Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In response to your request for additional information concerning sport motorcycles and reckless driving, I can offer the following recent examples of Fairfax County Police Department enforcement efforts.
* In August, an officer driving an unmarked police cruiser observed a sport bike being driven wildly on Fairfax County Parkway. The operator, with a passenger on the back of the bike, was doing nearly 80 mph in a posted 50 mph zone. After slowing for approaching traffic, he rose the bike up on its rear wheel and traveled approximately two-tenths of a mile in that manner.
When finished with that circus maneuver, he began to drive in between the lanes of vehicles and to weave in and out of the lanes.
The officer followed. Several miles on, the officer saw that the bike was stopped ahead in traffic. The officer was able to walk up and grab the key from the ignition, turning the bike off.
The driver was subsequently charged with reckless driving and found guilty in court. He received a $1,000 fine, a one-year suspension of his license and two months in the county jail. The Department of Motor Vehicles assigned his record six demerit points for his performance.
* In late September, during the evening hours, an officer tried to stop a sport bike on the Beltway, and it sped away in excess of 100 mph.
The officer quickly and wisely surmised that it was not worth pursuing and broke off a chase. Our police helicopter happened upon the scene and followed the bike until it pulled into a 7-Eleven store several miles away.
When the driver exited the 7-Eleven, he was met by the original officer, who promptly arrested him for attempting to elude police, which can be a felony offense in Virginia. The bike was towed away, and the case is pending a court hearing.
* Earlier this month, an officer in a neighboring jurisdiction tried to stop two reckless sport bike drivers. Both immediately fled at high speeds. Before turning on his emergency lights, the officer radioed in the tag number of one of the bikes. Rather then engage in a dangerous chase, the officer asked our police department to go to the registered owner's house.
Officers did, and after about an hour, the errant driver pulled his sport bike into the driveway. The officers made a positive identification of the driver, and an arrest warrant was issued for attempting to elude police.
* Two years ago, one of our motorcycle officers was issuing a ticket along Fairfax County Parkway while another officer in a cruiser was pursuing a reckless sport bike driver on the parkway. The officer alongside the roadway stepped out into the roadway to stop traffic.
The sport bike driver sped past the stopped traffic and, according to witnesses' accounts, accelerated wildly and struck the officer.
The officer sustained serious injuries and underwent multiple surgeries to repair broken legs and a shoulder. He was out of work for nearly a year and still has some lingering medical problems from the event. The sport bike driver died on impact.
My unofficial count so far this year of apprehended reckless sport bike drivers is 21. I'll have an official count after year's end, including how many got away.
We have noticed that a few sport bike operators have a wire attached to the bottom of their vehicle's license plate. The wire runs up into their jacket and out a sleeve. When pulled, the wire lifts the attached tag up so it cannot be read. We are onto this trick, and when we see it, we charge the operators with improperly mounted license plates, even if they are not engaged in other traffic violations.
We can't catch them all. Some will get away. Some will crash and injure themselves seriously. Some will crash and die. Unfortunately, some will crash into us, and we will suffer the same consequences.
Capt. J.F. Bowman
Commander, Traffic Division
Thank you so much, captain. Readers see these sport bikes going 100 mph, but we usually can't know of police efforts to ticket them, and of injuries to police. I applaud your officers for not engaging in hot pursuits out of concern for crashes involving innocent parties.
Keep up the good work, and please know that it is much appreciated.
If you have year-end information on this subject, or information about any other chronic traffic offenses, please feel free to contact Dr. Gridlock.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I have been following the letters sent to your column regarding the yellow ribbon magnets placed on cars in support of our troops.
I would like to suggest that those readers interested in supporting our troops go to the Web site www.anysoldier.com. It is run by a La Plata resident who is a former member of the armed services. He has a son who is on active military duty. He has made it extremely easy for us to donate what the troops really want.
This volunteer effort has extensive lists of items recommended for and requested by servicemen and women. Examples are items as simple as lip balm, stationery, used Game Boy games and snack foods. Items can be mailed directly to the troops, using APO addresses.
One visit to the Web site will make readers aware of how much the support of those back here in the States means to the troops.
Symbols of Patriotism
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I would like to respond to those who feel that ribbon magnets on cars are an empty gesture or an attempt to shove patriotism down their throats.
I often display such magnets on my car. I also wear an American flag pin every day.
That doesn't mean that I'm more patriotic than the next person. It also doesn't mean that I think people who don't do such things are not patriotic.
I resent the implication that displaying patriotic symbols means that I'm acting "more patriotic than thou" or making some sort of fashion statement.
I also resent the implication that displaying such patriotic symbols means I must be so simple-minded that I can't possibly be doing anything else to support our troops.
Patriotism may not be defined by symbols, but symbols provide a means to present a very powerful message. I know that many of our troops appreciate these displays of patriotism.
I do it for our men and women in uniform.
A Show of Support
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
One more word on the yellow ribbon magnets that say "Support Our Troops." My yellow ribbon was given to me by my son-in-law, A.J., a Marine Corps Reservist, the day before he reported for active duty in Iraq. He gave one to everyone in his family.
We are close friends with A.J.'s parents, and though we have different political views, that is all put aside in our unwavering love and support for our favorite Marine. Our hearts ache with worry for A.J. and the men he leads.
I hope that the sight of a yellow ribbon on someone's car will inspire observers to whisper a prayer for the safety of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And perhaps it will remind someone that perhaps a neighbor or a friend is a military spouse left behind, and that support can also mean an invitation to supper, a helping hand with the children, mowing a lawn, a lift to pick up a car at the repair shop and all those mundane chores that can overwhelm when worry and loneliness are present.
Such decent thoughts.
License at 18, Not 16
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
My heart is again saddened by the loss of another teenager because of an automobile accident. This is getting harder and harder to accept.
Parents need to realize that these kids are not grown up and should not be given freedom at the age of 16 to take control of an automobile (especially an SUV). Children are not equipped to handle these vehicles, which are hard for even an experienced adult driver to handle.
Because the parents are not taking responsibility for these children, it is time for the states to take action and stop issuing driver's licenses to children under the age of 18. At least that would possibly give these children another two years on their life. Hello, senators and congressmen: Are you listening?
I might be considered an outdated parent, but I was a single and divorced parent when both my children took driver's education and other student driver training courses. When they turned 16, I did not buy them a car, nor did I turn my car over to them to drive as they pleased. They are both over 30 years old now and still alive.
Parents need to wake up and see what is going on. What's with this hurry to get rid of the responsibility of taking your children places and instead pushing them to their deaths before they become adults?
No licenses until age 18 -- I support that. What you went through was certainly time-consuming and maybe even inconvenient for you, but you didn't have to worry about your 16- and 17-year-old children driving into a tree.
Parenting New Drivers
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I remember some years ago, you recommended some defensive driving schools, but do you have any recommendations for basic driving schools?
I've got 15-year-old twin boys who can't fit driver's ed into their schedules, and I do not want to do it myself. Thanks.
Many parents don't want to, but they need to. How else will they feel that their children have received competent instruction and needed experience? How else will they be able to tell when a teen is ready to drive alone behind the wheel?
The measure should not be a few hours of training from a commercial enterprise that does not care about your children. Nor should the end of training be triggered by a birthday.
Do it, and chances are they'll have a better chance of survival.
Organizing Dr. Gridlock
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What's up with the online version of your column (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/columns/drgridlock/)? I went to it today and found not one or two, but 10 columns listed for Oct. 21 with slightly different headings.
Unfortunately, although some of the columns had one or two segments that were unique, most of them were redundant. Also unfortunately, the only way to find out was to open each one up and scan it to find out if the same segments were there or if there was a "new" one embedded with the same questions and answers that I had read in several of the others.
Why can't the online column be combined to include all the letters from these multiple postings into one link? Maybe it's just The Post's way of getting you to keep clicking on their links and thus getting more of their annoying pop-ups (I wouldn't know, personally, since I have pop-ups blocked).
It's very annoying to have to click on multiple links and read through much of the same material to see if there is another piece of advice or information that wasn't in another posting.
California, St. Mary's County
I'm flattered that you would go to such lengths to ferret out every item each week. I want to help you.
Here's how Dr. Gridlock is organized. There is a Sunday column, on Page 2 of the Metro section, that is the same for everyone.
There are also different columns in 10 zoned Extra sections on Thursdays. These Extra columns have unique tops, but then share letters with other Extras to fill out each column. The common letters are the ones I think will have the greatest interest in most geographical zones.
What you want (I think) is to combine each item into one new link, so that every item will be included, and none will be repeated.
While we post each of the 10 Extra columns online each Thursday, we don't sort it the way you want.
I've asked our senior online producer, Rocci Fisch, to take a look at providing that service, and he said he will look into it.
P.S. -- I handle dozens more items on my online chat held from 1 to 2 p.m. every other Monday. Log on to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline. My next session is on Monday.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county, and day and evening telephone numbers.