Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Let me tell you of a recent incident that shows why I speed up when a person puts on his turn signal.

I was going south on Route 3 in Crofton and was in the right lane. There was a car in the left lane, its rear about equal to my driver's door.

Behind me was a tailgater. As I was passing the exit lane for Route 450 to Bowie, all of a sudden the jerk on my left decided that it was his turn and quickly signaled to turn right, doing over 50 mph.

What was I supposed to do, stop to let him in and get rear-ended by the tailgater? So I sped up past him.

My point is this, D.C. area drivers: You travel the same routes every day. You know where your exits and turnoffs are, and you know how long it takes before you get there. Instead of pretending you are Bobby Labonte passing everyone in sight, use your head and plan your move ahead of time.

Use your signal properly, because I'll bet not many other drivers can read your mind.

Rick Layton


I haven't heard before from a driver who speeds up when another motorist puts his blinkers on. In this case, I can understand why you did it.

Drivers should get into the correct lanes for turns, but sometimes people are daydreaming and forget.

It happens to all of us at one time or another, I suspect. That does not forgive a reckless turn.

Trooper's Aggression

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently saw a Maryland state trooper on Interstate 70 past Frederick come up at high speed within a car length behind a car "cruising" in the left lane; hang there for 15 seconds, apparently trying to intimidate the driver ahead to change lanes; then change to the middle lane to pass, before continuing in the left lane.

The siren and lights were never used. This looked like aggressive driving, and the situation could have been solved by passing at a safer distance.

I complained to Col. Thomas Hutchins, superintendent of Maryland State Police, who passed along the information to Lt. Michael Cain, commander of the Frederick Barrack.

Kudos to Lt. Cain for calling me back and letting me know that the state police are actively discouraging aggressive driving in their own ranks.

There is no Maryland law that prevents people from going at the speed limit in the left lane of a highway, though slower traffic is advised to keep right. If people actually did that, it would discourage people from playing slalom on the road.

It works in Europe.

Gerard Williger


People in Europe don't dare cruise in the left lane because they might get run over. People here can and do cruise in the left lane, and that's a shame. They should keep right, except to pass.

Route 4 Interchange

Here's a bit of good news for Route 4 commuters: The Maryland State Highway Administration is going to build an interchange at Route 4 and the Suitland Parkway. That means the installation of an overpass/underpass and elimination of traffic signals at an intersection that is severely congested.

Now, the bad news: Work will not begin on the $73 million project until the fiscal year that starts July 2007 and ends in June 2008. Interchanges usually take two to three years to build, meaning it might not be done until 2011.

It's good the state found the money to do this, but it's a long time to wait for a much-needed project.

Alternate Route to Virginia

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I noted with interest your response to Marilyn Lynch of Chantilly regarding finding Interstate 395 from D.C. 295 south (Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 26).

You had advised Ms. Lynch to exit at the poorly marked Howard Road exit (3B) and proceed over the South Capitol Street Bridge and through several traffic signals to get to the entrance to I-395.

I may have a better route for Ms. Lynch.

Although I'm a Virginia resident, my family and I often travel to Maryland to visit friends and enjoy the restaurants, shopping and entertainment the state has to offer.

To get back to Virginia from southbound D.C. 295, we travel south and take the first exit past the Howard Road exit, or 3A, marked Suitland Parkway/Navy Yard. We stay in the offramp lane, which then becomes the freeway on-ramp to D.C. 295 north. We thus get back onto the freeway heading north. We have essentially made a legal U-turn by using this off/on ramp.

The next exit after getting onto D.C. 295 north is the 11th Street Bridge, which will take drivers to I-395 (either north or south). In fact, the exit is marked as leading to I-395.

From there, it's a pleasant drive over the 14th Street bridge and back to the commonwealth. Although you do slow down to exit D.C. 295 south, and have to accelerate again at the on ramp to D.C. 295 north, you will not encounter a traffic signal, stop in a seedy area or otherwise have to stop.

It's a great solution to the dilemma of finding I-395, and you and your readers might want to try it.

James Chen


Thanks for the tip. I'll try it next time.

Isn't it a shame you have to go north in order to go south, and put up with confusing signs to boot? Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Marilyn Lynch from Chantilly asked a good question about a return route to the District from D.C. 295 south.

It's such a good question that it has been asked over and over again. Your answer, once again, is great advice.

Now the question is, why doesn't someone fix the sign on the road? How hard is it to add a piece to the Howard Road exit sign saying "To I-395"? This is not the only problem regarding road signs. There is a major problem in this area, and I am not sure who is to blame.

The D.C. area is a tough place to drive in and around, but if the signs were marked better and posted at a distance far enough to allow drivers to safely maneuver, it would ease frustration for those of us who live here and for the enormous number of visitors we receive each day.

Does a local Department of Transportation even exist here? What does it do? This problem is not unique to the District, but also can be found in Maryland and Virginia. Is there a central agency, along the same lines as Metro's transit system, that handles all road issues?

E. Scott Howard


There is no regional agency. Each state and the District has its own transportation department. They can work with one another, as they are doing on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

The Howard Road exit sign is a bad one because it doesn't include a "To I-395" or any reference to the South Capitol Street Bridge, a major entrance to the city.

This has been a sore point in this column for two decades. Apparently, city officials just don't care about this bad sign.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Aug. 26 column, you noted that readers could connect from D.C. 295 to Interstate 395 by exiting at Howard Road and passing through a "seedy" block en route to the South Capitol Street Bridge and I-395.

I take issue with your use of the word "seedy."

That small stretch on Howard Road going toward the bridge is well kept, with the Howard Road Academy and a relatively new mental health building.

There is a car repair shop, neatly fenced in; there is the entrance to the Green Line Metro parking lot; there are two small garden apartments; and the grass is well kept in that area.

Perhaps you should revisit this area and see for yourself. I live one block from the Metro station.

Shirley R. Allen


Ms. Allen, I apologize. I haven't been on that route for a while, and it appears the situation has changed. I applaud your neighborhood pride.

Parking Garage Safety

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I sympathize with the writer for having to wait behind a humongous SUV slowly attempting to park on the ground level of a parking garage when space was available at the upper levels, but there is good reason for a motorist to prize ground-level parking.

To exit a garage by foot, one has to use the elevators or stairwell. Unfortunately, many times an elevator is not operable.

With usually limited visibility, the elevator and stairwell make ideal venues for thieves.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Good point, unfortunately.

Crazed by Caffeine?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Have there been any psychological studies examining the correlation between road rage and the proliferation of caffeine merchants such as Starbucks?

It seems to me that anyone in a high-pressure job who stomps up and down K Street with a big cup of coffee in hand is a time bomb behind the wheel.

Michael Joy


I haven't heard of such a study, but your observation may help explain the aggressive behavior of some drivers. I've known people who become different -- more vocal, more pushy -- when they've had an infusion of caffeine.

Shoulder Strangeness

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Just when you think you have seen it all. . . . I was driving south on Interstate 270 and noticed a van that had pulled over on the right shoulder. As I drove by, I saw a man kneeling by his tire. I figured he was changing a flat.

Well, I was wrong. He was spraying his tires with some sort of tire conditioner to make them look better.

Craig Brown


It's generally illegal to stop on the shoulder of an interstate highway, except in an emergency. Strange. Maybe he was looking for a leak, or using a spray-can tire inflation device.

Give Toll Lanes a Spin?

In case you missed it, Virginia's transportation commissioner has directed the state Department of Transportation to enter negotiations with the company Fluor Daniel to build two more lanes each way on the Capital Beltway, from near the Springfield interchange to north of the Dulles Toll Road.

This public-private partnership would allow the extra capacity to be built at a time when state funds alone are insufficient to cover the cost, Transportation Commissioner Philip A. Shucet said.

The new lanes would be high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, free to vehicles carrying three or more people and available for a variable toll (depending on congestion) to others. The toll revenue would help offset the cost of construction.

Maryland is also looking at express toll lanes, although they would be open to everyone for a fee.

Dr. Gridlock is for implementing such lanes to see how they work. What do you think?

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.