Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Our son will be getting his driver's license soon, and we are thinking about giving him our 2001 Honda Odyssey van or buying him a new Honda Accord.

Our concern with the Odyssey is that vans are large vehicles to drive around, hard to park and back up safely, and have rollover issues.

The Accord has a five-star safety rating and is a lot smaller and easier to deal with. It would be a brand-new vehicle, though, and there are issues with giving a brand-new car to a young driver.

Which would you recommend?

Jackie Meltzer


I wouldn't put a teen driver behind the wheel of a sport-utility vehicle or a van. Harder to control, easier to tip over.

With a new car, you are going to have astronomical insurance costs and the inevitable dings and dents as young drivers get their bearings. On the other hand, you know the new vehicle should be mechanically reliable.

I might also look for a used vehicle, with side-impact air bags.

But more important than the kind of vehicle is the quality of training. Have you provided extensive teaching yourselves? Are you confident your child is ready to drive in our treacherous traffic?

Killer Commute

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My nephew is moving to Fredericksburg. He will need to commute by car/rail/bus/Metro/combo/whatever to Herndon each day.

What recommendations do you have?

Charlotte A. Donaldson

Ocoee, Fla.

Is it too late for him to change his mind? I'm afraid he's set himself up for a 65-mile commute of about two hours -- each way. He's not on a mass transit line, so he will have to drive.

He'd be so much better off looking for a residence in Herndon or nearby Reston or Chantilly. The commute as proposed can't be worth it.

Toll-Free to New York

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My husband and I drove to New York City recently. The trip cost us $32.60 in tolls! I find this unconscionable.

I realize most jurisdictions believe their particular tolls are small, but they certainly do add up.

Is there a good way to get to New York City with fewer tolls?

Doris Bell


Try this: Take Interstate 270 to Frederick, then north on Route 15, through Gettysburg, Pa., to Route 581 east in suburban Harrisburg. Then take Interstate 83 north to Interstate 81 north to Interstate 78 toward Allentown, Pa., and the countryside of central New Jersey.

I-78 connects with the New Jersey Turnpike a few exits below the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. It might be a little longer, but this is your way to thwart the robber barons along Interstate 95.

Looking for a Sign

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From time to time we drive from the Shenandoah Valley to the District and find ourselves returning over the Memorial Bridge. We then head toward Rosslyn and search for an entrance to Interstate 66. I don't believe there are any signs directing one how to do this.

Seems like a couple of signs would help a lot of tourists.

Seymour Paul

Dayton, Va.

I suggest that you exit the District on Constitution Avenue (Route 50), which will carry you onto the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, over the Potomac River. Once on the Virginia side, bear left for I-66, stay center for Route 50 or bear right for the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Duckling Alert

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was heading north on I-95, just north of Quantico, in stop-and-go traffic. Seven little ducklings were trying to cross the highway, hurrying behind a fearless mother.

We all saw them, and they made it safely. Who says Washington drivers are not compassionate?

Meredith J. Bell


I once saw a file of goslings crossing I-66 and slammed on my brakes. They made it across, but I do worry about rear-end collisions resulting from such an instinctive, sudden stop.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

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.