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?

My daughter 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 should be the minimum training -- and the parent should provide it.

Only when you are satisfied can she 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.

Cyclist-Driver Sharing

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been reading your column regarding the problem of cyclists vs. motorists on Rock Creek Parkway for more than 10 years (the latest being Sept. 16). The solution is obvious. The lanes are wide enough to accommodate both cyclists and motorists. All that is needed is a little courtesy.

The cyclist traveling at 15 mph should not feel he has the right to stay in the middle of the lane and block cars averaging 25 mph.

On the other hand, the motorist when passing should not blare his horn at the cyclist or aggressively lean his vehicle close to the bicycle, almost forcing him off the road. There is room for both traveling at a reasonable speed as long as one doesn't try to outmaneuver the other.

I am both a cyclist and motorist on Rock Creek Parkway. When driving, I don't find it inconvenient to share the road with a cyclist as long as he stays to the right. When cycling, I prefer the off-highway trail. It is bumpier but safer.

Rock Creek Parkway is not an interstate. It would be nice if both cyclists and motorists would put aside their aggressive Washington attitudes and enjoy the trees and other scenery on this off-highway road.

Richard Lampl


I'm not a bicyclist, but it seems that a motorist and a bicyclist sharing the same lane, side by side, is a bit too dangerous. One moment of distraction by the motorist could send the bicyclist flying.

So, since bicyclists/motorcyclists are to be treated as if they were a car/truck/van, why not yield the space ahead entirely to the cyclist already in it?

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

Bob Rudy


Another Way North

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Having lived in Massachusetts for close to 17 years before relocating to Maryland, I have a small quibble with your scenic route to Maine. If possible, you really want to avoid Interstate 95 north of Interstate 90 heading to Boston. Even when it isn't rush hour, it is still very busy.

I suggest the following route, which is not only less busy but also more scenic:

From your route of Interstate 270 north to Route 15 north to Route 581 east to Interstate 83 north to Interstate 81 and north to Interstate 84 east, connect to Interstate 90 east, then take Interstate 290 north at Auburn, Mass., passing through Worcester, Mass.

Interstate 290 connects to Interstate 495 in Marlborough, and following I-495 north will bring a driver to I-95 just south of the New Hampshire border.

Margaret F. Dikel


The less Boston area traffic, the better for the Maine-bound traveler. Thanks for the suggestion.

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 driver behind you 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?

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 turn signals produce.

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.

Housing Near Station?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the response to the proposed development of eight residential towers around the Vienna Metro station, I wondered: What do the readers expect to happen if the development is denied?

My thoughts: The developers will build elsewhere, further causing sprawl. If there is more development in Prince William, Centreville and Fair Lakes, the traffic on Interstate 66, Route 50 and Route 29 will still be there, causing more congestion.

Our neighbors in Arlington have used Metro stations in a way that reduces the use of cars, builds a tax base and gives the neighborhood an urban feel. The people living in those neighborhoods walk to dinner and shopping, or walk because they choose to. They ride the Metro. That gets them off the roads. What could possibly be wrong with that idea?

I live around the station. However, I plan to purchase one of the condos in this new community. Hopefully, Fairfax will finally have the insight to reduce traffic, reduce pollution, get the community walking and create a great tax base.

Yvonne Potts


In theory, residential development should be clustered around Metro stops. But that was 20 years ago. What has changed is that the transportation elements around the Vienna Metro station, the Orange Line and the adjacent roads -- I-66, Route 29, Route 123 and Nutley Street -- are at capacity.

There is no more room. How much more discomfort are riders or motorists willing to sustain to accommodate yet more residential development in Fairfax County?

Regardless of the residential towers at the Vienna station, development will continue in the outlying areas.

Please read on.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I ride the Orange Line from Vienna to McPherson Square in the District and back on a daily basis. In the past couple of years, as developments have popped up like weeds along the Orange Line in Arlington and Fairfax, the quality of my commute has worsened.

Metro is in a well-publicized cash crunch, trains break down more frequently, and commuters are often crammed in like sardines.

In the evening, I often let trains go by me because they appear dangerously overcrowded. Sometimes I get so frustrated that the marathoner in me takes over, and I decide to run home via the bike trails. Clearly, I am concerned about the proposed development for the Vienna Metro station area.

I believe that planners have to honestly and thoroughly assess the state of the transit system before deciding what density, and what type of development, are correct. I see little evidence that this type of deep inquiry has been occurring.

Our Metro system appears to be approaching crisis. If Metro gets a cash infusion and is able to accommodate all these new riders, then we must see to it that the residents and workers in developments near transit stations such the Vienna stop are weaned off their cars through aggressive application of transportation-demand-management measures.

Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing "smart" about locating such dense development near Vienna, the terminus of the Orange Line, and near Interstate 66, an overcrowded highway.

Anne Pastorkovich


All one has to do to see that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is destroying the county's transportation network is examine what is happening along Route 29 between Fairfax City and Centreville.

The trees are going, going, gone, replaced by acres and acres of townhouses and more and more residents -- and vehicles.

Are any significant improvements scheduled for Route 29 or I-66? No. But residential developments are approved as if they would have no impact on the transportation infrastructure.

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.