Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would like to pass along my appreciation for the fine job being done by the officer posted during evening rush hours at M Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.

The policeman is keeping traffic moving smoothly through this gridlock-prone area, especially by turning away motorists who want to make an illegal left turn from M Street onto Wisconsin.

There's a no-left-turn sign posted, but it is frequently ignored, which causes traffic to grind to a halt.

If you can tell me how to send these comments to his precinct, please let me know.

Cathy Hunter


Write to Robert Contee, 2nd District police commander, at 3320 Idaho Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20016.

Also, send a copy to Chief of Police Charles H. Ramsey, 300 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.

It's awfully nice of you to praise police for helping move traffic through key intersections during rush hours.

I'd like to hear of any other intersections where that is happening, as well as intersections where readers would like to see an officer stationed.

Bridge Toll Passes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I travel from Gaithersburg to the Eastern Shore several times a year. Whom do I contact to get a smart tag -- or whatever it is called -- to use for crossing the Bay Bridge?

Claire Nichter


Maryland used to have a discount pass for commuters called the M-Tag, but that has been folded into the E-ZPass program. E-ZPass is good at toll facilities in Maryland and six other states: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and West Virginia. Virginia and Maine will be onboard by the end of the year. New Hampshire is also expected to join this compact.

The E-ZPass program uses a transponder on your vehicle to electronically deduct tolls from your account, and get you through toll facilities faster than motorists paying cash.

To get an E-ZPass, log on to

Maryland also offers pre-paid discounts for frequent users of its toll facilities, but I believe you have to cross the Bay Bridge several times a week to make it worthwhile. To learn more about Bay Bridge discounts, log on to

'Stuck' Turn Signals

The columns of Aug. 15 and 19 dealt with why people in our area don't use turn signals. The predominant reason readers gave was that signals simply warn other motorists to close the gaps in traffic so the would-be lane changer can't move over.

A number of readers have more to say on that and also on what to do about the opposite problem: how to signal motorists that their blinkers seem to be stuck in the "on" position. Here we go:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Because I frequently ride a motorcycle with a group, and because very few motorcycles have self-canceling turn signals, the problem of turn signals left on is fairly common.

Many gestures, such as pointing to the rear of the vehicle, can cause confusion and anxiety rather than be of help.

The sign many motorcyclists use to indicate a turn signal left on is to repeatedly open and close the hand (fist, open palm, fist, open palm). That lets the other operator know there is a problem without distracting the operator's attention from the road ahead.

Of course, the receiver of the information needs to be able to make a proper interpretation, but I feel that signal is the clearest of many other possible gestures.

Michael Makarczyk


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have found that an inordinate number of drivers in this area have cars that are equipped with -- or that they think are equipped with -- a new bit of technology that I call "the Moses blinker."

This type of blinker makes the driver feel that, simply by using it, traffic in the lane he/she wishes to enter will immediately part like the Red Sea.

Such drivers do not feel the need to wait to be let in, but just push their way in.

The Moses blinker is best used when attempting to enter a bumper-to-bumper line of traffic that the driver has chosen to ignore until the moment when he has to (or feels he has to) enter the lane he wanted to be in all along. Most likely, he didn't want to wait like the rest of the people already in the lane.

Oh, and by the way, if you do not allow this person to enter your lane, you are the discourteous driver -- or at least that's what the Moses driver feels.

Scott Arnold


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been driving in our metropolitan area for the last 20 years, and the one thing that annoys me more than drivers who do not use their turn signals to change lanes are those mind-numbed, non-hearing individuals who forget to turn the signal off after a lane change.

It wracks my nerves every time I am behind one of them. I'm always wondering whether they are finished with their turn.

This is very irritating when driving on community streets. At every intersection where those vehicles approach, motorists behind themslow down in anticipation of an upcoming turn that never happens.

Jimmy Pessagno


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked about ways to signal someone that their blinker is on when it shouldn't be.

Your observation that you probably wouldn't try is generally good, but I've found one thing that works when conditions are right.

If you can get in front of the problem vehicle and manually click the right blinker two or three times quickly and then do the same with the left, that gives a signal that is not the same speed or sequence as a regular blinker and should get the driver's attention.

Cliff Bedore

College Park

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It is sometimes possible to get drivers to turn off blinking signals. Shift your own signal from side to side several times. That technique seems to get them to look at their own turn signal.

John F. Fleming


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am from a very small town where we did not have high-speed freeways. When I moved to the D.C. area, I found the traffic to be very intimidating and difficult to navigate.

As your readers indicate, drivers do indeed speed up when you give a turn signal communicating your intent to change lanes. I solved that problem 20 years ago. I always use my turn signal, and I always change lanes with a very gentle glide to the next lane.

If a car speeds up and seeks to cut me off, I just continue my gentle glide into the intended space, assuming that the car bearing down on me will not actually hit me. I almost always make the lane change successfully, and I have never been hit.

Of course, I do use some common sense. I do not do that if I feel that the other car is driving erratically or aggressively, or with a large vehicle, such as a truck.

Daniel R Sharp


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been behind so many people who stop to turn left (or right, but left is worse) and never put their turn signal on at all, and others who put on their brakes, come to a stop and then put their turn signal on.

Don't these people realize that other drivers cannot read their minds and that they should put on their turn signals before they start braking, not after?

I always try to turn my turn signal on about one-half block before I'm turning.

Leslie C. Thornton


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Drivers who leave their turn signals on are dangerous because if they're not doing what they say they're doing, how can you know what to expect?

When I can easily move in front of the vehicle, I signal right three blinks, left three blinks and repeat. Most people get the picture; if they don't, I just move on.

Murrow Morris


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked for suggestions on how to notify a driver who is not aware that his turn signal is blinking.

I once observed a state trooper pull in front of someone and repeatedly alternate his own signals until the driver behind him got the message.

Mitzi Roman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In reference to your question on how to communicate a "stuck" signal:

If I'm traveling on an interstate and can do so safely, I pull ahead of the car in question, put the same signal on, and leave it on.

The times that I've done so I've found that, after of a couple of minutes, the driver of the vehicle typically gets the message.

Doug Klimek


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I learned this trick a number of years ago from truck drivers:

Pull in front of the vehicle with the directional signal on and flash your left, then right, then left turn signals several times.

Unfortunately, only truck drivers seem to understand what you are trying to do. When I have tried that in front of passenger vehicles, it usually goes unnoticed and/or does not correct the problem.

George Fontaine


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Manassas, and I use my turn signals to change lanes. Not only do I allow drivers into my lane when I see turn signals, but I've found that more often than not, other drivers allow me in when they see my turn signals.

Could it be that courtesy breeds courtesy? That's my firm belief.

Carole Bellacera


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I didn't realize my directional signal was on until a car in the lane next to me drove by and got my attention. Then I noticed his thumb and first finger tapping each other back and forth. That was a good clue to me that my signal light was still activated.

I've used that method many times to notify drivers their lights were still blinking. It seems to work.

Melina Kaehn


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If I see a driver on a dual highway with his turn signal on, I find success with this method: I pass, making a point of not cutting in closely but nonetheless being the next car in front. Then, assuming it's not the Beltway at rush hour, etc., I use my turn signal in both directions rapidly and alternately for several seconds.

Drivers have turned off their turn signals within a few seconds most of the time.

With no other exits, cross-streets or distractions, I'm also not disrupting others.

This is a limited-use option, but for the situation I described, it seems effective.

J. Reid Williamson


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I once read of a suggested alert: After passing a driver whose turn signal seems to have been inadvertently left on, hold up one hand and alternate making a fist and spreading your fingers out at a rate of about once per second to mimic a flashing light.

I've tried this occasionally over the years and observed that the targeted driver either turns off his signal or remains oblivious. No one has ever reacted negatively (insofar as I could tell).

Lawrence D. Powers


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.