Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't disagree with you that a commute from Fredericksburg to the inner D.C. area is tough, but I'm surprised you didn't suggest a hybrid vehicle -- and its HOV exemption -- to the person who asked you about moving there.

A co-worker of mine lives in Fredericksburg and loves the lifestyle and cost of living. He leaves early and drives his Toyota Prius hybrid, using the HOV lanes, and gets to work in Lanham in less than an hour and 15 minutes.

Mark Cross

Annapolis

Your friend can use the HOV lanes in Virginia only until June 30, 2006, when the state legislation expires that authorized an HOV exemption for vehicles powered by gasoline and electricity, such as the Prius.

It is not at all clear that the legislation will be renewed, since the federal government is making noise that exemptions for HOV lanes (which the feds built) should not be granted for low-emission vehicles (such as the Prius), but rather only for zero-emission vehicles.

Also, please note that Maryland does not grant an HOV exemption for gas-electric hybrids such as the Prius.

That said, I'm pleased your friend has found commuting happiness and grateful he is using a vehicle that consumes far less gas (it gets about 45 or 50 miles per gallon) than conventional vehicles. Last time I checked in my neighborhood, there was an 18-month waiting list for the Toyota Prius.

Bypassing New York

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I know you have published a scenic route from the D.C. area to New England to bypass the New York metropolitan area. I had saved it and have misplaced it. I searched your Web site and cannot locate it. Could you provide it?

Jim Aurouze

Waldorf

From Waldorf, go to the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) north. Exit at Interstate 83 north, through York, Pa., and travel on to Harrisburg, then connect with Interstate 81 toward Hazleton and Scranton.

At Scranton, take Interstate 84 east across New York state, crossing the Hudson River at Newburgh, and continue across Connecticut to connect with Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Continue east into Boston, or connect with Interstate 495 or Interstate 95 around Boston to continue on I-95 to Maine.

From I-84, take Interstate 91 north at Hartford for Vermont, or from the Boston area, take Interstate 93 north for New Hampshire.

All of those routes bypass New York City. They are cheaper and certainly more scenic than the I-95 corridor. But they may also be a bit longer.

Braking for Animals

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Based on your "Duckling Alert" story in the July 11 Metro section, I have to ask if Dr. Gridlock might have lost his mind?

You say that you "saw . . . goslings crossing I-66 and slammed on [your] brakes"? I take it that your choice of the word "slammed" meant that you, and the traffic around you, were traveling at a reasonably high speed at the time, in which case you were right to worry about a rear-end collision.

I have nothing against people stopping to allow wildlife to cross roads when it is clearly safe to do so (i.e., when you are the only person on the road, or it is very slow-moving traffic).

However, Dr. Gridlock would be doing drivers in this area a disservice if he didn't remind people that their first responsibility is to protect themselves, their passengers and other people on the road, not goslings, squirrels, cats, dogs, etc.

I hope to never be the driver behind such a good Samaritan, who would likely give me no warning that he/she was about to slam on the brakes; the small animal would likely be shielded from my line of sight.

In this area, this is an particularly important point for young drivers to come to grips with early.

Matthew A. Mitchell

Gaithersburg

You're right. As difficult as it may be, motorists may have to strike an animal to avoid an accident.

During driver training, one of my daughters was driving on a two-lane road with no shoulders (Virginia Route 50) when a rabbit ran onto the road. She simply had no other choice, and I commended her for not swerving into a car or a tree to spare the animal.

When I stopped for the mother and goslings, by the way, other traffic was slowing, too, so it was clear something was going on. Once I stopped, I could see the procession across I-66 and felt good that nature could prevail in the land of the internal combustion engine.

Roadside Perils

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The tragic death of the trooper who was killed after writing a traffic citation on Route 50 is an example once again of the danger of stopping on highly traveled highways for relatively minor incidents.

Stopping should be permitted only when bodily injury or immobile vehicles are involved. Stopping to write citations, change tires, etc., is simply too dangerous on these busy roads.

This change of policy not only would save the lives of police officers and others, but would have a side benefit of preventing the traffic tie-ups these stops can cause.

By the way, this idea is not new and should have been enacted years ago.

Jack D. Francis

Gaithersburg

You're right. It's just too dangerous to stop at the side of many of our roads. That is why, I think, police are reluctant to pull people over on the Beltway.

A crash involving a speeding driver and a stopped motorist is only a brief distraction away. I recall an accident some years ago in which a woman on the Virginia Beltway looked to the back seat to check on a child, ran off the road and struck the back of a parked truck. Her car slid under the truck, and she was decapitated, with her unhurt child still strapped in a car seat.

You've underscored a point with me, Mr. Francis. I would like to see motorists pull off busy highways and get to a parking lot or side streets when pursued by officers -- and officers who let them.

Avoiding I-95 One Way . . .

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If all you're trying to do is avoid the D.C.-Fredericksburg corridor of Interstate 95, you can take U.S. Route 301 south through Southern Maryland into Virginia (take Maryland Route 5 from the Beltway to get to 301 at Waldorf), and then hook up with Virginia Route 207, which will take you back to I-95 between Fredericksburg and Richmond.

It's about 15 miles and 35 to 45 minutes longer, and you'll have to pay a toll when crossing the Nice Bridge between Maryland and Virginia, but I'd imagine there are times when all that is worth it.

Andrew Zitnay

Washington

Folks who live east of the District swear by that route to escape the I-95 parking lot between the Beltway and Fredericksburg.

. . . And Another

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I first tried using Interstate 81 as an alternative to Interstate 95 while on a trip to Atlanta a few years ago to avoid the Washington-to-Richmond congestion.

I have family in Richmond and drive down I-95 quite frequently, so I wanted different scenery, as well as a less stressful drive, for my Atlanta trip.

So I take Interstate 66 west to I-81 south, then pick up Interstate 77 south near the Virginia-North Carolina border and use that to connect to Interstate 85 in Charlotte for the last leg to Atlanta.

Because I have friends and family in Atlanta and central Florida, I take driving trips a couple of times a year, and this route is now my preference for any trip that takes me south of Virginia.

You've mentioned that there is heavy truck traffic on I-81, but on my several trips using that route, I have yet to identify trucks as a problem.

Weather conditions permitting, traffic moves along at a pace that's fast enough even for this regular Beltway speeder!

Rhonda Thissen

Alexandria

Metro's Sign Outages

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why are the Metro overhead arrival signs so frequently not functioning or not functioning properly, especially for the Red Line at Van Ness going south, the Yellow Line headed toward Huntington at Gallery Place, and all of the signs at Reagan Washington National Airport, which rarely work?

At Gallery Place, the Green Line signs operate perfectly. The Yellow Line is ignored except when the train enters the station.

As soon as the Green Line train leaves that station for Branch Avenue, another message pops up immediately telling the wait time for the next Green Line train, when it should let passengers know what the wait time is for the Yellow Line train.

Carol Woodard

Washington

I'm beginning to wonder if Metro's problems are deeper than just lack of enough dedicated revenue.

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 at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.