Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing in response to a letter in your Sept. 2 column.

Cortney A. Smith of Ashburn wrote of an apparent act of road rage that she experienced.

In her letter, she admits she was using her cell phone at the time but says she still was paying attention. I think that any use of a cell phone while driving prevents one from fully paying attention to driving.

While I agree with Ms. Smith that the driver she encountered acted recklessly, she also was reckless to some extent by using her phone while driving.

A lot of bad feelings on the road could be prevented if people would follow the advice of the bumper sticker that says, "Hang Up and Drive."

Alex Boyko


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I think you missed an important point in your response to the person from Ashburn who wrote about the aggressive driver with the child in the back seat of his vehicle.

I certainly agree with the writer that the other driver's behavior was inexcusable -- not only because he was teaching his child the wrong lesson but also because he was putting his child's life in danger.

However, the writer acknowledged talking on a cell phone while driving.

People who do that cannot pay full attention to the road. They often start up slowly or belatedly from green lights, fail to maintain the speed of the traffic around them, and drift in and out of adjacent lanes as they concentrate more on their conversation than on their driving.

Perhaps the author of the letter was guilty of one or more of those irritating and often dangerous habits. There is a reason why using a cell phone while driving is against the law in certain jurisdictions.

Susan Roberts


I agree. It's dangerous to take one's eye off the road to dial and to take concentration off the task at hand by engaging in a conversation. That is why the District forbids drivers to use hand-held cell phones and why Virginia and Maryland should as well.

Tips on Tailgaters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Sept. 5 column, you solicited solutions to the problem of tailgaters.

The problem has become so pervasive, along with speeding and swerving across lanes, that there is no solution except to keep to the right, which is always good anyway.

Tailgaters can, and do, rear-end people. The party doing the rear-ending will almost certainly be held responsible and can be charged with reckless driving. That charge carries up to a year in the slammer in Virginia. Wrecking your car, in and of itself, is no picnic, either.

Robert Richardson


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One of your readers related a disturbing story about being tailgated and cut off by an aggressive driver. Unfortunately, most of us experience that often in this area. I have been in situations where I feared for my safety.

I do believe that law enforcement agencies are serious about the problem, but I wonder if they are doing anything but ticketing speeders and red-light runners. To what extent are they really ticketing for tailgating, dangerous maneuvers and cutting off other drivers?

My answer to the problem is to use unmarked police cars with rear- and front-mounted video cameras. These cameras would be set to run continuously. Once an offender exhibits aggressive driving, the cop car would "light up" and pull him over. The driver would be informed that he is on tape and being ticketed for aggressive driving.

That action should also be carried out against aggressive truck drivers. In addition, trucks should be required to have large identification numbers on the side of their cabs, in front and on the trailer. Now, they have one small number way up on the side of the cab, and the trailer license plate is just for the trailer -- not the tractor. That is worthless and provides no deterrent to bad driving.

To be effective, the unmarked cars should be not just police-type sedans, but minivans, SUVs and other vehicles.

Let's stop paying lip service to halting aggressive driving and do something about it.

Bob Hugman


Readers of this column tell me they support more law enforcement regarding aggressive drivers, red-light runners, speeders, shoulder drivers and violators of high-occupancy vehicle lanes. If cameras are part of the solution, bring 'em on.

I thank you for all your suggestions for dealing with tailgaters. They include slowing and forcing the tailgater to pass, turning on headlights (thus faking brake lights) and turning on windshield wipers to toss wayward droplets at the tailgater.

I believe a tailgater demonstrates that he cares little about his safety or yours. Therefore, I still suggest you put on your right turn signal and move right as soon as possible. You want this maniac out of your life immediately.

Using the other tricks suggested above prolongs the confrontation and risks escalating it.

Messy Metro Cars

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've been a daily Metro rider for more than 20 years, and never have I seen Metro cars as filthy inside as I did this summer. That was the case even in the mornings, before there was much time for people to trash the cars.

I was astounded by how much garbage (including copies of The Washington Post's Express newspaper) was strewn throughout the cars and by the amount of dirt literally ground into the carpet.

Many times I have flat-out refused to sit in the last row of seats at the back of the car, even when seats are at a premium, because of the disgusting God-knows-what that previous riders have deposited on and around those seats.

Has Metro fired or cut back on its overnight cleaning crews in an effort to save money or something?

Roberta Jones


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am responding to Bill Ballantyne's letter and your response in the Sept. 5 Dr. Gridlock column. Mr. Ballantyne complains about food and drink in Metro cars, and your column asks, "Is Metrorail the clean system it once was?"

My concern is that both the original letter and your response miss the point that the restrictions on eating and drinking are fire safety measures, intended to reduce the accumulation of trash around electrical equipment, which produces heat and has in the past ignited drifts of discarded material.

The King's Cross underground disaster in London was traced to several factors, one of which was the accumulation of trash under an escalator.

The smell of smoke in a train halted in a subway is disconcerting, much more so than the possibility of a stain caused by careless eating.

Richard Garrison


Grimy Stairs at Station

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a frequent user of the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, I am appalled at the dirtiness of the stairs. I don't think they have been swept or cleaned in months.

If the employees don't have time to clean them, maybe a Scout troop could undertake the job and put up a sign letting the public know it's the troop's project, similar to the signs along highways. That would accomplish a couple of goals: Young people would learn to clean up a public area, and their work would bring kudos from the public.

I guess the days of pride in the workplace are long gone for most Metro employees.

June Lee


I made an inquiry about this to Metro several days ago and am awaiting an answer. I like that you've suggested a solution (Adopt-a-Station).

I think Virginia and Maryland roadsides are relatively clean in large part because of the efforts of groups in those states' Adopt-a-Road programs.

I'll keep you posted as I when I get a response from Metro.

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.