Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute from Waldorf to Warrenton. It amazes me when the Virginia Department of Transportation schedules road work on a major commuter route during the day on Fridays. I've been making my commute for two years during different times of the day, and I find Friday to be the busiest weekday for travel.

On May 13, VDOT closed the left lane of Interstate 95 south in the Lorton area. Traffic was backed up on the Capital Beltway all the way to Telegraph Road to the east and past Braddock Road to the west.

Maybe I'm missing the big picture here, but it seems that someone at VDOT should understand the extent of disruption to traffic that a lane shutdown can cause at that time and on that day.

Do you know if VDOT considers the day of the week when scheduling road work?

Edward Donaldson


Maryland and Virginia will suspend construction on holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, but I'm not aware of suspension of work on Fridays. I take your point, though, as Friday is the most congested weekday on our roads.

But each Friday that work would be suspended would mean a longer period to complete a project, meaning a longer time for interruptions. Tough call. What do you think?

Stop for School Buses

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A recent letter in your column pointed out local drivers' disregard for stopped school buses. You mentioned that, in your 33 years of driving in the area, you had never seen a car blow by a stopped bus. I, unfortunately, have seen far too many.

I walk my grandson to a school bus stop in our neighborhood each morning and meet him each afternoon. During the past school session, I gave the Montgomery County Police Department the license numbers and vehicle and driver descriptions of five cars that failed to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights. There have been at least five others whose license numbers I didn't get.

When I have requested that the police put a patrol car at this bus stop, I have been told that they don't have the resources. However, they do seem to have the resources to have one and sometimes two patrol cars parked half a block away, writing tickets for drivers making illegal turns.

It seems that police priorities need to be changed.

Doug Milton


Other than an outlaw speeding down a street with guns blazing, it's hard to imagine a higher police priority than protecting our children from reckless drivers at school bus stops.

How Germans Train

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 becoming eligible for a driver's license. That will cost him 1,500 euros, or more than $1,800.

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, each one 45 minutes long. 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.

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.

Eating on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

What should passengers do when they see someone eating or drinking in the Metro system? It happens frequently.

I am loath to approach the individual, as it might prompt a verbal or physical confrontation. I asked a station attendant once. He shrugged his shoulders, saying there was not much he could do.

Maybe some of your readers have suggestions. As I mentioned, I prefer not to approach someone when the outcome could be a fight.

Dennis McCann

American Embassy, Athens

Your instinct not to challenge the person is a good one. One option is to duck out of your car during a station stop, enter another car and use call the operator on the intercom. Do you folks have other suggestions?

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.