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 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.

Jane Auker


Organizing Dr. Gridlock

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What's up with the online version of your column ( 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.

Mike Chaney


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 aslo 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 My next session is on Monday.

Passing in Maryland

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Last week there was a letter in your column by Linette Henry of Laurel [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 14]. She was from New York-New Jersey and was astounded at the way drivers here camp out in the left lanes.

My advice to her is to get used to the way people drive in Maryland. I've been here 25 years, and driving here has been as she describes it since I arrived.

I have driven in many other states, and Maryland is by far the most frustrating state I've driven in. I'd rather drive in Boston!

My response to Dr. Gridlock's question "Is it different in New York and New Jersey?" is a resounding yes! In general, drivers in New York, New Jersey and much of New England see you coming and move to the right. That seems to be true in many states.

The large preponderance of drivers in Maryland use the left lane as their own travel lane. They don't pull over and let someone pass. I've even had drivers look in their rearview mirrors, see me behind them and stay where they are. So much for common courtesy.

My suggestion is to learn to drive in all three lanes. Passing on the right is legal in Maryland, only one of two or three states where that is legal. Also, there is no law or rule that says people must pull over to let someone pass. In Maryland, there is no such thing as a "passing lane." All lanes are travel lanes.

Paul Otto


Sad but true.

Driving Maturity

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked whether drivers behave differently in New York and New Jersey. Yes, they do.

While New York and New Jersey drivers very often have unorthodox driving habits, there are a few things we do up there that people don't do down here.

First, fast in left lane, slow in right lane is the rule of the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Everyone knows it, and few people fight it with childish ploys to get faster drivers to slow down.

Second, you're supposed to alternate at the point of a merge. Alternating is far more efficient than "every man for himself."

Third, when there's snow or freezing rain, people up there figured out years ago that you shouldn't speed to get home before the weather gets bad. It's already bad. Slow down.

In general, the New York area has unwritten rules of the road. Here, there are no local rules. Maybe it's because so many people are new to the area. Or, maybe the sophisticated traffic driving habits of the New York metropolitan region are a result of greater experience in driving in traffic.

Maybe D.C. area residents have not matured into traffic drivers yet.

Seth Kaufman


I'll say this: No big city I've ever been in has taxi drivers who drive so fast and so recklessly as in New York City.

Ignored Interstate

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Another thing about that stretch of Interstate 95 between the Capital and Baltimore beltways: There are traffic cameras all over, but you can't pull up any of them on the Internet to see what the traffic looks like. Seems that Prince George's and Howard counties, mostly, don't want to show their traffic woes.

It's bad enough that traffic reports don't pay much attention to I-95 in Howard County unless there's a big accident, which often leads to uninformed directions on where exactly an accident has occurred on that stretch of I-95.

Maria Agara

Ellicott City

Try this Web site: It is run by the Maryland State Highway Administration and includes some live camera feeds. Certainly Interstate 95 is one of the main focal points. Please try it and write back.

License at 18, Not 16

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My heart is again saddened by the loss of another teenager due to 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, 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?

Rosalie Goosby

Dale City

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.

Jim Burridge


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.

Avoiding Tailgaters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding your Oct. 7 column, I could only shake my head when you characterized maintaining speed while touching the brake pedal as "gimmickry," which my dictionary defines as being "novel or tricky."

What is novel or tricky about using brake lights to help someone behind you slow down when they're traveling too fast? What else are brake lights for?

Brakes slow you; brake lights slow the people behind you. If you doubt that, disconnect your brake lights and see how long it takes to be rear-ended.

Putting on your right turn signal and changing lanes as soon as possible is absolutely the right move when traffic allows, but it doesn't work too well on the one-lane-in-each-direction country roads out here in Maryland, where changing lanes means driving off the road into a tree or ditch. Thanks for the suggestion, but I'll pass (pardon the pun).

I'll continue to use my brake lights for their designed purpose: to warn drivers behind me when they're traveling too fast. That's not novel, tricky or gimmickry.

Jan Wessling


I disagree. Touching your brake pedal to "help" a tailgater slow down might also cause the tailgater to slam on his brakes at the sight of your brake lights and perhaps then cause the driver behind him to rear-end him, propelling his car into another lane or into oncoming traffic. Or, touching the brake pedal may cause the tailgater to crash into you, sending your car out of control.

The tailgater shouldn't be tailgating, we can agree. But it's not your job to get him to slow down. You can incur further risk by doing so.

Better to signal a right turn and move right as soon as possible, or use a pullout or cross street to shake the tailgater, or try traveling on wider roads.

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, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county, and day and evening telephone numbers.