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:

My husband wears hearing aids. When we traveled, it became disconcerting to try to interrupt our conversations to tell him the turn indicator was blinking (and clicking).

One day I was inspired to simply hold up my hand while chatting and rapidly pinch my fingers to my thumb as a signal. He saw it and disengaged the signal.

I have occasionally tried to tell fellow motorists as we passed them that their signals were on by my sticking my arm out the window and repeating that gesture into the air, beside or in front of the oblivious drivers.

About two out of five times, the drivers respond by turning off their turn signals.

Jerene J. Scally


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 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:

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:

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 was absolutely appalled when I read your Aug. 19 column. How can people say with a straight face that they feel justified in not using their turn signals because they fear other drivers will not let them in?

That is not a reason to break the law! Never mind the utter lack of courtesy.

Everyone needs to stop playing games on the roads.

Kimberly Spaulding


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Excellent column [Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 19] on why drivers don't use turn signals. I learned from it that many drivers avoid using turn signals because other drivers speed up to cut off their movements.

I am pleased to know there is a logic to the deliberate disuse of signals. That reduces my annoyance with those drivers.

However, your reader responses did not cover the case of drivers stopped in the left-turn lane of an intersection, sitting there waiting to make a turn with no blinker on. There's no speed-up-to-cut-you-off problem there.

It seems to me that only half of the drivers deign to flick the turn signal switch when turning left at an intersection. Why not?

How many minutes do other drivers spend trapped behind them, at every intersection, every day of the week, not knowing until too late that the knucklehead in front is turning left?

Dan Lounberg


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:

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:

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


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 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 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 Police Chief 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 Loudoun 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.