Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, have noticed an increasing number of cars without a front plate [Dr. Gridlock, July 21], despite the fact that Maryland law requires front and rear plates.

I own and operate two businesses in the Waldorf area, so I am often out driving around the area. I see an average of six to 10 cars without a front plate daily.

I have heard that some new Maryland residents, in order to avoid paying the state taxes and fees required to register two cars, will register only one car and use the two legal plates on the rear of two cars.

Despite the very high level of confidence I have in the Charles County Sheriff's Office, I can see how difficult it might be for an officer to notice a plate violation and ticket the violator. But this is obviously a growing problem, and it is costing the state in lost taxes and registration fees.

Bill Sturn


I checked with Buel Young, spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, and he said he had heard absolutely nothing about this. Maybe these people are putting one over on the state.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

A possible reason for some Maryland cars missing front license plates [Dr. Gridlock, July 21] -- and I, like you, haven't noticed a widespread problem -- is the theft of one license plate from a car owner. Thieves put it on, or sell it to someone who puts it on, an unlicensed vehicle.

A few years ago, my wife came home and parked in the street rather than the driveway. I noticed later that day that only the front plate was gone.

Of course, we had to get a new set of plates, so I had to drive to the Motor Vehicle Administration with only one plate (and a note in the windshield explaining the missing plate). I fastened the new plates with one-way screws.

Don Hirschfeld

Temple Hills

Thanks for the tip.

New Md. License Laws

As a result of growing awareness of the need to provide more extensive training before licensing, Maryland is making a number of changes Saturday to its laws governing drivers, including:

* Learner's permits must be held for six months before one can move on to a provisional license. The old requirement was four months. The eligibility age to obtain a learner's permit remains at 15 years, 9 months.

* The amount of required practice time increases from 40 to 60 hours. At least 10 of those hours must be at night. Practice time is to be conducted with a driver who is 21 or older and has held a license for at least three years. The student and the licensed driver have to sign logs indicating the practice performed.

* Drivers younger than 18 can no longer use any wireless communications device, except to call 911.

* Provisional drivers must remain free of traffic offenses for 18 months, or the 18-month waiting period starts over. What's new is that the plea arrangement called "probation before judgment" will also count as a traffic offense.

For more information and other changes, log on to

All those changes seem to make sense to provide our young drivers more protection. What do you think?

Wipers On, Lights On

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm a senior citizen and avoid driving at night and during bad weather, but sometimes I get caught. Last Friday, I got caught in a heavy downpour in the White Oak area. Visibility for me was terrible. But it didn't help that many drivers didn't turn their headlights on.

Some drivers, I am sure, assumed that their driving lights were adequate, but they were not, because the taillights must be on for full protection in poor visibility.

I wish we could persuade drivers to turn on their headlights and taillights at dusk and in poor-visibility conditions. It could prevent them from being struck.

Corwin Hansen

Leisure World, Silver Spring

Wipers on, lights on. It's the law.

Teens and Cycles

Dear Dr. Gridlock

In response to Nancy Jennings's letter [Dr. Gridlock, June 30], you are right on in your effort to discourage a 16-year-old from driving a motorcycle. There is a great difference between driving a car and driving a "bike."

I lost an 18-year-old stepson because the auto in front of him stopped suddenly and he struck the rear of the car. He was thrown from his bike and landed in the path of oncoming traffic. The driver who struck him had no chance to avoid doing so.

The young lady needs to get some real experience in traffic, which can best be done behind the wheel of a larger car such as a Chevy Caprice or Ford Crown Victoria.

More mass between her and anything else on the road will help keep her safe.

Stu Newman


Sorry about your loss. I would never allow one of my teenage daughters to operate or ride on a motorcycle. They are too inexperienced for the level of skill needed.

Stay on the Road

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I believe that many unexplained roadside accidents involving pedestrians, bikers, parked cars and police are caused by drivers not being aware that they are steering where they are looking.

That tendency can be exacerbated by alcohol, drugs or fatigue.

A public awareness campaign, along with the adage "keep your eyes on the road," may be needed.

Morris Warren


It is true that people tend to subconsciously steer their vehicle to where they are looking, such as off the road. We need to be more aware of that, particularly on long drives.

Thumbs Up for School

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I would like to add to your response to the reader voicing her surprise that her son's instruction at a local driving school did not include driving on the Capital Beltway or Interstate 270 [Dr. Gridlock, July 21].

The required number of hours behind the wheel at a school to obtain your license is six. Did the reader feel her son was ready for the Beltway or I-270 after just six hours?

My son also took lessons from a school that did not train him on a highway, and I would not have wanted it to. He had logged some hours with me before he enrolled in the school, but after driving now for five months, he's still not ready.

Potomac Driving School taught my son the basics and did a terrific job. Although I consider myself a good driver, I wouldn't have been able to teach him parallel parking and, frankly, I don't remember the specifics of certain rules such as stopping distances.

Susan Fusi

North Bethesda

Thanks for the endorsement of that driving school. I rarely get any. And good for you for not rushing your son to a license before he is ready.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in Extra and Sundays in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.