Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Could you please explain to me which law enforcement agency is responsible for enforcing HOV regulations on Interstate 66, and please also tell me why they are not doing their jobs!

I went out and purchased a new Honda Civic Hybrid (an ultra-low emissions vehicle) for three reasons. First, it gets 45 mpg. Second, there is a one-time $2,000 federal tax credit for buying a clean fuel vehicle. Third, and most important, so I could legally ride in the HOV lane by myself between Manassas and the Pentagon, not having to worry about picking up slugs and not having to make the 30-mile trip on Routes 50 and 29 everyday, which can take up to an hour and a half in each direction.

Well, I still get the benefit of the gas mileage and the tax credit -- but as it turns out, HOV restrictions mean nothing in Virginia! At a minimum, I can find at least 20 to 30 HOV violators a day -- and that's with the warning sign before you get onto HOV saying that HOV fines are up to $500. Well, Dr. Gridlock, if it's not enforced, then what's the point?

Steve Fowler

Manassas

Congratulations on the purchase of your hybrid. That seems like the sane thing to do. The HOV-2 lanes are barely functioning, because the fines are too low (less than $100 for a first offense) and enforcement too spotty. What I'm looking for are HOV lanes so congested with violators that they no longer provide any incentive to conventional lanes. You have to tell me when we are reaching that point.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My solution to the HOV enforcement problem, which might require a few troopers or other authorized personnel, is to immediately impound the vehicles of the violators and not release them unless they have enough money to pay whatever fine is prescribed right then and there.

For those who cannot pay the fine immediately, have roving vehicles (similar to the motorist assistance vehicles) available and on call to take the one or two, or however many perpetrators are collected, to the nearest metro/bus station/taxi stand/whatever and drop them off after they've paid immediately for this "added service," say $20 to $50 a head.

If they don't have enough money to pay this fee, hold them until they make necessary arrangements.

The owner of the vehicle can pay whatever fee is established, including the towing charge, before the car is released from the impound lot. This way the state doesn't have to worry about collecting on an issued citation, especially for out-of-staters.

If the owner doesn't pick up the vehicle within a specified time, sell it as confiscated/abandoned property. I'd be flabbergasted if HOV violations would continue.

Raymond Labas

Woodbridge

This would be one way to deal with violators, although a bit harsh. Your proposal is one more indicator of how fed up commuters are with HOV violators.

Expand Bike Program

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

By the end of last year, Metro installed bike racks on the front of many buses in its fleet. This addition is a great complement to Metro's Bike-on-Rail initiative and further enables people to move farther out without ever pressing an accelerator.

Such an addition to our local transit system here in Woodbridge and Manassas would be just as beneficial.

Alex Kiser

Woodbridge

Passing Lane

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Again, you ran an article that suggests that local drivers who fail to keep right except when passing are somehow in violation of the law. I believe this continuing theme in your articles tends to increase the anger of those who share this perception.

I may be wrong, but I find nothing in Virginia motor vehicle law that requires -- or even suggests -- that one must keep right except when passing.

As you have previously noted, upon being approached by a vehicle whose driver signals a desire to pass by sounding his horn or flicking his lights, a driver in Virginia must move to the right to allow this overtaking vehicle to pass.

But when not being overtaken by a vehicle giving a horn/lights signal, a vehicle in Virginia has every right to cruise in the far left lane, even if he is not passing anyone else. Am I wrong?

Many states do have a law requiring one to keep right except when passing, and one can make a sound argument that, since this practice is widespread in other states, it is a good idea in Virginia, also.

But, if you feel you must continue to champion this cause, I suggest you direct your comments to the state legislators to place such a requirement into Virginia motor vehicle law.

Short of that, I believe you do no good by increasing the antagonism of some against drivers who are fully compliant with the law.

Gary C. Comfort

Reston

I believe you are right. I have been suggesting that drivers keep right except to pass as a good driving habit, not as a matter of law.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I generally agree that the left lane is for passing. But there are good reasons for keeping out of the right lane.

We have heavy traffic all along the East Coast, with large amounts of exiting and entering traffic. If all normal traffic were to keep right, there would be large jams at most of these intersections/interchanges.

I would expect a large increase of accidents, particularly where the intersections are poorly designed and uncontrolled (example: Fairfax County Parkway).

Additionally, if right-lane traffic were to move left in anticipation of all these interchanges, you would see a significant increase in "lane swapping," which usually only makes things worse.

The ideal would be to have three lanes where the center carries the normal traffic flow, the left is "reserved" for passing and the right is "reserved" for entering and exiting. Unfortunately, we normally only have two lanes, and they have to do double duty.

Under those conditions, we need better voluntary enforcement by drivers of a "normal" traffic speed that safely but expeditiously gets us there -- no room for slowpokes or lead foot drivers.

Also, we need to teach more drivers how to exit and enter and not screw up traffic.

Finally, we need to hit our land use supervisors and VDOT on the head to force design of roads and intersections with safety and traffic flow in mind.

John Nun

Alexandria

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Did I miss something? Let's say the speed limit is 55 mph; does that mean it's okay to drive 56, 60, maybe 70 mph? Is the left lane for people the law does not apply to?

Is it okay to drive only 55 mph in the left lane so you can make a left turn, or are we obliged to break the law so someone who has no regard for the law (no matter the degree) can get to their destination at any speed they feel comfortable with?

I prefer to drive in the left lane at the speed limit, because the right lane usually has someone driving slower than the speed limit; therefore, I am usually passing.

When driving on the right (Fairfax County Parkway) and we need to make a left turn at Rugby Road, it's difficult to acquire the left lane in a reasonable manner. The speeders won't usually let you in.

From what I see on the highways, we are a nation of lawbreakers and it would be nice if someone at The Post would stand up for the law-abiding citizens.

Yes, the left lane is for passing, but not for speeding. The right lane is for those who might not be up to the full speed limit.

Let's have mercy and remember the road is for all, and most of all remind everyone it's not a race course!

Herb Moore

Fairfax

If someone is driving the speed limit in the left lane and another driver approaching signals his intent to pass, the slower vehicle must pull right, according to Virginia law. I prefer not to cruise in the left lane because I don't like to be tailgated.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Something else the self-righteous Mr. Jim Woods [Dr. Gridlock, Jan. 12] and other left-lane cruisers need to keep in mind is that the average car's speedometer is usually in need of recalibration.

I have read in a number of places that cars with some miles on the odometer might have a speedometer that is off by 3 to 5 miles per hour.

Mr. Woods may think he is going the speed limit, but he may actually be traveling substantially slower than that.

Jeff Grant

Centreville

In Virginia, it doesn't matter what speed the left-lane cruiser is traveling; he must move right and let the overtaking vehicle pass.

Better Traffic Reports

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I agree with Teresa Duncan's comments that the radio traffic reporters give the traffic reports far too fast for listeners to follow. My suggestion (assuming the stations won't give the reporters more time to slow down) is to preface the announcements by stating the county in which the various problems are encountered, especially on roadways crossing multiple jurisdictions.

This would greatly help listeners visualize where the problem areas are and whether their routes are impacted. It is of little help to hear of a problem on, say, Interstate 95 north when I can't tell if they're talking about Virginia approaching the Beltway or Maryland heading toward Baltimore.

Ira Birnbaum

Annandale

I agree.

More on Hybrids

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have a Honda Insight hybrid. The key in getting the best mileage is driving non-aggressively and at the speed limit. Also, read the manual on driving tips. It took me about three months to figure out on how to the drive the car correctly.

The highest mileage to date is 64 miles per gallon. I am still trying to go even higher. I enjoy my Insight to the max.

Doris Jasinowski

Sterling

Sixty-four miles per gallon, plus a $2,000 federal tax credit, plus an exemption for the HOV lanes, plus the satisfaction of greatly reducing exhaust pollution -- those seem like convincing selling points, especially for commuters who live far from their jobs.

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 drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.