Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been reading your column online for a few months now and find it both fascinating and a little depressing because of all the reports of miserable traffic and terrible drivers.

It makes me feel very relieved that my commute is only the 10-minute drive from Greenbelt to College Park, and that I don't have to deal with the stress of a long Beltway commute like so many of your contributors.

My question is unrelated to traffic, actually. I am always confused when new entries appear on your column page online.

Today, for instance, 10 new links appeared on your page, each pointing to what looks like a different set of letters. In reality, however, the links just lead to the same set of 12 or 13 letters repeated over and over again, usually in a different order.

Couldn't the person who puts your column online either consolidate all the letters into one entry or make one link for each letter? My guess is that you don't have anything to do with what goes up on the Web site, but if you took a look at it you would see what I mean.

Laura Hadley


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. Visit My next session is on Monday.

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 teenager 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.

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.

Resist Rubbernecking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently, I sat in stop-and-go traffic (maximum speed 10 mph) for approximately 20 minutes in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes traveling north on Interstate 395. Why? A major accident in the regular lanes of I-395 north near the Washington Boulevard exit triggered yet another outrageous example of mass rubbernecking.

So, although there were no blockages in the HOV lanes, HOV traffic was backed up several miles because of my fellow commuters' inability to keep their eyes focused on the road ahead of them.

A rubbernecker is defined by my dictionary as an "overly inquisitive person" who "looks about, stares, or listens with exaggerated curiosity." As much as we hate to admit it, many of us fit that description.

We endanger ourselves and others by recklessly exceeding the speed limit en route to our destination, but are more than willing to slow down to catch a fleeting glimpse of the goings-on in another lane.

The first step toward combating rubbernecking is education. Local advertising campaigns and questions included in the driver's license exam will raise public awareness of the problem.

Second, solutions must be implemented. Those could include visual barriers between north and southbound lanes and signs posted at regular intervals along the freeway warning against the practice.

Finally, blatant rubberneckers should be charged with a moving violation and subjected to a fine.

Unless this issue is addressed, it will continue to tie up area roadways, confounding even the most ingenious transportation planners.

Ryan Velthuis


We recognize the problem, but I don't know what the cure is. If we've been waiting a long time to pass an accident scene, there is a feeling that we certainly have earned a look when it's our turn. Maybe screens deployed by police would help.

Flag Formalities

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the small American flags people are flying from their cars: It's okay with me, but there are problems. I see flags that are dirty and shredded and flying in heavy rainstorms, and at night, when they're not lit up.

They're not following the rules for flying the flag. I don't think it's patriotic to treat the American flag that way.

Ferd G. Kuyatt

Silver Spring

If we're going to fly flags from our vehicles, we need to mind their condition. And the flag is supposed to be illuminated at night if not lowered at sunset.

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.