Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I belong to a Washington area club whose membership is scattered throughout the area. We could meet at 6 p.m. in either Bethesda or Falls Church.

I wanted to get your take on which location would minimize the collective commute time for the club.

One strike against Falls Church, for the Marylanders at least, is that traffic seems to be backed up going south from Bethesda to Falls Church on the Capital Beltway at that time, which makes the drive take up to an hour. The drive back, at 9 p.m., takes only 15 minutes.

I am curious as to which location you would recommend.

Jason Taylor


Neither. You're sending people to a meeting in the teeth of evening rush hour. Each location is traffic-choked.

How about an 8 p.m. meeting?

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 [Montgomery Extra, May 19].

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


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.

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. The magazine discovered 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 No. 1 reason given was oil changes every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.

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.

Avoiding I-95 North

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your column once provided an alternative route around the Interstate 95 corridor to New England. I thought I had saved the articles, but they are lost. Is there any way I can get that information again? Thank you.

Tom Fox

Silver Spring

Here's an alternative route for driving to Boston, Cape Cod or Maine:

Take Interstate 270 north to Frederick and catch Route 15 north to Route 581 east, just south of Harrisburg, Pa.

From Route 581, connect with Interstate 83 north and then Interstate 81 north toward Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pa.

At Scranton, take Interstate 84 east across New York and Connecticut, merging into Interstate 90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) at Sturbridge, Mass. Take the turnpike east to Boston.

For Vermont and New Hampshire, take Interstate 91 north from Interstate 84 at Hartford. Note: Readers advise avoiding Hartford during rush hours.

That way may be a little longer than the Interstate 95 corridor, but it is cheaper and much more scenic, and it avoids New York City.

Seeking 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, as I am certain I will recognize the organization and be able to go to its Web site for information.

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.

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.