Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am a driver's education teacher in the Fairfax County public schools.

It is no mystery why people drive the way they do. They don't get the proper training from the schools and, most importantly, kids emulate their parents, and the habits they pick up aren't always the best.

I think if parents did two things -- changed their driving habits and took the time to go out and teach their kids properly instead of rushing them through the process -- maybe we would have good, responsible young drivers.

There are many resources available to parents. The Virginia Department of Education put together a guide for parents to use. You can find it at this Web site: www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/PE/40hour.pdf.

I have found it quite helpful in teaching my classroom and behind-the-wheel classes.

In the experiences I have had with teen drivers, the thing they need to remember, though, is this: Slow down and pay attention. See what is going on around you. Look at all signs and signals, see what other drivers are doing and maintain a safe following distance.

Andrew Duggan

Driver Education Instructor

Chantilly High School

Thanks for the view of an instructor. It's good to recognize that Fairfax County public schools still offer driver's education when so many jurisdictions have done away with it for financial reasons.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My daughter and I both attended and thoroughly enjoyed the defensive driver training course given by BSR Driving School in Summit Point, W.Va.

The defensive driving course, in which you learn to brake, skid and stop on both dry and wet pavement at normal driving speeds, is excellent and one I would highly recommend for anyone, especially teenagers, before they ever hit the road alone.

Suzi Rine

Springfield

BSR, just over the Loudoun County line near Charles Town, W.Va., is one of the schools that offer a one-day defensive driving course. I have received excellent feedback on it. The number is 304-725-6512.

Another is Car Guys of Rockville, 800-800-GUYS (4897).

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You have asked for suggestions on what to add to the driver's education curriculum. I have three to add to your list.

1. Proper use and adjustment of mirrors. I have taught my kids to constantly be aware of what is around them -- front, sides and rear -- and to check the mirrors every several seconds or so. In an emergency reaction situation, you need to know immediately if the adjacent lane is clear or whether someone is behind you.

2. Slower drivers move right. That simple concept works great in Europe. Left lanes are for passing and for faster vehicles. There is nothing more aggravating than pulling up behind two slow vehicles driving side by side that insist on building up a "parade" behind them. The courteous thing to do would be to move ahead to create a gap for faster traffic to pass -- or just move to the center or right lane. Those types of drivers just don't get it. They are not making a safer situation; they are actually creating a hazard.

3. When given a fork in the road -- pick one! The number of times I have seen indecisive drivers freeze on the road when faced with a left or right road-split decision is unbelievable. Rather than pick one direction, they slow down to a complete stop and create a dangerous situation for everyone following. That happens very suddenly and generally results in a rear-end accident about eight to 10 cars back. Then the driver goes on his or her oblivious way -- not realizing that he or she has caused a lot of grief and damage.

Charles L. Gallion Jr.

Woodbridge

Thanks for adding to the training list.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I spend a lot of time on the road. Here are a few tips I think teens (as well as adults) should adhere to:

1. First thing: Buckle up. Many teens don't.

2. No distractions on the road -- that means cell phones, eating and smoking.

3. Flashing red lights on a school bus mean stop.

4. Leave for your target destination 10 minutes earlier than necessary. (That way you won't be stressed and in a hurry.)

5. Turn lights on at dawn and at dusk. Turn lights on when windshield wipers are in use.

6. Be courteous. A little consideration goes a long way.

7. Under no circumstances should you run a red light. It can prove deadly.

Teens, please slow down, be careful and drive on!

Christine Audi

Reston

Thanks for the training tips. To which I'll add: Adults, please slow down, be careful and drive on!

Repaving Request

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Reston. Whom do I contact to get a heavily patched street repaved?

Steve Freedman

Reston

If the street belongs to a homeowners association, contact the association. Otherwise try the Virginia Department of Transportation at 703-383-VDOT.

Delay Advisories Unreliable

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

How does VDOT get the information for its electronic signs warning of delays on Interstate 66? I travel daily along this road, and quite often I am advised of delays that either don't exist when I get there or are in a different place.

I would like to depend on the signs for help, but they are too unreliable. Any ideas?

David Isaacson

Ashburn

During a recent chat on www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline, 80 percent of the respondents in a poll said they found the electronic messaging signs useless.

VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall says the information basically is obtained from 120 cameras the agency has positioned on all Northern Virginia interstate highways. If you'd like to visit the Traffic Management Center in Arlington, the brains of this operation, let me know and maybe we can set up a group tour with Dr. Gridlock.

Unending School Zones

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I reside in Northern Virginia and am curious as to why, whenever I slow for flashing lights at a school zone, there never seems to be another sign down the road to advise when I can resume normal speed.

The only way that I am aware that I have passed through this reduced-speed zone is to scan the other side of the roadway for the corresponding sign that is advising drivers of the reduced speed in the opposite lanes, and that, of course, means I have to momentarily shift my view from the road before me -- an unnecessary and seemingly dangerous maneuver!

John Mileo

Ashburn

Some schools have such signs and some don't. The reason is this: The school systems set up the notification to slow for school zone signs, but VDOT is responsible for posting the "end" signs, and it does so only if the school system requests it, according to Ryan Hall, a VDOT spokesman.

With such a patchwork system, it's no wonder you aren't seeing the end signs. In a better world, each school zone would have them.

P.S. -- According to Hall, you cannot be cited for speeding through a school zone if the zone does not have the sign designating the end.

Show Me a Sign

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Going north on Interstate 95, I got in an open HOV lane, intending to exit eastbound on the Beltway. I never saw a sign or exit, and I had to get to New York Avenue to head for Annapolis.

Is there a sign I missed at the Beltway?

Buz Buser

Annapolis

There is no Beltway connection from the northbound HOV lanes on I-95/I-395 in Virginia. There is supposed to be a sign on the northbound HOV lanes that says, "Last Exit Before Pentagon." That sign is just before the Route 644 exit (Springfield-Franconia), just outside the Beltway.

If you want to use the northbound HOV lanes next time, I suggest you follow I-395 into the District, get off at the Pennsylvania Avenue exit, turn right at the top of the exit ramp onto the Pennsylvania Avenue (Sousa) Bridge, then turn left at the next light onto Kenilworth Avenue (D.C. Route 295) and take the Route 50 exit to Annapolis. That route avoids a lot of traffic lights on New York Avenue and, depending on the time of day, might be shorter than using the Beltway around the Prince George's side.

Irked by Illegal Signs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was driving south on the Fairfax County Parkway and stopped at its intersection with Fox Mill Road. I looked over at one of those annoying roadside signs, which said: "Texas Hold 'Em No Limit Cell: [phone number deleted]."

Is it legal to advertise a poker game on the side of the road in Virginia? That strikes me as one of the more ludicrous things I have seen in this area. If it isn't illegal, it should be.

I spoke to several people, and everyone seems to think that is wrong. What is the law in Virginia, and what do you think of this?

Mary Simpson

Sterling

Posting signs on VDOT property, including shoulders, medians and signposts, is illegal. However, VDOT does not enforce those laws. Instead, the agency removes the signs for mowing and periodically pulls them off signposts.

They are annoying. Who needs to be stuck in gridlock and faced with a sign that says: "Lose 40 pounds? Call XXX-XXXX."

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