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 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:

Mr. Detaranto's description [Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 19] of the function of the turn signal is correct: "They're to inform other drivers of your plans so they can react accordingly."

Here's something to try the next time you're behind a vehicle that's about to turn and the driver actually uses his or her turn signal. See which goes on first, the turn signal or the brake light.

I find that nearly 100 percent of the time, I see the brake light first and have to react before the turn signal flashes.

Also observe when drivers pull into a left-turn lane. I find that most brake to slow down in front of me, pull into the left-turn lane and then turn their signal on.

Ira A. Friedrich


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Aug. 15 column, one of your readers wondered how to inform a driver that his or her turn signal was left on.

Way back when I was still in high school, the father of a friend of mine was a truck driver hauling all over the East Coast. He was kind enough to teach me to drive. He said truckers saw that problem often.

Of course, back then there was no automatic turn-off for turn signals. He said truckers signaled others who had left their turn signals on by getting in front of the offending driver. They then used the turn signal, first the left and then the right, and finally the four-way flashers for two cycles ( it made no difference which turn signal was used first).

I have used that little trick many times, and it worked.

Mike Reshetar


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:

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 or 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:

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:

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:

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, 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, M.D.


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


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 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.