Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Although I generally agree with the letter from Jeff Ludwig [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 7] that District police do not do enough to tackle the city's traffic woes, I would like to commend the officer who regularly directs traffic at the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown during the evening rush hours.

Perhaps his greatest achievement has nothing to do with cars, but rather with keeping pedestrians at that busy intersection in check.

I have seen several walkers who chose to selfishly use the crosswalk after the light had changed get "called on the carpet" by the officer.

The effect of such proactive enforcement has been a clearly better flow of traffic through Georgetown since he has come on duty there.

Please extend to him a very big thanks for a job well done.

Stephen Smith


The young man is a volunteer, a reserve police officer who works without pay. He decided traffic control was where he could make his contribution count the most. To date, it's more of an individual achievement than a system-wide effort. We certainly need more like him.

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 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.

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 states to stop issuing driver's licenses to children under the age of 18.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.

Supporting Soldiers

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


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 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.

Terry Walsh


Such decent thoughts.

Avoid Taking a Peek

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.

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 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.

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.