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 lead 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:

The recent letters about signaling confirm my belief that if only we would enforce two of the things that are commonly done throughout Europe, it would make driving much more manageable.

First, make the driving tests much more difficult and make sure that the rule about turn signals is learned and enforced.

Second, rigidly enforce the rule of no driving in the left lane on an interstate except for passing.

Having driven often through much of Europe, I'm convinced that the drivers there are better because of very difficult driving tests.

One is never harassed if driving slowly in the right lane. But don't even think about cruising along in the left lane unless you have suicidal tendencies.

That always leaves an escape lane for someone wanting to pass a slower driver and much less frustration on the road.

I have never been behind a driver in Europe who does not use a turn signal for everything from an actual turn to indicating a pass. There is something to be learned from "old Europe."

Rosemarie Rauzino-Heller


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As one of your readers pointed out in your Aug. 19 column ["Local Drivers Lament That Missed Signals Are the Norm," Extra], there certainly seems to be an epidemic of people who have not figured out what the lever on the steering column is for.

They don't seem to care that the car behind them will need to suddenly slow down for a right or left turn.

But if drivers would plan ahead a little, they could get into that other lane without a panic move at the last minute. That would avoid cutting anyone off.

If you're trying to move over in such a short space that allows other drivers to speed up to prevent your move, maybe you're waiting too long. Turn signals are not lane-clearing devices.

Allen Feldman

North Potomac

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I suggest four reasons for drivers' reluctance to use turn signals: laziness; ignorance of the consequences of their behavior; inconsiderateness/self-centeredness, hallmarks of the emerging generation; and the (too often accurate) perception that blinking will encourage the other guy to speed up.

Long before I became an emergency physician, I taught driver's education. I hope instructors today drill into drivers the same mantra we did then: Signal your intention to turn (or to change lanes), check your mirrors and then make your turn.

Many drivers today look first and signal only if they see another driver in their path. They miss an important function of the blinker: alerting the driver they don't see of their intention.

If that driver is the fellow waiting to turn out of the street you are about to turn onto, not signaling is but rude. If it is a motorcycle in your blind spot, it can be fatal.

Stephen R. Fahey


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

To alert drivers who appear to have left on their turn signals, I suggest the following (it works every time):

I try to pass such a vehicle (while staying within the speed limit, of course), and when I am directly in front of it, I turn on my right turn signal for five seconds and then my left turn signal for five seconds and keep doing that till the driver gets the message.

Drivers usually catch on very quickly, and I usually get a thank-you with a wave of their hand or flashing of their headlights.

Ellie Hettich


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While in the Navy and stationed in California many years ago, I was informed that there is a hand signal to tell other drivers that their blinker is on. The signal is: Rapidly clench and unclench your right hand in plain view while steering with the left hand.

No one seemed to know what I was doing when I tried that here.

Of course, some modern-day cars alert you by a chime that your blinker is on. So, nowadays, forget about the hand signal. No one will know what you are doing and they'll conclude you are just another nutty driver.

John M. Heiges

Mount Airy

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If the traffic is not too heavy, I pull in front of the motorist with the stuck turn signal and alternate my turn signals so they light for one blink on each side.

I do this until the motorist recognizes the problem. It works most of the time.

Nick James


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 them slow 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


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 on board 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 prepaid 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

Praise for Traffic Cop

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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

The officer 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 Avenue.

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 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.

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.