Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You have asked about Howard County residents' thoughts on the traffic circles that dot some of the intersections in the area.

When they were being constructed, I remember thinking how silly and inconvenient they were going to be. But after living with them for a few years now, I find them to be an efficient way to move traffic smoothly around this area.

Despite the motorists who are unfamiliar with how to negotiate the circles, it seems to me that they are an overall better alternative to traffic lights.

The main difficulty I encounter is giving directions to our house and trying to explain how to drive around those circles!

Anita Marchesani

Howard County

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The attached Web site, www.dlzcorp.com/seg/modern.html, gives a description of the differences between roundabouts and traffic circles. I found it interesting, as I never really thought there was a difference. And no matter what you call it, I am not particularly fond of them.

Deborah Jacobs

Savage

Hold HOV Violators Accountable

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 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.

Passing Lane Perceptions

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.

Better Traffic Reports

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I agree with Teresa Duncan's Feb. 9 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.

Handling a Hybrid

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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

Your Ad Here

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Metro is talking about raising fares, which I think is long overdue. But there are other ways they could make money: more advertising on Metro.

They could fit more ads on platforms, in bus shelters and along the sides of the rail cars, above the windows.

I know Metro wants a clean-looking system, without ads junking it up, but a few more wouldn't hurt and would generate some needed revenue.

If more ad space would mean extensions would get built and escalators would get fixed, I think people would accept it.

Dave Linn

Washington

Something to think about as Metro ponders a fare increase.

SUV Fills a Need

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am so sick and tired of people speaking negatively of SUVs and the people who drive them. I am 33 years old. I have six children, and when I was in the market for a larger vehicle, I decided not to opt for a minivan but an SUV. That was more my style.

My Ford Expedition seats eight comfortably (my husband, my children and me). We do not drive our SUV to show off or act like the king and queen of the road but only to provide necessary transportation for our children and to haul items from Home Depot when needed.

In fact, I feel guilty when I am behind someone who is in a regular-size vehicle and my lights beam directly on their rearview mirror. I do not get a kick out of things like that, but what am I supposed to do? Drive with my lights off or not drive my SUV because people are going to hate me? And for your information, it appears that we drive with the high beams on all the time but, in fact, the low beams are on; because the vehicle is so high, the lights are very bright!

How about those people who drive sports cars and zoom by me as if they are in a race? Am I supposed to wish that they would drive something else, or should I leave them be?

Bottom line: Some people drive SUVs just so they can be "road hogs." Then there are folks, like my husband and me, who have a need. So do not judge any of us until you know the real story. But then again, who cares if you ever get the real story! Everyone is entitled to drive what he or she wants -- so stop hating!

Tawanda M. Martin

Fort Washington

Like many drivers, I dislike being behind an SUV because I can't see around them. But I don't hate the drivers.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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