advertisements promoting the Smooth Operator and Checkpoint Strikeforce police programs, purportedly to crack down on aggressive and drunken drivers.

Bentz wrote that he has not seen "one iota of evidence that either program is in operation."

"None of the aggressive drivers that zoom past me every day, cutting in and out, seem to be at risk of being pulled over, nor have I seen any checkpoints designed to catch drunk drivers," Bentz wrote. "Someone is spending a lot of money on advertising. Is anybody spending any on implementing these two programs?"

I haven't seen any evidence, either.

I asked for your answers. Almost all of them were negative and bring into question the value of such programs. Here's a sample:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Mr. Bentz posed a question regarding the advertising and implementation of programs designed to catch and apprehend aggressive drivers.

You suggested that programs such as Smooth Operator and Checkpoint Strikeforce might be a way to "funnel public funds to favored ad agencies . . . to create the impression that there is more police activity out there than there actually is."

Then you asked us what we think. Here's my 2 cents:

I do not believe that local or state law enforcement truly wants to catch or apprehend aggressive drivers. I believe they want people to think they are working the issue (hence the advertisements), but in fact, they do not have the will or resources to actually crack down on these dangerous drivers.

Earlier this year, I was harassed by an aggressive driver on an off-ramp from the Beltway. Apparently, I was driving too slowly (less than 10 mph over the speed limit). This individual whizzed past me on the left even though we had already entered the off-ramp and there was a Jersey wall [ahead].

He yelled obscenities out the window and shook his fists at me. He cut in front of me and began bearing down on his brakes, slowing for no other reason than to instigate an accident.

With the individual still in front of me, I called Virginia State Police to report an aggressive driver and provide the appropriate license plate number, model car, etc. The dispatcher kindly informed me that unless I wanted to press charges, there was absolutely nothing they could do.

Clearly, Virginia state troopers have no desire to apprehend aggressive drivers. If they did, there are several things they could do that would not be terribly labor- or resource-intensive that might help alleviate the problem by discouraging drivers to act in this manner.

First, they could encourage the public to report aggressive drivers to an aggressive-driver hotline.

Second, they could establish a database of information on such drivers (taken from the aggressive driver hotline reports).

Third, at the very least, they could send a reprimanding letter to the owner of the vehicle letting them know that they've been "caught."

While these ideas certainly are not perfect, I believe they are a good start . . . that is, if law enforcement is really interested.

Kim Gill


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am a reverse commuter on Interstate 66 -- west in the morning to Manassas and east in the evening to Falls Church. That means I see mostly free-flowing traffic. My hat is off to Virginia state troopers. Unlike your observations, I see at least one traffic stop a day.

They are also using small, discreet unmarked cars with small antennas that are highly effective. There is nothing more satisfying than having an aggressive bandit weave around you and others and see him pulled over five miles down the road. And I enjoy that immense pleasure about once every six months.

At the same time, troopers don't impede traffic. Ninety percent of the drivers keep it below 70 mph and are consistently tolerated. The troopers obviously focus on the dangerous, lane-changing, true speeders doing 80 mph or better.

Gary Berry

Falls Church

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wanted to second your comments about lack of police coverage of Beltway traffic. I drive 13 miles of the Beltway in Virginia at least twice a day and, except for responding to breakdowns and fender benders, I rarely see police.

People weave in and out, tailgate and make quick lane changes in tight conditions without signaling.

Between the rush hours, the average speed on the Beltway is now about 70 mph, with many going better than 75. Even at those speeds, we have the hotshots roaring through at 80 to 90 mph.

Rude and reckless driving (I don't like the term "aggressive") at those speeds will eventually cause a catastrophic, multicar pileup.

When that happens, I hope Virginia State Police are held fully accountable. They are doing absolutely nothing to control the situation and prevent disaster.

Clive Carpi


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I see very little in the way of police activity designed to catch aggressive drivers, whether through specially designed and advertised programs or during daily traffic enforcement. It's as if traffic law enforcement is at the bottom of the priority list.

I live in Herndon, and near-anarchy seems to be the order of the day -- abrupt lane changes, tailgating, red-light running and out-of-control jaywalking, which endangers pedestrian and driver.

The unfunny humor of traffic control activity in Herndon is that it seems most prevalent on Sunday mornings, when some of the traffic is undoubtedly church bound.

Walter Hadlock


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Dick Bentz of Bethesda is so right! I travel the Beltway from Van Dorn Street or the Springfield "mixed-up" bowl to Route 210 in Maryland and back almost every day. I never, never see a police car of any kind pulling over an aggressive driver.

I have made numerous calls to both Virginia and Maryland to report them. I try to supply color, make, license tag and state as well as location and report what the driver is doing to endanger everyone else on the road.

I watch them run up on other cars at high speeds (we're talking 80 to 95 mph here!); tailgate; flash lights; zigzag back and forth across all four lanes, cutting off other drivers; drive on the shoulder and slap on brakes when they can't get by.

These are the typical responses I have gotten when I have called in: "Sure, ma'am, we'll look into it" or "no problem; we'll be on the lookout for it." But most of the time, they are not even interested in any description, tag number, location or anything. They cut me off in mid-sentence; they seem to have no interest whatsoever!

Almost every time, I have had to insist that I have more information to give them. So much for whatever money is being wasted on advertising on this program. It certainly gives a false sense of hope that any concerned citizens can do their part.

Suzi Rine


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.