Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you stand another letter about driver training for teenagers?

My nephew in Germany mentioned in an e-mail that his oldest son will be turning 18 and eligible for a driver's license. That will cost him 1,500 euros, or over $1,800 (one euro currently equals about $1.23).

Driver education students take 14 units of theory, each one lasting 11/2 hours. Theory includes traffic laws, the basics of how your car works, how to identify simple problems and how to change tires.

Then there are 12 mandatory driving lessons, and each one lasts 45 minutes. The lessons include practice on suburban and country roads, on Autobahn expressways and at night. The instructor determines if additional practice is needed in city traffic.

Each lesson costs around 45 euros, depending on the location.

That costly process, in time as well as money, can be a deterrent to getting a license unless really necessary.

Sigrid Washington


Thanks for the breakdown on the German system -- expensive and intensive -- as opposed to our system -- cheap and cursory. We need to find a better way than flipping the keys to the SUV to poorly trained teenagers on their 16th birthdays.

Ticket -- and Tow

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In past columns, readers have wondered why illegally parked cars are not ticketed during rush hour. I commute daily on Connecticut Avenue and often see cars with one or more tickets blocking needed lanes.

I question why the towing laws, which are clearly marked on a multitude of signs, are not enforced!

The parked cars often create a dangerous situation where drivers have to come to sudden stops and then negotiate merging into other lanes of moving traffic. I have often seen or been in many such situations where accidents were narrowly avoided and traffic flow was severely disrupted.

Either these cars should be towed or the signs should be removed for a less obscured view!

Mark McCullough


Illegal parking during rush hours is the number one reason for gridlock in downtown Washington. Not only is a lane of traffic taken up by one miscreant, but drivers trying to get around the obstacle have to make risky merges.

First comes the ticket, then the tow. The city will ticket and tow illegally parked cars that are reported by the public, according to Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

The way to report them is to call 202-727-1000 and get a tracking number. If you report chronic situations and see that nothing is done, send me an e-mail in a month, along with your tracking number.

Whatever the city's approach to illegal parking, the amount of it that goes on suggests the remedy is not working very well.

Fighting a Fine

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you have any idea if it is possible to fight the doubling of a fine for a photo-enforcement speeding ticket after a first notice was supposedly ignored? In fact, I never received it.

I suspect the first notice was never even mailed.

If you hear of many complaints like this, I would wonder if it might be a common practice by the District government as a way to double its traffic ticket income.

Lee Breakiron

Fort Washington

I hear about this from time to time, but not enough to see it as a systemic problem.

What you have to do, unfortunately, is go through the ticket adjudication process. The hearing examiner will decide whether your story rings true enough to warrant dismissal, according to Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

Buses in HOV Lane

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Do you know what the policy is for buses using the HOV lanes in Virginia? I mean buses that have only the driver in them -- no passengers.

Why should they be able to use HOV lanes when there is only a single person in them? They are hardly fuel-efficient and clean-burning, like the hybrid vehicles.

I use the HOV lane on Interstate 66 traveling east in the morning. Between 5:45 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., there is always a Fairfax County school bus tooling along in the HOV lane at precisely 55 mph. I've passed the bus on occasion and have not seen students on board. I suspect the driver picked the bus up from the school bus depot on West Ox Road and is traveling to McLean or somewhere to start picking up students.

He causes a real backup in the lane, with other drivers taking chances in switching lanes to get around him.

I also see this with commercial buses: just a driver, no passengers.

Is that legal?

Cindy Jennings


Yes, so long as the empty bus is on the way to pick up passengers or has just dropped them off.

To pursue this, call the chief of bus transportation for the Fairfax County school system at 703-246-2631. Tim Parker is one of the senior people and a friend of Dr. Gridlock's.

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.