Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am responding to the letter from Howard Fenton about drivers who swerve to the right before making a left turn [Dr. Gridlock, June 23]. I have noticed that phenomenon for several years. Drivers also swerve to the left before making a right turn. The problem could be lessened if drivers would signal to make their intentions known.

I, too, have had the experience of trying to pass another car, only to find the driver moving into my lane. Other times when drivers fail to signal: I'll be waiting at a stop sign for a driver approaching on my left (with no stop sign). I'll assume he is going straight, only to have him turn onto my street. If that driver had given a proper signal, I could have eased out into the road. Why does the driver think I am waiting there?

Other times, a driver in a neighboring lane will slowly coast in front of me and into my lane. Without a signal, I can't tell if he is deliberately moving into my lane or is not paying attention and will suddenly swerve back.

I'm not sure some drivers understand that the purpose of turn signals is to let others know which way they will be moving. I think many people don't use turn signals because they think that it is only an option. Other times, it's too hard to put down the cell phone or the sandwich to drive responsibly.

Lynn Brinker


Another reason to use turn signals is that other drivers might allow you to merge. Of course, some drivers will see the turn signal and zoom forward to prevent a merge. Basically, using turn signals is the right thing to do.

Car Care 101

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A car's life span depends on how the vehicle is used or abused. The oil will keep the engine clean, but frequent short trips will overload the oil's detergents with water, acids and other byproducts of combustion.

A poorly tuned engine might dilute the oil with unburned fuel. On longer drives, the oil gets hot enough to evaporate some of that.

Hard engine use when the oil is cold will cause increased wear. The interval between oil changes should be adjusted to the vehicle's usage, and generally when the oil looks really dirty, it's time for a change.

Manufacturers' recommendations are based on worst-case driving.

Bill Seabrook


Police and Parking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Gallery Place during the evening rush hour seems to be the new congregating corner for police, who park anywhere they like, any time they like. We recently saw four of them park in front of Legal Sea Foods, a location that you and I would be towed from, and go over to Chipotle.

I have seen police motorcycles parked on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks.

I regularly see Metro Transit Police cars parked at bus stops, D.C. police parked in front of fire hydrants, and police from the U.S. Mint parked alongside clearly marked yellow curbs.

I think people might be less enraged about parking enforcement if police throughout the city made at least a minimal attempt to comply with the laws we all have to follow. They can park at a meter with impunity; no one will ever ticket them for that. But do they really have to block traffic?

I challenge anyone in charge to visit either Gallery Place or Capitol Hill any evening at rush hour. They'll see police equipment blocking traffic.

Vicki Sullivan


Police officers responding to a crime park where they can. But when not responding to a call or while off duty, they are supposed to obey traffic regulations. That's what they say, anyway.

Let's try this: You write them up. Get the car or scooter number and send it to me along with the date, time, address and details of improper parking. I will ask police to investigate.

Connecticut Ave. Relief

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Among the more egregious examples of unwarranted special privileges is the parking situation in the 8500 block of Connecticut Avenue. I think this is the only stretch of Connecticut Avenue within Maryland where parking is allowed.

The marked area, less than a block long, serves five small businesses. One has its own off-street parking, and all are well served by convenient access from Connecticut Avenue to a large, free parking area behind the buildings.

Traffic approaches this area over a slight rise that is high enough to block a driver's view, and that invariably results in last-minute, intemperate and dangerous merge efforts.

In view of the availability of ample free parking, there is no need for this hindrance to traffic, which is heavy throughout the day.

The very few steps saved for a few people is too high a price to pay for the inconvenience and delay suffered by the majority. Can this unnecessary roadblock be evaluated for elimination?

Eugene G. Kovach

Chevy Chase

You can ask for a review by writing to the Maryland State Highway Administration, 9300 Kenilworth Ave., Greenbelt, Md. 20770, attention Traffic Department. You will get a response, MSHA spokesman Chuck Gischlar said. Be sure to make your points about ample off-street parking for the businesses in the block.

A Lesson From Paris

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in Paris and used its Metro frequently. Their solution to seating near the doors seemed quite intelligent.

There were eight hinged seats near the doors that were used when the car was not crowded. Then, when a large group entered, the people on those hinged seats stood up, making room for the other passengers.

When it became less crowded, they sat back down. It worked well and provided flexibility within the cars.

Cathy D. Knepper


Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said Metro considered the Paris model but decided not to use it. Seems like it might have been useful here.

Metro Parking

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Reference: the letter from William Scheiderich about parking problems at the New Carrollton Metro station [Dr. Gridlock, June 15].

If Mr. Scheiderich doesn't mind driving to RFK Stadium and getting on the Metro at Stadium/Armory, he will find it much easier to park in the privately owned lot near the stadium. It costs $5 for all-day parking, and there is always plenty of space. The Blue and Orange lines go to Stadium/Armory.

My husband and I have given up trying to park at New Carrollton whenever we go into the District on the Metro. There is always a hassle.

MaryAnn Mennuti


Thanks for the tip. As I mentioned before, the parking facilities at Landover (Orange Line) and Largo Town Center (Blue Line) do not fill up, Metro said.

Eating on Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Wow! People are so afraid that they fear speaking to eaters on the subway [Dr. Gridlock, June 23]! When I see Metro riders eating or drinking and I am near them, I always tell them that is forbidden.

Most are tourists who immediately put the food away. No one has ever told me to mind my own business or has gotten nasty. Quite the opposite: They thank me.

I always mention the incident of the young girl who got arrested for eating french fries a few years ago.

In defense of innocent eaters, Metro does very little in providing large signs for all to see easily. On the ends of the trains there's a small sign advising what is not allowed.

Metro should place larger signs throughout the trains if it is really serious about this rule.

Linda M. Cajka

Lake Ridge

I agree: Metro can do more to warn riders that it is illegal to eat or drink on the system.

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.