Dear Dr. Gridlock:
With the increasing number of roundabouts being built in Maryland (I don't know about Virginia and the District), I wonder if more effort isn't required to educate the public on the proper techniques to negotiate them.
I have over 26 years' experience in roadway design and have helped design a number of roads in Maryland. A few years ago I took a three-day class on designing modern roundabouts, taught by the people who wrote the Federal Highway Administration's guidelines.
My daughter took driver's education about seven years ago and was using the same book (or so it seemed) that I used over 30 years ago. The classes did not even mention roundabouts.
When driving, I often encounter bewildered or ignorant drivers who stop when they shouldn't or don't stop when they should. If you have ever driven one of the two-lane roundabouts when it was busy, you know how treacherous it can be.
I've seen some nice Web pages in other states, and I know the Maryland State Highway Administration has created brochures when certain locations have had roundabouts constructed. For more information, log on to www.sha.state.md.us/safety/oots/roundabouts/index.asp.
A lot of people have trouble with the protocols for traveling safely through roundabouts.
Maryland is building roundabouts to replace traffic lights and reduce side-angle accidents. The results have been favorable.
Headlights in Rain
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Regarding the motorists who don't put their headlights on when their windshield wipers are needed, here's a solution: Have weather and traffic reports on radio and television state that it's the law to have them on during inclement weather.
Something sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments would be the perfect public service announcement.
A number of people have suggested that. Perhaps it will happen.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Whenever I read about multi-mile backups on the Beltway caused by an accident, I can just imagine how many people are inconvenienced. Sure, I feel sorry for those involved in the accident, and I'm all for those emergency personnel who rush to their assistance. However, it seems that no one is concerned about the others who can't get to where they are going.
How about this for a solution? If an accident occurs on the Beltway between Exits A and B, the authorities would block the Beltway at Exit A and direct approaching motorists to get off the Beltway at that exit. They also would not let anyone onto the Beltway at Exit A if the motorists were headed toward the accident scene.
Motorists stuck between Exit A and the accident scene would be allowed to make a U-turn on their side of the Beltway and, with a police escort using the shoulder of the road, be led back to Exit A so they could get off the Beltway.
Of course the challenge for those not familiar with adjoining or parallel roads would be to get back onto the Beltway at Exit B. That's when the nearest "Beltway Patrol Volunteer Unit," monitoring the police radio frequency, would spring into action. It would determine the best route for those motorists and set up distinctive "Beltway Detour" signs at key turning points. The volunteers would remain at those sign positions to assist motorists as long as needed.
Well, I'll give you an A for creativity. We're going to need ideas like that as we get more and more congestion.
But how would you get volunteers to the scene and coordinated for a run-of-the mill accident? Wouldn't the accident scene be cleared while they were being deployed? Could someone accurately estimate how long, say, the Beltway would be closed?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.