Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My two sons, ages 4 and 6, were walking with me to the Cleveland Park Metro station about 6 p.m. on Aug. 10 after enjoying a day at the National Zoo.

We were walking hand in hand along Connecticut Avenue, discussing the highlights of the day, when a jogger in a tan short set sideswiped my 6-year-old, striking him on the head.

The jogger did not stop to see whether my son was all right. He just kept running, weaving in and out of the pedestrians. I cradled my son in my arms as he sobbed and sobbed. He told me his head hurt "really bad." I think he was also hurt that the man did not stop to apologize and see if he was okay.

I held my son there on the sidewalk for a long time and let him cry as people walked by, staring curiously. A kind lady stopped to help and offered my boys a treat from her bag. That brought a smile, as did her parting words, "I hope that jogger falls down!"

My son asked me to write this letter because he wants the jogger to know that he hurt him and that if you hurt someone -- even by accident -- you should say you're sorry and make sure the person is all right.

I'd like to add, "Be more careful in the future, and shame on you!"

Sarah-Jayne Wallman


I suspect the jogger didn't realize what happened. Or else he didn't care that he struck a child, providing one more example that our civilization is coming to an end.

I'm glad your children are okay.

When New to Virginia

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the "wipers on, lights on" law in this area: I believe you should include the recommendation that new residents pick up a "rules of the road" book at the Department of Motor Vehicles when changing their license and registration from another state, and read it.

New residents need to be aware of a lot more than just the wipers-and-lights law.

Keith Jones


Good point. Some residents complain there aren't enough signs to explain traffic laws, particularly new ones. They can learn about rules of the road by picking up the "Virginia Driver's Manual" at offices of the DMV or by logging on to Click on "Forms and Publications," then select "New to Virginia" from the pull-down menu for information about tags and registration.

Contacts at VDOT

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your June 27 column, you presented details from a lunch you had with Maryland Department of Transportation officials, including Neil Pedersen, Dave Buck and Valerie Burnette Edgar.

Who are their Virginia counterparts, and where can I get more information about traffic management and the engineers doing the planning?

James Evans


The counterparts are Philip Shucet, highway commissioner, and Joan Morris and Ryan Hall, spokesmen. You can monitor some of their activities by logging on to

Bad Image for Police

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There it was on the front page of the Aug. 7 Washington Post: seven lanes of Beltway traffic backed up as far as the camera could see, multiple cars trying to change lanes to the left and, at the front of it all, two cops talking to each other and doing nothing to help traffic move.

Too many times I have been stuck in traffic jams like that. When I finally get to the front, I see an accident in one lane, police cars in a second lane, a third lane blocked off, and police officers talking to each other and not helping traffic move around the problem.

When multiple police respond to an accident, how about assigning one to direct traffic and help us get by?

Johanna Stein


It's a constant problem: officers standing around, and no one directing traffic. If police only knew what bad public relations stemmed from such apparent indifference -- in addition to gridlock.

Defer to Ambulances

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Have the rules regarding the right of way for emergency vehicles changed over the years? I thought that if you see or hear an approaching ambulance you must either stop or move out of the way (if you are at an intersection), pull over (if you are on either side of an undivided roadway or if you are on the same side on a divided roadway) or slow down and be ready to stop. And you must stay back quite a ways once emergency vehicles have passed.

The practice around here seems to be: Move reluctantly, or not at all, if it sort of appears the emergency vehicle can pass okay; take your foot off the gas for a sec; and once it has passed you, resume full speed ahead.

The other day I was near George Washington Hospital and two ambulances were coming, with lights flashing, so I stopped gently at a green light well clear of the hospital entrance.

Some guy (also clear of the entrance) screeched his wheels behind me, pulled around me and started yelling and gesticulating at me for stopping.

Was I supposed to keep going, assuming that the ambulances were headed for the hospital? I didn't think the law gave a motorist the ability to presuppose the ambulance driver's intentions.

David Heath


You should try to make way for emergency equipment. That could mean pulling to the right shoulder, or the left, depending on the circumstance. Usually, you should not pull into an intersection to clear a path.

Ambulance drivers report that motorists often do not make way for them and even clog the emergency (shoulder) lanes. That is a shame.

Missing Highway Link

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I work at the Federal Center in Suitland and regularly use Interstates 395 and 295 for work and personal trips.

I cannot figure out why there is no seamless method for taking I-395 all the way through the city to link up to D.C. 295 north on the east side of the Anacostia River.

It seems as though that could be made possible at relatively little cost. Just install a cloverleaf interchange to go from Pennsylvania Avenue east onto D.C. 295 north. There is already room to put it in.

It also makes no sense to have no ramp to get onto Pennsylvania Avenue westbound when taking D.C. 295 south. For all the grand improvements talked about (like the disastrous Mixing Bowl), these small improvements could exponentially help traffic in this area.

I guess since Prince George's County and environs have very little political impact, this idiotic situation will forever get overlooked.

Even the Federal Highway Administration's Web site maps show a dotted line linking those highways. Why has it never been completed?

J.R. Wycinsky


This has nothing to do with Prince George's County. The areas on both sides of the Pennsylvania Avenue (Sousa) Bridge are in the District.

The District had a plan, about 20 years ago, to build a freeway connecting D.C. 395 and D.C. 295 via a new bridge upstream from the Sousa Bridge. It was everything you proposed, and was -- and is -- badly needed.

The $200 million cost was to be covered by the federal government. The work would have meant thousands of jobs for District residents. The sitting mayor, Sharon Pratt, and the previous mayor, Marion S. Barry, endorsed it. It would have taken traffic off D.C. streets.

What happened? Special interest groups went to court and blocked construction. Eventually the city gave up, and the $200 million was spent for street repairs. Too, too bad.

Meanwhile, northbound I-395 traffic can cross the Sousa Bridge and turn left onto D.C. 295 north immediately at the end of the bridge. Southbound D.C. 295 traffic can exit at "Howard Road-Downtown." Turn right at the base of the ramp, then right again at the next traffic light and move onto the South Capitol Street (Frederick Douglass Memorial) Bridge. I-395 south is dead ahead.

Rush-Hour Puzzle

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I presume the workday for most people is 8 to 5. If so, why does the traffic as far out as Gainesville not ease until almost 9:30 a.m.?

The traffic snarls early, about 7 a.m., so commuters from the south and west can get to work on time. But then the situation would indicate that others start work in the 11 a.m. time frame.

Vincent M. Skrinak


Traffic in the Gainesville area is so congested, thanks to the many new subdivisions, outlying traffic and lack of road improvements to handle the increased traffic, that I suspect what you're seeing is people coming in on the backside of rush hour.

I suspect they are late to work.

What do you commuters think?

Flee Maniac Motorists

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Truckers claim that automobile drivers are rude, cut them off and are a menace on the highways. Auto drivers say the same about truckers. There is plenty of blame to go around. (For the record, I am not anti-trucker.)

However, on Interstate 66 the other day, with most of the traffic doing 75 mph in a 55-mph zone, a loaded tractor-trailer came speeding up in the lane to the right of me. The car in front of the trucker was going slower (probably 70!), forcing him to either slow down or change lanes, so he abruptly moved in front of me and almost caused an accident.

The trucker kept weaving in and out of traffic at nearly 80 mph. That never got him very far. I kept catching up to him merely by staying in my lane at the same speed.

With more aggressive lane changing, the trucker cut me off again!

A mile or so down I-66, traffic slowed to a crawl. I passed him one last time, but not before getting his contact information and license plate number. Turns out he is an independent trucker from Madison, Va.

The next day I looked up his address and phone number on the Internet and called him. I asked him if he was aware of how he was driving, and I described what he had done to me. He replied that other drivers are rude to him, "so I guess that makes us even."

I asked how that justified his reckless driving and endangering me. All he could muster was that I must have cut him off somewhere, or that I "must be exaggerating."

It is amazing the extent to which people will go to rationalize their ugly behavior.

Peter Hoagland


It's unusual for a motorist to track down another and have a dialogue about the miscreant's driving habits. It's hardly surprising, though, that the trucker did not concede the error of his ways (speeding, unsafe lane changes).

My advice is to get away from these drivers, pronto. Get off the freeway or slow down (in the right lane) until they are out of view. Call the state police at #77 if you have a cell phone.

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, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.