Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My husband and I thought we were doing the right thing, donating his 18-year-old car to charity this past summer. We tried the Salvation Army first, but it took so many phone calls, so much time waiting on hold, miscommunications over the paperwork, that we gave up and contacted United Cerebral Palsy [UCP] in Maryland.

We removed the license plates, signed the title over, and received paperwork within the next two weeks recognizing our donation for tax purposes.

Then last week, my husband received a registered letter from the City of Baltimore Department of Transportation, stating that our vehicle was in a Baltimore impoundment lot and had acquired hundreds of dollars of fees, for which we were responsible!

Concerned, he called UCP for an explanation. UCP told us that the car had been auctioned, that the purchaser slapped on tags and drove off, but did not register it later with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, as is the law.

They eventually abandoned it, knowing the car could not be traced to them. UCP said that unfortunately, this scenario happens often with charity car auctions.

As a result, we had to make copies of all the paperwork -- from insurance, the MVA and UCP -- and send it to Baltimore, to prove the car was no longer our property. If the car is auctioned off again, we must be prepared to dig out and fax the paperwork again to clear our name. That's some thanks for our donation.

I wanted to let you know this, so you could inform your readers that donating their car to charity can backfire and be problematic.

Next time, we'll avoid all this hassle and have our old car scrapped instead.

L. M. Sampson

Garrett Park

Dr. Gridlock sent Ms. Sampson's letter to Cheron Victoria Wicker, media manager for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. She responded in a letter to Ms. Sampson. There are important points here for anyone wanting to donate a vehicle in Maryland:

Dear Ms. Sampson:

We received your inquiry regarding the donation of used vehicles to charity from Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post and are pleased to respond. We regret learning of the difficulty you encountered after you donated your vehicle to charity. We hope that you have since been able to favorably resolve any outstanding issues related to that transaction and offer the following guidelines to assist you in the future.

The title of the vehicle must be properly assigned to the charity. This is handled in the same manner as if you were actually selling the vehicle. Be sure to fill in the name and address of the charity under the "Assignment of Ownership" section to properly complete the transfer of ownership of the vehicle to the charity.

Some charities may request that you leave the new owner information blank, but this leaves you at risk for future problems since the title would then be considered "open" by the MVA and unassigned. It may also affect your tax deduction for the donation, so keep a copy of the assigned title.

The odometer mileage must be filled in on the "Maryland Certificate of Title."

If the giver has financed the vehicle, the charity will need the vehicle's "Release of Security Interest" showing the vehicle has been paid off. If that document is not available, please request a letter on the financial institution's letterhead stating that they hold no security interest and have it include the date of the loan's creation, the amount, the date of its release, the name and address of the debtor, and a full vehicle description (year, make and vehicle identification number).

Do not leave the license plates on the vehicle. After the title is transferred, but before the vehicle is removed, remove the license plates from the vehicle and return the plates to the MVA, unless you are transferring the plates to another vehicle. You may only transfer the plates if the new vehicle is titled in the same name and the new vehicle classification is the same as the old vehicle.

Keep your receipt from the MVA when you return your plates. Keep insurance coverage on the vehicle until the date the plates are returned to the MVA or transferred to the new vehicle.

Cancel the vehicle insurance for the donated vehicle. To avoid penalty fees, cancel the vehicle insurance only after the plates have been returned to the MVA.

The charity . . . is responsible for providing the owner with a receipt for tax purposes for the donation of the vehicle. The charity, the owner or both may determine the price or value or the vehicle.

You may request a copy of the free booklet, "How to Properly Buy, Sell or Donate a Vehicle Through a Private Transaction" from the MVA, which may help should you decide to donate a car to charity in the future.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns. We appreciate the opportunity to help you. Please contact us if we can provide you with additional information on this matter at 800-950-1MVA (1682), or visit our Web site at

Cheron Victoria Wicker

Director of media relations

Maryland Motor Vehicle


Dr. Gridlock hopes this can save others from your plight, Ms. Sampson. I'd like to hear from others who had a bad experience donating their vehicle.

Sounding Off on SUV Driver

In the Feb. 27 column, Mike Byrne of Manassas revealed himself to be a happy SUV owner who gets a thrill blocking motorists who try to pass him.

"The D.C. area has the jerkiest drivers on the planet. . . . So when I get my chance, I block people in," he wrote. "I really do hope on some level that people get so amped up to pass that they wreck their car in the process and wipe out themselves and their entire family. I view that as a form of natural selection . . . the dopey don't survive."

This item attracted a number of responses. Among them:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Who's the real jerky driver in this scenario?

Suzanne R. Heist


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would like to respond to Mike Byrne's letter about his SUV. First off, he says he "could care less about gas mileage" since he takes commuter trains to work. While I take trains as well, I am concerned about gas mileage because I care about the environment and drive a fuel-efficient car.

It is such ignorance that has led to the deteriorating environment and increased gas prices. Can you imagine if everyone thought this way?

As for Mr. Byrne saying, "People need to relax here. Stay in your lane and stop trying to speed up just to irritate everyone . . . that is what I say," I say, practice what you preach! You say you love to speed up to block people in, and then you tell everyone else not to do it? The fact that "nothing gives you more joy," Mr. Byrne, is pretty sad.

Try doing some volunteer work or something else to help others and turn your negative energy into something positive. I'd certainly hate to see your blood pressure reading!

Kim Blackwell

Silver Spring

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Mike Byrne should look in the mirror to find one of the jerkiest drivers in the D.C. area, if not the entire planet. He has a huge chip on his shoulder.

He had better hope that his auto insurance agent does not read your column, or he might find that he needs to get a new insurance company. Even worse, he should pray that a police officer does not see him pulling one of those stunts he described with his SUV.

I am not small at 6-foot-1, and I drive a Ford Escort. He needs to move to Italy and see how long he goes on $5 per gallon for gasoline.

Paul D. Motzenbecker Jr.

University Park

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Mike Byrne sounds like a real bright guy. I'm glad I live in Maryland, which reduces my chances of ever crossing his path in Virginia.

John Cashman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It's unfortunate that Mr. Byrne considers deliberately blocking drivers who are attempting to pass (whatever the reason) to be an appropriate behavior. It's distressing that he wishes harm on fellow drivers and their families. And it's sadly ironic that he states that the D.C. area has the "jerkiest drivers on the planet."

Mr. Byrne should consider a more constructive approach: Be polite. Maintain a consistent speed. Yield when appropriate. Let the police and the laws of physics deal with those who flout the rules.

Arianna McFarren


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Anne Arundel Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.