Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm writing to commend the Maryland State Police and the Calvert County Sheriff's Office for working so diligently to slow the drivers who use Route 4/2 south in Calvert County. Their enforcement of the speed limit has been consistent and fair.

I'm also writing to ask if the appropriate police department personnel could monitor the drivers coming onto Route 4 north from the new Route 260 ramp. None of those drivers seems to understand the meaning of the big yield sign at the end of the ramp. They constantly just drive, very quickly most times, up the lane to the end and move left into traffic -- often with absolutely no regard for the vehicles already in that lane.

Thank you also, Dr. Gridlock, for your suggestions regarding young drivers and helping them gain confidence and experience. Unfortunately, Calvert High School lost a senior honor roll student on Sept. 29 to a traffic accident.

Our young people need additional training in all aspects of motor vehicle operation. Perhaps with that education would come less loss of precious life.

Patti Doty

Prince Frederick

In case you missed it, I wrote about driver training for teenagers in the Oct. 10 column on Page 2 of the Metro section. I recommended delaying children from getting licensed to drive until they can get more experience and driver training, which should be supplied by parents.

Teach the Children Well

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read your response to Kevin Conron in Mechanicsville [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 30], and the one thing you didn't address is that when parents drive with their children in their car, they need to set a good example for that child to follow.

Teens notice how their parents drive, even before they get behind the wheel on their own. Parents who violate traffic laws by speeding, running stop signs and using the shoulder to pass other vehicles on the right at a country road intersection are setting their kids up for accidents here in Southern Maryland.

I see it on the road every time I go out. Impatience rules the road in this region.

When I go to the local high schools here in Charles County for some event, I notice teen drivers not stopping at their schools' entrance for stop signs requiring that they look both ways before pulling onto the roadway. When I mentioned that to school administrators, they didn't feel it was important enough to address with local law enforcement.

I am taking classes at the College of Southern Maryland, and our class was discussing honesty and integrity in our culture. All of the about 20 young students in the class admitted that they do not stop at stop signs if the intersection appears empty as they approach it. That is scary stuff, and an accident waiting to happen.

The most important thing to understand about driving in this region is that, for some drivers, there appear to be no rules. So if parents teach their kids to drive defensively, to have patience, they will be able to avoid many potential accidents.

Because my grandfather, father and mother were all killed in separate traffic accidents where I grew up in Indiana, I always wear my seat belt, and I taught my sons to do so.

Young drivers also need to be taught the importance of having enough rest before getting out on the road. We taught our sons that it is better to take a nap in your vehicle in a parking lot than to get out on the road without enough sleep.

They know about the problems with deer season, and we have given them maps so that they will not panic if they need an alternate route due to road closures.

Parents can do a whole lot to help their children learn how to drive safely. They just have to keep an open mind while they are behind the wheel themselves and realize that they need to drive by example. No excuses.

Mary Adler


Excellent point about leading by example, Ms. Adler. I'll incorporate that in future columns about driver training.

I do believe it is up to the parents to provide teens with comprehensive driver training, and to do so well beyond the minimum age (16) when a teen can get a license. Only when the parent feels the teen is ready to drive solo should the teen receive a license.

Tip Thwarts Tailgater

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I usually pull over when it is safe and let tailgaters go by. After reading your Thursday column on the subject in Southern Maryland Extra, I told my husband, and he had occasion to try it that evening. It worked.

Mary Shifflette

Prince Frederick

Now, that's results! Let them zoom on by, out of your way.

Rush-Hour Parking Woes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wrote to you in April and suggested that the folks who illegally park in the right (or left) lane during rush hour should be fined $500 per occurrence.

Since writing that letter, I actually witnessed a police cruiser on E Street systematically pull up behind illegally parked folks and turn on a siren-type noise; those folks quickly moved away from the curb.

Why can't that be done daily for a month and repeated as necessary? Please beg those people you know in power to try it. The excuse that there are not enough police to do that does not fly.

Sheila Wing


A lot of the vehicles illegally parked in the curb lane during rush hours have no drivers. What good would a siren be? Also, the siren alert that sends some illegal parkers scurrying for cover simply reinforces the notion that there is no penalty for illegal parking. Police will warn, but not ticket. That encourages more violations.

What we need are higher fines (they were raised to $100 last year) and meticulous enforcement to get these scofflaws off the streets and help traffic move.

Take Car, Train and Bus

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have never driven to FedEx Field and never will. I drive from Annandale to Metro's Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Station and take a shuttle bus to the stadium. Every once in a while I take Metro from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Station to the Addison Road Station and transfer to a shuttle bus. Works for me.

When the shuttle started running to the stadium, there were three stations for pickup, and that distributed the crowd better. Now the shuttle serves only the Addison Road and Landover stations.

With the opening of the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations Dec. 18, it will be interesting to see if we can walk in to FedEx.

Whatever, hail to the Redskins, from a 50-year ticket holder.

George S. Parsons


Congratulations for figuring out the transportation system and commuting by Metrorail and bus.

I drove to the Dallas game on a Monday night. The trip from Braddock Road and the Beltway via Interstate 395 and D.C. Route 295 to Route 50 east to Landover Road took 21/2 hours of inching along. Never again!

The gradual increase in stadium capacity, now to 91,665, is going to cause more commuting difficulty for some patrons. I'm interested in other ways you folks have conquered the congestion.

Metro Defends Cleanliness

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a daily user of the Capitol South Station on the Blue/Orange Line, I am appalled at how dirty the outside escalators are. They are filthy, constantly breaking down and with lights burned out. Metro used to clean these, but they have stopped since last summer. Did they stop cleaning them to save money?

Davin Peterson


Many readers ask if budget cuts have affected Metro's ability to clean its rail cars and station areas. Metro says no and says it has a full complement of custodians who regularly clean cars and station areas.

Every three months, Metro samples 400 users about service and cleanliness and generally gets a grade of B, said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman.

"If riders have concerns on cleanliness issues, we encourage them to call us at 202-637-1328," Taubenkibel said.

Stay to the Right

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My boyfriend and I recently moved to the area from New York and northern New Jersey.

One thing we have had difficulty with is that drivers on Maryland highways completely ignore the fact that the left lane is for passing.

I am often stuck behind a driver in the left lane who is traveling at the same speed as the driver to his right, causing a backup. In addition, Maryland drivers simply ride in the left lane when no one is in the right lane.

Although I am not a tailgater, it is frustrating when I wish to pass, but can't because drivers don't respect the passing rule.

Everyone complains about people weaving in and out of traffic, but if this rule were respected, the drivers wishing to pass would simply be in the left lane doing so while the slower drivers would be in the right lanes.

I don't condone aggressive driving, but I do believe people should set their pride aside and stay to the right unless they intend to pass.

Save us all the frustration of watching tailgaters, aggressive drivers and others weaving in and out of traffic to get around the car that won't get out of the way.

Linette Henry

Laurel, Anne Arundel County

Left-lane cruisers annoy plenty of drivers here. They should use the left lane for passing, then move right. If they did so, as you point out, there would be less lane-weaving and other dangerous maneuvering.

Is it any different in New York and New Jersey?

Don't Talk, Drive

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It's very scary to watch someone drive by you, fully engaged in a cell phone conversation, with one hand on the phone and the other animated in the air while not on the wheel. It takes only seconds for a disaster to happen, and you have seconds to respond.

I've also observed drivers not only on the phone, but reading a map spread out across the wheel while in traffic. What's wrong with these people?

Having laws against cell phone use is fine except the laws are not enforced. New York state has such a law, and many people there still use hands-on cell phones while driving (we travel to New York often, so we do notice the lack of enforcement of this law).

Police are not actually pulling people over for using a cell phone. They may issue summonses for breaking this law after you have been pulled over for a traffic violation or expired registration and the officer notes that you were using a hand-held phone.

What to do? Stay off the phone while driving! Pull off the road if you need to talk. Use the hands-free devices that are available. At least you'll have one hand on the steering wheel!

Terri Wujick


The District has outlawed the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving. I think Virginia and Maryland should follow suit. It's dangerous.

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.