Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My 14-year-old daughter has 16-year-old friends just getting their driver's licenses. I'm a bit nervous because their experience is limited.

What are the Maryland laws concerning new drivers, and what rules do you think are appropriate for a parent to institute, such as limiting the number of passengers in the car?

She has already started searching for someone to drive to school with in a county that has one of the highest fatality rates in the region.

Kevin Conron


I think you are wise to ask. And based on that last paragraph, she seems to be getting ahead of what's prudent. I hope you'll be able to take charge.

In Maryland, a 16-year-old can get a provisional driver's license for 18 months. During that time, the novice driver must not carry alcohol, opened or unopened; drive between midnight and 5 a.m.; or receive a moving violation. Driver and passengers must wear seat belts at all times.

Any violation of the above means the 18-month provisional period starts all over again. At the end of a violation-free 18 months, the young driver can get a driver's license.

There are no restrictions on the age or number of passengers a new driver may carry. Bills were introduced in the most recent General Assembly session to provide such restrictions, but that legislation failed to pass. Too bad.

The leading cause of death of 16-year-olds is traffic accidents. Young drivers without enough driving skills speed, show off and think they are immortal. A lethal combination.

I would not let my teenage daughters ride with a 16- or 17-year-old driver. Just too risky.

When it's time for your daughter to get a learner's permit, you can let her drive to and from school, with you keeping the vehicle. Train her to drive on interstate highways, merge, turn from the correct lanes, pass on two-lane roads and know what to do when the right tires run off the edge of the road.

Teach her to drive in heavy rain, snow, and ice and at night. I think at least 1,000 miles of interstate and 1,000 miles of local driving would be the minimum training -- and the parent should provide it.

Only when you are satisfied she can drive alone -- rather than being guided by the onset of any birthday -- should you approve a provisional license. The closer to age 18 that occurs, the better.

I understand that teenagers are anxious to gain their independence, but please don't let them stampede you into something dangerous. After all, we parents are the wiser, aren't we?

Bicyclist's Plea

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This responds to your column of Sept. 2 with the incongruous headline "Imperious Pedalers."

I am a longtime member (since 1974) of the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club (PPTC). Ten years ago and again last year, PPTC's chairman sent a letter to Montgomery County's director of public works. These letters requested on-road accommodation for the experienced adult cyclists who use MacArthur Boulevard.

Bicycle lanes, smooth paved shoulders or wider lanes would significantly improve safety for all road users while reducing maintenance costs for county taxpayers. Traffic volumes and speeds warrant those improvements.

Please join our petition for bicycle-friendly improvements to MacArthur Boulevard. Second, please help us spread the word that bicycles are legal vehicles and that bicyclists have the same rights and duties as all other on-road vehicle operators.

PPTC is a nonprofit educational, recreational and social organization for bicycling enthusiasts. Our 3,300 members lead approximately 1,500 bicycle tours each year on local roads. Several of our members live near MacArthur Boulevard and use it for bicycle commuting.

For more information about the Potomac Pedalers see our Web site at

Bill Clarke

PPTC government affairs

chairman for Maryland


I've received a number of letters -- coming soon -- about MacArthur Boulevard bike lanes.

Turning Up the Volume

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I believe that the main reason turn signals are not turned off is because very many people don't have the hearing capability to pick up the faint sound that the turn signals are on.

Perhaps a blinking light or a better sound system would eliminate the problem.

Joe Kobylski

Landover Hills

Good point. How about something that sounds like an oven timer left on? That should do it.

Lane-Change Rite

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

To argue with one of your other readers, I want to point out that I was taught that the proper order was mirror, signal, head check when looking to change lanes.

Pam Divins


Sounds good to me. I wonder if most people do the head check (a backward glance to make sure the move-into lane is empty). I find it crucial.

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.