Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't own a cell phone, but I was able to borrow one recently. I must admit, it was convenient to be able to communicate at my whim, without stopping the car and getting on some cold pay phone.

I was on the phone with a friend when, at a notorious intersection, I realized my attention was being split between talking and driving. I abruptly ended the call and got myself through the intersection.

As long as cell phones are legal in a moving vehicle, people must be able to instantly pay attention to the situation at hand.

Bob Sagusti

Arlington

I don't think drivers should use them at all. Too distracting. Take your eye off the road and you can run into people/vehicles on the shoulder.

SUV Woes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Last week, you asked about how to achieve a safe following distance when drivers continually merge in front of you.

There is no way to stop that from happening, given the general congestion out there.

To improve my safety, I try to watch several cars ahead and what they're doing. That way, I can brake or change lanes, if need be.

Of course, when there are SUVs in the way, they tend to block our view ahead, so I try to stay back from them and hope a regular car will pull in between me and that SUV.

Steven Grandits

Alexandria

It's getting harder and harder to avoid having an SUV in front of you, there are so many of them. And I've got no solution for how you keep a safe distance in front of you, considering another driver will jump into the space. But thanks for your tip, Mr. Grandits. Guess it works sometimes.

Extending a Courtesy

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was recently stopped at the light at Hoadly Road and Dale Boulevard in Prince William County.

A mid-size business truck stopped behind me, and its headlights were beaming directly into my mirrors.

I adjusted the rearview mirror, but the side mirrors were also catching the glare.

I don't know if the driver saw me flip my rearview mirror down to night vision, but he actually turned his headlights down to just his parking lights and left them that way until the traffic light changed, and we were on our way.

It may seem like a small act of kindness, but I definitely appreciated the thought.

Patti Barry

Manassas

What a nice driver. Wouldn't it be wonderful if others in high vehicles followed his example? I'm glad to know he's out there.

Not All SUVs the Same

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read with interest your recent columns with readers decrying the width of sport-utility vehicles.

You may want to note that not all SUVs are monsters that take up more than their share of parking spaces. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is not as wide as my Corvette (72.3 inches compared with 73.6 inches), or a Ford Taurus, for that matter (73 inches).

On the other hand, you have the behemoths like the Ford Excursion at 79.9 inches.

My point: There are SUVs and there are SUVs.

John Drake

Sterling

Thanks. Good point. But the overwhelming number of complaints about SUVs that I have received dealt with the height of SUVs. People don't like riding behind them because their height blocks a view of the road ahead.

There is more bitterness out there aimed at SUVs than I would have imagined. And it has nothing to do with width.

No 'Smooth' Enforcement

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have to agree with your other readers that the Smooth Operator law enforcement program is a joke. In response to Christine Hanson's comments [Dr. Gridlock, Dec. 12] about the police doing nothing about reports of aggressive drivers when you call #77 -- I agree 100 percent.

I, too, inquired within the last year why nothing was being done when these reports were received. At the time, my county (Prince William) had a program under which, if you witnessed trash being thrown out of a moving vehicle, you could report the tag and a letter would be sent to the owner's home.

Why couldn't the same program be implemented for aggressive driving, I asked. I was told that:

1) It would be too much administrative work.

2) There is no one to staff the telephone line that would be necessary to take the angry calls from residents who receive the letters.

So, we can have the police contact drivers about garbage but not about life-endangering behavior. How's that for priorities?

Jennifer Dunleavy

Fairfax City

Police say voluntary compliance is the only way to bring traffic violations under control. But that doesn't work without a strong law enforcement component. Drivers need to see violators pulled over.

I'd settle for seeing more people pulled over than officers talking with each other in the interstate median strips and in parking lots.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Alexandria Arlington Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, 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.