Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Are cars registered in Virginia required to display both front and rear license plates?

The number of cars I see with a Virginia rear plate but no front plate is growing at such a rate that I wonder whether I've missed a new regulation making front plates optional.

Most of the Virginia drivers I see without front plates are apparently just too cool to bother with them -- two-seater sports cars and gargantuan SUVs whose owners are afraid of diminishing their aesthetic design and/or aerodynamic efficiency by attaching those pesky plates.

Mary L. Sullivan

Oakton

Valid license plates are required to be displayed front and rear on Virginia-registered vehicles.

I'm not seeing this phenomenon myself, but then I usually notice only rear plates while in traffic. I'm going to start looking more for front plates.

Employee Kudos

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Yesterday, I was commuting home on the Orange Line from Foggy Bottom to Vienna about 3:40 p.m. During the trip, the train's operator, Robert Washington, gave us the standard warning over the intercom about reporting unusual activity or unattended items.

Washington then spoke through the next two stops or so about how even though he was the train operator, for all of us to get where we were going, we would need to work together. (This is the condensed version.)

His comments were delivered in a light-hearted and pleasant tone, and many of the passengers were laughing appropriately, but when he was finished, I was left with a very positive feeling that this man took his job very seriously and had great pride in the Metro system.

Since we all have had negative interactions with Metro personnel at times, I wanted to pass on this extremely positive experience. I have also made a similar report directly to Metro.

I believe that I have ridden the Orange Line at other times when Robert Washington was the operator, and he always had a funny comment or a helpful piece of information.

Linda Disselkamp

Vienna

Thanks for sharing. Hope this employee gets a commendation.

An HOV-Lane Infraction

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After taking my granddaughter to her home in West Falls Church recently, I was returning to my residence in Annandale via Route 7 west. I entered the Interstate 66 west ramp with the intention of heading for the Capital Beltway.

Upon entering I-66, I realized HOV restrictions were in force, but I assumed the three-tenths-of-a-mile drive to the Beltway exit would not be considered an HOV violation because HOV restrictions end at the Beltway. I received a ticket because I was the only passenger in my vehicle.

To get to the Beltway during HOV hours, you would have to drive Route 7 to Tysons Corner. That merge onto the Beltway comes to a complete stop, with bumper-to-bumper traffic to I-66.

What the state troopers are doing at the Route 7 ramp onto I-66 doesn't help the traffic problems that the Virginia Department of Transportation wants to solve. This looks like an end-of-the-month ticket writing program.

Archie Conover

Annandale

There are so many violators of HOV lanes, and so many other people clamoring that those violators be cited, that I'm not going to defend any HOV violation, even if it seems like a small infraction.

You don't have to take Route 7 to I-66 to the Beltway. That seems like the opposite direction from Annandale.

How about Route 7 east to Seven Corners, and then Route 50 west to the Beltway south?

Best for single-occupant drivers to steer clear of I-66 during HOV hours.

Shaving His Commute

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At 9:30 a.m. July 12, a Tuesday, my husband and I were driving on Chain Bridge Road east toward Canal Road when we observed a cream-colored Honda Accord being operated in a dangerous fashion. The driver was oblivious to merging traffic.

On Canal Road, we signaled and tried to move over to the left lane to turn left onto Arizona Avenue NW.

The driver would not let any cars merge and was tailgating. When we caught up parallel to the car on Canal Road, we noticed that the driver was shaving with an electric razor!

And he continued to shave -- with his right hand on the wheel and left hand operating the shaver -- while driving south on Canal Road, then east on Arizona Avenue, turning left onto MacArthur Boulevard and heading north toward Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Cars were honking at him. He was swerving in and out of traffic and outside his lane and tailgating throughout the four or five minutes that we observed him.

What can someone do in a situation like that other than stay clear of the driver, as you've recommended in past columns? Can we report the driver after the fact, and will the authorities do anything if we take the time to do so?

Diana Culp Bork

McLean

You can dial #77 on your cell phone and report the offending motorist. Normally, police tell me, they will not respond to a traffic infraction unless it's a drunken driving or reckless driving offense. Otherwise, stay out of their way, even to the point of changing your route.

To Commute or Not

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Amen to your comment, "I advise anyone thinking of buying a new house in Gainesville or Haymarket to try the commute before buying. It's not going to be a pretty picture." [Dr. Gridlock, washingtonpost.com Live Online, July 18]

But you were optimistic; it's already not a pretty picture.

Worse still is the commute from Warrenton, where I live. My wife and I had lived in Vienna, but in 1992, with my office moving to Fair Lakes, we bought a home in Warrenton. It took 35 minutes to get from my garage to my desk.

For almost nine years now, I've been working west of Warrenton. Recently, I had to be in Fairfax City for an early appointment. I was horrified to find that it took me 50 minutes just to drive 12 miles to Interstate 66, much less get into Fairfax. Commuters tell me that is typical. I say it's crazy. If I had to make that drive every day, I would be moving back into a townhouse.

My wife teaches at Warrenton High School. Many parents who spend three to four hours commuting each day have no time for their kids, arriving home too late or too tired to take part in school or community activities.

With our kids moving away, my wife and I are looking to move and downsize. She can teach locally; I can work from home. We drove through the Shenandoah Valley recently to look for an older, smaller home. We stopped at a development in Woodstock. We were shocked to find McMansions on 1/3-acre lots. Another potential buyer was looking to commute to Tysons Corner. Insane!

Thad Humphries

Warrenton

Good letter. It seems a lot of us have traded nurturing time with our children for imprisonment in our vehicles. Is this really necessary?

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 drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.