Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have enjoyed your column immensely for as long as I have been a subscriber. Reading it has given rise to several strong feelings, such as my great admiration for those brave souls who commute in the Washington metropolitan area on a daily basis and my firm determination to avoid it as much as possible.

Here in the wilds of Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, the drivers have all of the same attributes as yours but are relatively fewer in number. The real distinction is in the roads themselves, which are usually very narrow, without shoulders, and hilly and curvy.

Trying to drive safely and sensibly here is often a terrifying experience, since many others are chronically late and trying to make up time by intimidating others to drive faster.

That is especially so in the case of the omnipresent dump trucks and mixer trucks.

I am very much interested in hearing advice from others who also suffer through this same experience.

Harold Crosthwaite

Earlysville

We've got plenty of those curvy, hilly two-lane roads without shoulders up here in Loudoun County. And more and more, they are being used as commuter shortcuts. Sometimes the choice is between secondary roads that are jammed with traffic or the dangerous two-lane roads.

We've got plenty of dump trucks, too. Just check the mega-subdivisions continuing to sprout in eastern Loudoun County without any improvements scheduled for adjacent Route 50. If you have less traffic, count your blessings!

Anyone have any two-lane driving tips?

Move Out of the Way

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to a statement by reader Maude Hales [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 21], "I have never seen or heard of a case of tailgating in which the tailgater was not trying to drive in excess of the speed limit," I must take issue.

I see this at least 10 times a day, every day. On my way to work, I invariably get behind someone in the left lane going 55 mph (in a 65 mph zone) on the Dulles Greenway.

There won't be a soul within eyesight of this person. Personally, I don't tailgate them, but I see others who do. This happens on every road, every day, Ms. Hales, and judging by your incredible lack of having ever seen it, I would bet you are probably one of those causing the problem.

Tailgating is wrong and dangerous, but how hard is it to move out of the left passing lane when conditions warrant (i.e., no one else around you, you aren't making a left turn coming up in a mile or less, etc.)? Move out of the way, whether the tailgater wants to go the speed limit (as described above) or higher.

Unless you are a police officer, it is not your job to police the roadway. I cannot believe how many drivers think it is their job to govern the road and then question why they subsequently get stuck in situations with angry drivers.

If drivers would stop wasting time arguing with Dr. Gridlock on why they have the right to sit in a passing lane, and just move out of the way, tailgating would no longer be an issue.

Kyle W. Thompson

Leesburg

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

Arlington

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 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.

Jane Auker

Reston

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