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.

Counting Children

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Much has been written about HOV violators and whether they or hybrid-car drivers are more to blame for clogging HOV lanes. What about people transporting children not of driving age? That kind of trip is not eliminating another vehicle from the commuting lanes, nor is it reducing emissions as hybrids do.

How does Dr. Gridlock feel about changing the HOV laws to require two or three driving-age adults in the vehicle in order to qualify for HOV status?

Rob Pixley


Not good. It's hard enough to enforce the existing laws. Cheaters are the major source of congestion in the HOV lanes. Trying to fine-tune the law by age strikes me as too much. Besides, the law draws no distinction. A person is a person.

When East Is West

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding the recent Chesapeake Bay Bridge update in your column, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) can reverse one of the three westbound lanes to serve heavier eastbound traffic at any time. When that is done, vehicles using the far left, eastbound toll booths must use the westbound bridge. One of those toll booths is dedicated to E-ZPass.

Driving eastbound over the westbound bridge is nerve-racking and dangerous, as both eastbound and westbound cars are traveling on the same three-lane bridge.

The dedicated E-ZPass booths are a great idea, but E-ZPass drivers who do not know about an upcoming lane change and do not want to use the westbound bridge are penalized.

Also, this approach is a disincentive to use this E-ZPass booth. MdTA must warn drivers approaching this booth that they will be forced to go over the westbound bridge. Why not have several dedicated booths for E-ZPass, as New York does at its bridge and tunnel approaches? That way the driver can use his or her discretion as to which bridge to use.

Joel Greenstein


The Chesapeake Bay Bridge has three booths for E-ZPass use: No. 1 and No. 2 on the left, and No. 9 on the right. That is out of a total of 11 lanes. A car passing through E-ZPass booth No. 9 would not normally be directed to use the westbound bridge in times of heavy eastbound traffic.

Currently, E-ZPass users do not stop at the bridge toll facility. They are proceeding in line at about 15 mph through the toll gates, according to Byron Johnston, MdTA spokesman.

As payment by electronic transponder increases in popularity, more E-ZPass booths will be added, Johnston said. To learn more about E-ZPass, log on to

For updates on congestion at the Bay Bridge, call 1-877-BAYSPAN, or log on to

With You, Not the Car

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.

Be Aware of Bikes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

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.

Distracting DVD Screens

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A distracted driver can cause death, so drivers who complain of being distracted by other vehicles' DVD screens have a point.

At the same time, reader Karen Stohr's defense of DVDs for the benefit of strapped-in children, and the drivers who attend to them, is also extremely valid [Dr. Gridlock, May 19].

I propose that any DVD screen in a vehicle be located behind the driver on the left side of the vehicle, not in the center. It should also be angled so passengers inside a car can see it, but drivers in trailing vehicles would not be able to see enough of the screen to distract them.

I also propose that a partial shade or blind be installed at the left side of the DVD-operating vehicle to block the screen from a driver in a trailing vehicle.

For safety reasons, many jurisdictions forbid blacked-out rear windows, to give drivers an unobstructed view. With the advent of ample side-view mirrors, such laws should be modified to permit the use of a partial shade when a DVD screen is in use.

Harold Boroson

Silver Spring

As DVD screens in vehicles become more popular, new regulations limiting the distraction to other drivers will be needed.

Headlights On, Wipers On

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 to 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 catch phrases, 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.

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.

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.