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 of 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 same 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.

Nothing in the classes included even a mention of 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:

Chuck Rheault


Thanks for the Web address.

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.

Jim Roche


A number of people have suggested that. Perhaps it will come to pass.

Volunteer Patrols

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 motoristsand 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.

Nick James


Well, I'll give you an "A" for creativity. We're going to need ideas like that as congestion worsens.

I got caught once trying to get onto the Beltway at Braddock Road when there was a tractor-trailer accident at the Springfield Interchange. The Beltway on-ramps were closed at Braddock Road, and traffic was diverted through Annandale and on eastbound Duke Street. We motorists can use all the help we can get.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Imperious Pedalers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Cabin John, and for the past few years I have grown increasingly frustrated by the dangerous and arrogant behavior of bicyclists on MacArthur Boulevard from Georgetown to Great Falls.

Montgomery County mandates that cyclists use a bike path if one is provided.

We have one the entire length of MacArthur. Yet, cyclists in numbers from one to 50 stay on the road, weave dangerously through traffic, cross the median line, run stop signs without pausing or looking, take up the entire lane of traffic (there is only one lane each way), tailgate, stop short on cars behind them and generally act as if they own the road and can do anything they wish.

I've asked some to use the path, but I've been spat at and had things thrown at me, so I need help.

Maybe if the police came down and started giving out tickets, these folks would learn to respect the rest of us.

Jan Schaper

Cabin John

I am checking with Montgomery County police on this one. In the meantime, would the bicyclists tell me why they don't use the nearby Capital Crescent Trail, which, last time I checked, was free of automobiles?

Contacts at VDOT

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your June 27 column, you presented details from a lunch you'd 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

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.