Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You requested suggestions on what to do about being tailgated [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 5].

As you point out, braking hard is lunacy, but changing lanes carries its own hazards.

My solution is to slow down very gradually until the tailgater has had enough and decides to change lanes, thus taking on the risk of that maneuver himself (it's nearly always a male). Then, I resume normal speed.

Don Juran


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I think your answer is a good one. However, I put on the four-way flasher and that works also.

Jim Koricki


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When a tailgater gets too close I switch on my headlights. The tailgater thinks that I have applied my brakes and backs off.

Jean Noble


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked for solutions to tailgaters. Here's what I do if I find I can't immediately move to the right to get out of the way: I flick my headlight switch on and off at intervals, which causes the brake light to go on and off and suggests to the tailgater that I'm braking, even though I'm not actually doing so.

That usually brings some relief until I can find a place to move to the right.

Elizabeth Andros Gaston

Ligonier, Pa.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One trick I've used to get tailgaters to back off is to use my window-washer spray. I've found that in washing my front windshield, a good portion of the spray will fly over the top of my car and onto the windshield of the offending tailgater. They usually then back off.

Certainly nothing illegal, and, besides, you end up with a clean windshield.

Bill Novak


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 and 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.

Pavlovian Technique

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If a driver forgets his seat belt, he has chimes and lights to remind him. Why couldn't the same technique be used for turn signals?

If a driver makes a turn and doesn't use the turn signal, a chime could ring and a light flash to remind him. After he's been annoyed enough times, he may remember. It's simple Pavlovian training, and the technology is readily available.

Robert A. Klein


Hog-Wild Riders

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live on Capitol Hill, work downtown and drive to Lewes, Del., most weekends. Therefore, I am a regular driver on Interstate 395-D.C. 295 and Route 50 in the District and Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

I routinely observe reckless motorcycle riders on those highways. I never observe that anywhere else in the region. (I regularly drive in Northern Virginia, Delaware and Montgomery County and have not once seen that driving behavior there.)

Almost every weekend I encounter groups of anywhere from two to 10 motorcyclists driving wildly down the highway (usually on Route 50 between the D.C. line and Annapolis), weaving in and out of traffic, usually at speeds well in excess of 100 mph.

I live two blocks north of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway on Sixth Street SE, and I see and hear these maniacs screaming up and down the freeway day and night. It amazes me that more accidents are not caused by these out-of-control drivers.

Has anyone else reported this situation to you? I can't be the only one who has seen this. Of course I never see the police stopping these motorcyclists (they, literally, probably could not catch them). It would be a service to the driving public if you would publish this letter and request that the police in the District and Maryland make an attempt to target these drivers in their traffic enforcement efforts.

Patrick G. Startt


Yes, I have received such complaints. The next time you see these kamikaze motorcyclists, dial #77 on your cell phone and report them to the police. Send me the particulars (time, date, direction of travel), and I'll ask law enforcement officers for their thoughts.

No Clue on Congestion

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute from the District to Fairfax on either Interstate 66 or Route 50. What governs which route I take is often the message on the overhead signs at the east and west ends of Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.

Often the signs do not reflect current traffic conditions, and I end up stuck in traffic on I-66.

Those signs must have cost several hundred thousand dollars to erect. What good are they if the person writing the message is asleep at the switch? It ends up costing me and hundreds of other busy commuters time, money and aggravation and adds to area pollution. In our hyper-caffeinated society, can't these officials wake up as well?

Seymour I. Hepner


I've asked the Virginia Department of Transportation about that and have not heard back. Another reader asked about the usefulness of those signs, and I invited participants of my Monday Online column to tell me their thoughts. Eighty percent of the respondents found those signs, such as "Congestion Ahead, Exit 64," more irksome than helpful. Who has memorized the exit numbers? Wouldn't the name of the road be more helpful? And, how much congestion -- backups for miles, or blocks?

Then you have the no-information-at-all signs, as Dr. Hepner observes.

Help may be ahead: The Federal Highway Administration is testing electronic signs that give the approximate number of minutes to the exits ahead. They are constantly changing, as measured by sensors in the road. They are being tested in Atlanta and San Antonio. Let us hope they arrive here. We could use the help.

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.