Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have found that taking the extra time to back into a parking spot allows me a better view when leaving a spot that is flanked by large vehicles.

I do that when I'm driving a full-size cargo van, my pickup or our Chrysler Voyager. No matter what, taking the time to back in allows me a better vantage point when it comes time to leave.

Adam Watson

Holland Point

There's no question it's safer to pull forward front first. Backing into a spot can be a problem for some, especially with impatient motorists leaning on their horns.

That's Reckless

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As I waited in the right lane at a stoplight, a car came flying up beside me in the left lane and attempted to make a right turn on red in front of me. It happened as the light turned green and I was moving through the intersection.

Is it legal to make a right turn on red from the left lane?

Cliff Cummins


No, not unless the lane is also designated as a right-turn lane. Otherwise, it's an illegal turn. I'm hearing more about this in Montgomery County. It's dangerous, reckless behavior.

Unsafe Crossing

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Re: The freight railroad crossing at Route 301 in Upper Marlboro just south of Route 4. Both sides of the road approaching the railroad tracks are in serious need of repair. The grating covering part of the crossing is broken in several spots, causing damage to cars and trucks.

Vehicles are swerving way to one side of the road to avoid those places.

Mary Lou McCormick

Upper Marlboro

That sounds like an urgent safety concern. I've reported it to the Maryland State Highway Administration. Spokesman Dave Buck has referred the matter to CSX, which has jurisdiction over such repairs. Buck says CSX apparently has a small staff to make those repairs.

Menacing Dump Trucks

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What is going on with all the dump trucks in the area, mostly on Brandywine Road near Aquasco Road and Cedarville Road, and in the areas on Route 5 near the Charles County/Prince George's County line?

These trucks are racing up and down the roads with no regard to speed limits or safety. I work on Brandywine Road, and I see these trucks day in and day out, constantly speeding and driving with their loads uncovered. I have a windshield crack to prove it. One company's drivers hardly ever cover their loads.

In the past year, I know of three dump trucks overturning on Brandywine Road, and one dump truck nearly knocking down an electric pole at Cedarville Road and Brandywine Road. The tire marks are deep in the ground even today, telling of the near miss.

I know of a dump truck rear-ending a car heading north on Route 301, causing that car to enter the southbound lane, hit other cars and catch fire, killing the driver and injuring others.

When is this going to stop? How many others will have to die before a change will be made?

I've contacted the local police department and Maryland State Police about this matter. They send officers out, but once one truck driver sees the officer, they all slow down and/or cover their loads. Once the officer leaves, it's right back to business as usual.

Something has to be done to slow these trucks down and to ensure their loads are covered, and that mud and gravel are removed from the wheels before they enter the roadways.

I have made complaints to dump truck companies, only to hear, "Sure, we will take care of it," but nothing is ever done. And I am tried of hearing, "We cannot pay for your windshield, for it's a road hazard." They don't know how right they are about a road hazard, but it's not just the rocks and stones they toss off their trucks; it's the entire truck itself.

I would like to see Prince George's County and the Maryland State Police conduct a joint task force to work this area, with portable scales, radar and inspection equipment. Maybe if these so-called professional drivers are pulled over and ticketed for speeding, uncovered loads, brakes out of adjustment and other safety issues, things might improve a little.

Donald Poole


Because most of the roads you list are in the southern edge of Prince George's County, here is what I would do. Gather some of your neighbors/co-workers who feel the same way and make an appointment to see the commander of the District 5 Prince George's County police substation, which covers this area. The substation is at 6707 Groveton Dr. in Clinton.

Perhaps police can set up the kind of comprehensive crackdown you are seeking. Meanwhile, if you find yourself behind a speeding or uncovered dump truck and you have a cell phone, county police spokesman Cpl. Robert Clark suggests that you call the District 5 substation at 301-856-3101 to report the incident. Police may be able to dispatch a squad car.

Good luck and keep me posted.

All in One

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there a way on The Washington Post's Web site to merge all your questions and answers for the week into one column? I know you zone different ways for each of the Extras, but it would be nice on the online site to have a consolidated column so that I don't have to read through multiple versions.

Rick Pike

Charles County

Bless your heart. I've sent your request over to the people, and I'll get back to you with the answer.

A May, Not a Must

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Something else that might need posting at right-on-red intersections is the word may, which would hopefully take some emphasis off the assumed word must. Right on red should not be a requirement, but an option.

If a patient, mature, conscientious driver thinks some right-on-red situations are too risky, it should be his/her prerogative to opt out and wait for a green light. It would be helpful if a sign notified impatient drivers that one may turn right.

Gary Munday

West Laurel

You're right. Right on red is an option. Yours is a good suggestion.

Scooter Laws

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm fed up with the rising costs of Metro, plus the inconvenience of the hours and off-peak wait times for catching a train.

I commute daily from Takoma Park to Georgetown and am very interested in obtaining a gasoline-powered motor scooter, like a Vespa. These are motor conveyances between a moped and a motorcycle.

Parking would be a lot easier, and the cost of gasoline these days makes driving a car too expensive for short trips. These motor scooters can get 90 miles per gallon.

What are the laws for licensing, tags/registration and such in Maryland?

Paul A. Foley

Takoma Park

Pretty simple. You don't need to register one or get a license plate, said Jeff Tosi, a spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. You do need to have a Maryland driver's license or a moped driver's license.

Rising gasoline prices will encourage more of us to look to alternative means of travel. Maybe $5-a-gallon gas is the solution to our gridlock.

Calming Solution?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Road rage is one of the area's most dangerous problems. I think drivers are listening to the radio and hearing the latest news, weather, stock market and traffic conditions, generally all bad situations. Is it any wonder that drivers are in a rage?

Let's lobby for some soft, soothing commuter music. Who can be angry listening to Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett? Everyone will relax, calm down, smile at the driver in the next car and enjoy the ride.

Helen Heneghan


If only it were so simple. Maybe that's one way to enjoy our commutes. Others say audiobooks can be a pleasant diversion.

A Better Place to Park

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Steve Rothenberg's letter regarding parking space pilferers at Tysons Corner, I would like to suggest an option [Dr. Gridlock, May 13].

About two years ago, at Christmastime, an employee at one of the large department stores in the mall mentioned to me that rather than wait for a parking spot right in front of the store, which can be extremely frustrating, he heads up to the top floor of the parking garage, where he never has a problem finding a spot.

I've been doing it ever since, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Joseph E. Young


Less stress, too. Thank you for that tip.

Road Hazards

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The inner loop of the Beltway from just before the George Washington Parkway exit to the American Legion Bridge is growing a large crop of deep potholes that are getting worse by the week. Cars are swerving and weaving to avoid them, making a bad situation even more dangerous.

Does Virginia have any plans to fill these hazards anytime soon?

Robert Villeneuve


That should qualify as an emergency fix for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which should have been out there already to make at least temporary patches.

Maybe VDOT doesn't know about it. To report potholes, call 703-383-VDOT.

Officials promise to send workers immediately to emergencies and to respond within 72 hours to lesser problems.

Carts and Shoppers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked whether other people know of stores in the Washington area where employees will push your cart to your car, unload the bags and return the cart for you [Dr. Gridlock, March 18].

I am under the impression that all Safeway stores offer this excellent service. Our Vons (Safeway) in Santa Monica, Calif., did it, and so does our Safeway in Olney.

Susan Phillips


I have heard the same from around the area. Good for Safeway!

Garage Nearly Ready

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Could you find out when the new garage at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station will open? It was originally targeted for completion this spring. But the barriers and construction equipment don't seem to be going anywhere soon.

Matt Mesmer


I'm told the garage will open later this summer.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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