Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With gas prices making operating my 2002 Toyota Sequoia more expensive, I have adopted a strategy of driving 5 to 10 mph lower than the posted speed limit to improve gas mileage.

As a result, I have noticed that navigating has been much smoother, and I feel safer.

However, I frequently notice that vehicles drive up close behind me and then speed around to pass on the left, as if I am impeding their travel.

I believe road mannerliness is an art that needs more attention and documentation in the region. I witness many signs of good and bad road manners.

I don't wish to inflame other drivers, which could create a more dangerous and expensive commute, nor do I want other drivers' impatience to cost me more money in fuel consumption. What should I do?

Drew Asher

Columbia

It depends on whether you are on an interstate highway or secondary roads. I would not recommend that you drive 45 mph on the Capital Beltway, which has a 55 mph speed limit, because people actually drive 70 to 80 mph there. I have the same advice for Interstate 95 between the Capital and Baltimore beltways.

You should be able to drive more slowly on secondary roads, as long as you can put up with the tailgaters who want to pass you.

I'd map out roads that are the least traveled and proceed with your method.

Report Lane Weavers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Capital Beltway, I often see drivers changing lanes numerous times to get one car ahead. Yesterday, when traffic was backed up from Interstate 66 to the American Legion Bridge, I observed a car changing lanes six times. At one point, another car had to move to the shoulder to avoid being hit.

By the time we got across the bridge, I was ahead of the lane weaver by having stayed in the same lane.

How about if the electronic alert signs advised: "Because of heavy traffic, no lane changes except to exit the Beltway." That would possibly speed up traffic and certainly cut down on fender benders.

Donna Mason

Fulton

I've heard of laws that prohibit lane changes in tunnels but none that prohibit changes anywhere else. I don't think drivers or the police are ready for the kind of discipline you propose.

That said, lane weavers are a real annoyance and a real danger. Feel free to report them on #77 on your cell phone.

Railroad Crossing Rx

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A few years back, I remember reading in one of your columns an address where one could report railroad crossings in need of repair.

What is that address?

The railroad crossing on Route 6 in the town of La Plata is absolutely atrocious and in need of immediate attention, with many pieces of metal lying about and holes to suck up tires.

Whom can we complain to?

Andy Andrews

La Plata

CSX Corp. headquarters is in Jacksonville, Fla. Call 800-325-8182, its nonemergency hotline, with complaints. Please clip this out and put in the pocket of your vehicle. You may need it again.

Teens and Motorcycles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

From reading your column over the years, I am aware that you are a strong advocate of thorough driver training for teenage drivers. My teenage daughter will be turning 16 in March, and she is already taking classroom instruction at her school. She has her learner's permit and has proven to be a sensible and cautious driver.

She drives defensively, follows the rules of the road and treats other drivers courteously. If only all drivers were like that!

Now for the problem. Her father, my ex-husband, wants to get her a motorcycle for her birthday. I objected very strongly, but I realize that other than forbidding her to ride it in my presence, my hands are tied.

It has been suggested that I am overreacting to this matter, but I truly am not trying to rain on her parade. The thought of this terrifies me, but my main concern is not her driving ability. It's the driving ability, or lack thereof, of everyone else on the road.

I am honestly concerned for her safety. Her father has a motorcycle and occasionally takes both our children riding, but he has been driving for 35 years.

Am I overreacting? Are there any statistics that support my belief that common sense says this is a bad idea? Are there any parents out there who have been through this? And lastly, if she gets the motorcycle, are there any specific motorcycle training programs?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Nancy Jennings

Fairfax

I'm with you, Mom. A 16-year-old operating a motorcycle scares me to death, and I wonder, if you have custody, why you couldn't prevent it until she turns 18? Don't you have to give your permission for her to get a driver's license?

Here's more from Norman Grimm Jr., a safety expert for the American Automobile Association:

"You have an inexperienced driver who needs to learn, and any parent should want to surround that child with as much protection as possible. And here they are on two wheels, with no protection other than a helmet," Grimm said. He said he wouldn't allow it, either.

Motorcycle training courses are offered at Northern Virginia Community College campuses in Loudoun County, 703-450-2551, and Alexandria, 703-845-6110.

Good luck, Mom. Keep me posted.

Tollbooth Bust

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently I was driving south on Interstate 95 and about to enter the Fort McHenry Tunnel. The far-right tollbooth's green light was on, but I found the booth door closed and no attendant.

I wasn't going to back up, so I went through and heard the buzzer. What should I have done?

Bob Koenig

Bethesda

You did the right thing. Officials don't want drivers backing up in traffic, because other motorists wouldn't be expecting it.

The buzzer indicated you had not paid the $2 toll. A photograph of your license plate was taken, and you will receive a bill for the toll. It is important to pay that promptly, according to Bryon Johnston, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Johnston said it is unusual to find a booth unstaffed except in a dedicated lane for E-ZPass. He wonders if you got into an E-ZPass lane.

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 drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.