Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Most of the major highways in the area are now equipped with electronic message signs. When it rains, perhaps those signs could display this message: "Headlights On When Wipers Are On. It's the Law."

Michael Resnick


Joan Morris, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said there are ground-mounted signs to convey the wipers/headlights message at the entrances into the state on major roads. Putting safety messages on the variable message signs is against VDOT policy, she said.

Morris said messages designed to relay a public service announcement, such as catchphrases, greetings, jingles and general safety statements, are not permitted on the electronic signs. The policy restricts the signs to messages about traffic incident situations, such as current and future construction and maintenance activities, adverse road conditions, special events and other emergency issues.

Sometimes, dealing with VDOT about signs makes me tear my hair out. And there's not much left.

Keep Registration With You

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A recent article in The Post about auto theft recommended not leaving one's vehicle registration card in the auto. I had understood that it was necessary to keep the registration with the auto to prove ownership. What do you advise?

Martha Mathis


Put it in your wallet or purse.

Taking On Delivery Vans

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A few months ago you asked readers to send in instances of illegal parking by United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery vehicles in the District.

Do you plan a follow-up with the results of that request?

Iolaire McFadden


This is it. I never received examples of illegal parking that included all the information needed for UPS headquarters in Atlanta to track down the violator. This is a good chance for motorists to do something about these lane-blockers.

I need the address of the alleged illegal parking, the number of the truck, the direction it is headed, and the time and date.

If I get that information, I'll track down your examples and get back to you.

P.S.: I got the sense that UPS management would look for alternate parking spots for chronic violators brought to their attention.

A Curfew for Trucks?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

While other readers have been busily observing cheaters in the HOV lanes, I have been observing the regular lanes instead. And what strikes me as very odd (and correctible?) is the many out-of-state 18-wheelers going through our area during peak commuter hours.

Each truck takes up the space of three or four automobiles and emits clouds of sickening fumes. And the irony is that these drivers are paid by the mile, which makes the decision to time their trips to coincide with and exacerbate commuters' suffering doubly stupid.

I wonder if a meeting of the minds between representatives of the trucking industry and traffic/highway authorities could not come up with some ideas that would benefit both the truck drivers and our local commuters.

If interstate truck traffic on interstate highways within 30 miles of the U.S. Capitol were restricted, say, to the hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., I think we'd see improvements immediately, without costly road improvements.

Just a thought.

Rita Mattia


As I understand it, the commercial life of our area requires access to businesses. To prohibit traffic for 12 hours a day sounds like too much of an impediment to the flow of commerce.

Be Aware of Bikes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Thanks for printing "Be Aware of Bikes" [Dr. Gridlock, May 22]. When I took the mandatory defensive driving class in high school, I learned that after parallel parking a vehicle, it is best for the driver to slide over to the passenger door to exit.

Otherwise, be certain to check for passing traffic before opening the left door, as you are liable for anything that hits your door.

In elementary school bicycle safety class, I was taught to check every parked car I passed for occupants to ensure that a door would not open on me. For many years, that strategy worked. I was only "doored" once by a motorist, and his insurance readily paid for the damage.

These days, with headrests and tinted windows obstructing views, and with more motorists not checking for passing cyclists, it is no longer practicable to bike near vehicles.

I regret that I now must cycle out in the right lane and possibly annoy motorists.

Tim Bouquet


You're entitled to that lane. If that's where you feel safest, take it.

Handling Harassment

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding your answer to Kirstin Nickerson from Silver Spring [Dr. Gridlock, May 26], about the commercial vehicle drivers who are harassing her: Switching her walking route to another street is not the solution; reporting the drivers to their employers is.

Most of these vehicles are labeled with the company's name and phone number. All she would need to do is take notes and call the companies when she gets home.

No one -- man, woman or dog -- should have to change their route to avoid rude truck drivers.

Monique Kline

Silver Spring

I get complaints all the time about bad driver behavior.

People want the problem fixed. They want me to fix it. They want the police to fix it. They want God to fix it. But, of course, it doesn't get fixed.

So when I get a letter with a problem that the complainant can so easily fix herself -- by walking her dogs on a different, quieter route -- I jump at that solution. That's the advice I'd give my adult daughters.

A number of people, including one of my editors, criticized my view, saying, as you have, that the woman should notify the trucking companies and not be driven off her route.

To which I say: The truck drivers know her route. They could retaliate.

Like pulling right to let a tailgater go by, better to walk away from a confrontation.

No Parking on Sidewalks

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have been told that it is illegal to park across a sidewalk that crosses your driveway.

However, in many Montgomery County neighborhoods, I have noticed vehicles blocking the sidewalk.

This practice seems dangerous, given that most pedestrians will walk into the street rather than into someone's yard to get around the car.

Also, it seems dangerous for people using wheelchairs, the elderly, and children to have to go in the street to avoid someone who does not want to park on the street.

Why don't the police enforce the law and give those people tickets? And why do I have to shovel snow from my sidewalk within 24 hours when my neighbor can just block the sidewalk with his car all the time?

Elise Rumford

Takoma Park

Go to your nearest police station and report the locations of chronic abuse. Drivers have no right to block sidewalks.

Lines in the Darkness

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have noticed for several years how difficult it is to see the white dividing lines at major intersections when it is raining or dark outside.

Often the headlights from other vehicles reflect off the surface of the wet roadways, masking the dividing lines to the point that a driver has to be extra vigilant to not meander into another driver's lane.

I think the solution is simple physically and worth the cost financially: Every intersection should have road reflectors installed on top of the dividing lines.

Michael S. Stanton


A common problem.

People can't see the lines in the dark or when it's raining. There are devices that can be embedded into the pavement and reflect back light, but those are more expensive than painting the lines.

Western states use raised disks that provide plenty of visibility.

Using those here wouldn't work because snowplows would scrape them off, I'm told.

Whoever solves this problem will reign forever.

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.