Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Bob Stelmaszek wrote about the "sheer lunacy" of some frustrated commuters and suggested it is caused by drivers who drive too slowly and camp in the left lane [Dr. Gridlock, May 19].

I, too, am a solo commuter from the Annapolis area. With the standard speed on Route 50 now at 80 mph, I wonder how much faster Mr. Stelmaszek would like to go? Is he one of the many drivers who are passing in the right lanes at 90 mph?

Also, with all three regular lanes fully loaded with cars moving between 70 mph and 80 mph, it isn't likely that people are going to move out of the left lane into the center or right lane. There is no room for them there.

Roads such as Route 50 are local streets that carry auto loads beyond their designed capacity. They are not interstate highways or German autobahns, and the idea that the left lane can be left empty except for speeding passers is totally unrealistic.

Mr. Stelmaszek is correct in his comments about the left HOV lane. It is probably the most underutilized lane in the entire Washington metropolitan area. A high percentage of those using it are solo drivers, but traffic does move better on Route 50 since that lane was opened. It would create major traffic jams if police were stopping and pulling over the scofflaws who choose to use it.

Enforcement of the HOV law in that lane should be by either cameras or unmarked cars with cameras, so that illegal users do not have to be stopped. Semi-opaque windows that cameras cannot see through should be illegal.

Jim McLaughlin


Routing Around New York

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You had directions on how to avoid driving through the New York City area. I cut them out of the paper but lost them.

We will be towing a 36-foot trailer and want to avoid that area. Thanks.

Russ Willett


Here are suggested routes around New York for various destinations:

Get to the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) north and get off at Interstate 83 north. Follow that interstate into Pennsylvania, connecting to Interstate 81 north near Harrisburg.

At Scranton, Pa., take Interstate 84 east across New York State and Connecticut. I-84 connects with Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Head east to Boston.

For Vermont and New Hampshire, try Interstate 91 north from Interstate 84 in Hartford. Readers advise avoiding Hartford during rush hours.

This route may be longer, but is cheaper and more scenic, and avoids New York City. Let me know how it works.

Completing I-95?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been asking one question for many years: When will Interstate 95 be completed?

As you know, traffic from I-95 in Maryland gets off onto the Capital Beltway, circles halfway around and then exits back onto I-95 heading south to Richmond.

That phenomenon occurs only here, in the Maryland and Virginia corridor. Interstate 95 traffic bypasses the Baltimore Beltway.

When will our transportation planners complete the I-95 project?

Walter W. Woo

Upper Marlboro

Not in our lifetime, if ever.

I-95 was to have run right through the District, bypassing our Beltway, but city officials didn't want it. The federal money was transferred to the Metro system.

School Bus Scofflaws

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What has happened to drivers in Maryland when it comes to the laws regarding school buses? On my way home today, I saw a bus stopped on Route 355. The left and right lanes of traffic had stopped, but three cars in the center lane just kept driving through.

Later, when turning into my own neighborhood, I stopped for a school bus with its red lights flashing. A young female driver, talking away on her cell phone, came flying up behind me, slammed on her brakes to avoid rear-ending me and then had the nerve to beep her horn at me for not moving!

Not only is it illegal to not stop for a school bus, but the ramifications of not stopping do not bear thinking about. Two seconds after the driver behind beeped at me, a small girl walked across the street in front of the bus.

Would it be possible for the police to crack down on school bus runners to see if it helps to remind people of the law?

Ann Cornejo


I hope police have this traffic violation at the top of their list. Stopping for a school bus with its red lights flashing should be automatic. I can say that in 33 years of driving in this area, I've never seen anyone blow by a bus. I hope what you're reporting is not becoming a trend.

Tell the Parents

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Almost every day, just after the local high school was dismissed, a young driver would drive down our street and gun his motor, making a very loud noise with the spinning tires.

One day I saw his parked car and got the tag number. With that information, I went to the front door. His father answered. I told the father what was happening, and said I was not going to do anything at that time, but would report it to the police if it happened again.

He never pulled that antic again.

Patricia Bailer

Silver Spring

Bumper stickers with the parents' phone number also might help correct bad behavior of young drivers.

Driver Training

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From time to time, you have provided information on defensive driving courses for teens. I have been searching the Web without much luck in finding the one I sent two grandchildren to in the past. They were particularly good, with hands-on training and solid tips that have helped both my grandkids in tough situations during the past few years.

I would like to refer others to the group but have given away all the literature received online, and I changed computers without keeping the Web site in my favorites file.

I would greatly appreciate a list of the best ones you have listed in the past.

Walter Ochs


I have mentioned three companies:

(1) Car Guys Inc., of Rockville, 800-800-GUYS.

(2) BSR Inc., of Summit Point, W.Va., 304-725-6512.

(3) Driver's Edge, of Las Vegas, which has touring clinics that come to this area, 702-896-6482.

I've received positive feedback on all of them.

Considerate Bus Drivers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A bunch of us -- ages 18 to 48 and immigrants to the area from Hong Kong, Chicago and Connecticut -- were talking about mass transit in Washington. One thing we agreed on is that the District has the most considerate bus drivers in the world.

They will hold the bus for you if they see you running to catch it and will drop you off mid-block if the official stop would be more difficult due to weather or heavy luggage.

Most drivers also enforce decent behavior on their bus, taking pride in their role as captain of the ship.

We would like to set up a small fund for drivers to thank them. What do you think? Would the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority allow that? Would you administer it?

Willy Wilson


This letter nearly knocked me off my bus stop bench. I'm glad to have it. Check with Metro about your fund idea at 202-637-1328.

Speedometers and Speed

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why do speedometers go up to 140 mph when, in general, speed limits do not go above 70 mph?

Isn't having a speedometer with 140 mph a temptation for drivers to speed? Why can't car manufacturers limit the speedometer to 80 mph? It might help.

Scott Schneider

Silver Spring

I agree with you. My Toyota speedometer at the 12 o'clock position reads 80 mph. It then continues to 140 mph. Those higher numbers are useless. The space would be better utilized indicating five-mile intervals of the lower speeds we all usually drive.

When to Change Oil

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You recently published tips from readers about how to keep their cars running longer. One was to change the oil frequently.

Several years ago, Consumer Reports published an article describing how the magazine had intended to rate motor oils. What the magazine discovered was that all oils that met certain standards appeared to perform equally.

Despite meticulous tests conducted on New York City taxicabs with specially rebuilt engines and carefully calibrated pistons, the testers could not document any wear after 10,000 miles.

So they instead tested for the optimum frequency of vehicle oil changes. After running up another 10,000 miles or so, they simply gave up and advised motorists to change the oil per the manufacturer's recommendations.

From the Web site today:

"Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.

"Reality: Although oil companies and quick-lube shops like to promote this idea, it's usually not necessary. Go by the recommended oil change schedule in your vehicle's owner's manual. Most vehicles driven under normal conditions can go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Some models now come with a monitoring system that alerts the driver when the oil needs changing. Depending on driving conditions, these can extend change intervals to 10,000 or 15,000 miles."

Jay Anania

Chevy Chase

All that may be true. However, of the dozens of readers who explained to me how they kept their vehicles running for hundreds of thousands of miles, the number one reason given was oil changes every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.

Crossing at Mid-Block

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You had it exactly wrong when you objected to the reader who suggested crossing streets mid-block instead of at intersections, where more traffic from different directions poses a greater threat.

At intersections, Montgomery County motorists, who aim to maim, occupy crosswalks, run red lights and turn right on red without either stopping or looking at who is trying to cross. In Montgomery, it seems that a red light means it is permissible to stop.

To be safer, pedestrians need to cross mid-block, where they have a clearer view of the motorists who are trying to run them down.

One of the reasons I am quitting work is that to get there I have to walk across Rockville Pike. I don't want to die in a hit-and-run.

Charles Kelber


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.