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?

She has already started searching for someone to drive to school within 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 training 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 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.

Tricking Tailgaters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have had several experiences of being tailgated when there was no opportunity to pull over to the right lane because that lane had too many cars. This usually happens when you are passing other cars but the tailgater does not think you are passing them rapidly enough.

What I have done is throw on my emergency blinker lights.

That has always succeeded in alarming the driver behind me enough that he (yes, it has always been a "he") has slowed down and put more space between our vehicles. That gave me time to find an adequate opportunity (car gap) to move over to the right lane.

That is really the biggest problem with tailgaters: when they are tailgating you not to force you to move to the right lane (which is full) but rather to force you to accelerate, often above (or well above) the speed limit.

Julie Locascio


That bothers me, too. But safety professionals advise against using hazard blinkers because other drivers don't know your intent. How about putting your right blinker on and slowing until someone lets you in or the tailgater passes you?

Attentive in Europe

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In your Sept. 16 reply to Gerard Williger, you said European drivers don't cruise in the left lane because they will get run over.

You don't give European drivers credit.

It is their courtesy and good sense, not fear. They are paying attention to the road, not drinking coffee and talking on the phone.

Bob Rudy


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


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.