Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My fiance and I are planning to move soon. I will be working in Annapolis, and his job is in Manassas.

Any suggestions on a location that would minimize commute times? In particular, what would traffic be like if we lived in Alexandria? Silver Spring?

Thanks so much for your help.

Caroline Miller


You might try Prince George's County. Each of you would be commuting against the rush-hour traffic flow. Your husband could connect with rail to Manassas.

I would not live in Alexandria, nice as it is, because housing is so expensive, or in Silver Spring, because traffic in Montgomery County is so bad.

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.

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.

Taking On Delivery Vehicles

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 your examples down 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.

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/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

Avoid 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 would 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 walk 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.

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 that 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 the driver 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.

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.