Would you like to know how the waiting time at your Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration branch compares with the wait at other branches? The following letter prompted us to do some research.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read several articles about a year ago in The Washington Post describing long lines at MVA offices in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, among others. I don't know if long waits still are common, but my recent experiences at the Cumberland office in Western Maryland offer a different perspective.

* Two years ago: I was third in line when the office opened at 8:30 a.m. I needed Maryland plates for one of my cars, having just moved here. I was out by 8:40.

* Last year: I needed to transfer my Vermont driver's license to Maryland. There was no wait for the eye test or photo. I was in by 8:35 a.m. and out by 8:45.

* Today: I needed to renew my plates. I was in at 9:15 a.m. and out at 9:25.

The Cumberland MVA office is just off Interstate 68. From the Baltimore and Montgomery County areas, it's a two-hour drive. Parts of I-68 are magnificent; the road itself is an engineering marvel. Cumberland is the seat of Allegany County, home to several attractions, including Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort (hiking, canoeing) and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, to name just two. Garrett County, to the west, has several recreational attractions, including Deep Creek Lake and Wisp Ski Resort.

The bottom line: My three experiences at the Cumberland MVA office are no guarantee that someone in Gaithersburg could spend four hours round trip and about $20 in gas to avoid waiting for four hours in the Gaithersburg MVA office and be in and out in 15 minutes in Cumberland. But I think it's a safe bet. Plus there's all that fresh air and scenery.

Raymond Schneider


I appreciate your promotion of Western Maryland and your helpful hints to reduce waiting time, Mr. Schneider. But residents living closer to Washington shouldn't have to go that far to be served in a reasonable manner.

First, the branch you visited has an average waiting time of only six minutes -- the lowest in Maryland -- according to Buel Young, MVA spokesman.

But the waiting times at other branches, now that we have automation, are a far cry from the bad old days of hours-long waits and no chairs. Consider these current average waits at full-service branches:

Montgomery County (Gaithersburg) -- 42 minutes.

Prince George's County (Largo) -- 28 minutes.

Prince George's County (Beltsville) -- 28 minutes.

Frederick County (Frederick) -- 41 minutes.

Anne Arundel County (Glen Burnie) -- 59 minutes.

Anne Arundel County (Annapolis) -- 17 minutes.

St. Mary's County (Loveville) -- 8 minutes.

Charles County (Waldorf) -- 27 minutes.

So, if you really want to reduce your wait, you could visit St. Mary's County. But with the reasonable waiting times listed above, it looks as if a customer would be better off at the hometown branch.

A footnote: The MVA is building another full-service branch in Montgomery County, at White Oak. It should be finished by the end of this year. That should reduce the wait at Gaithersburg.

P.S. It is best to visit your MVA branch in the first half of the month, rather than the latter half.

What do you folks think of these waiting times?

Readers' Pet Peeves

I recently solicited motorists' pet peeves about other motorists [Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 14]. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of bad habits that drive people bonkers. Here are some.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here are my pet peeves and some related advice for other drivers:

* Get off the phone. The dead giveaway that a driver is talking is that quarter-mile-long empty space in front of their vehicle.

* Plan ahead. Some people automatically assume that if they are using their signal, I have to let them in. Just because you wait until the last second to cross four lanes of traffic to reach your exit does not mean I have to brake and let you in.

* Do not use the exit/merge ramps as your personal lane to get around slow traffic; that's just not right.

* If you're in the left lane, move over when someone comes up behind you. You can move back. It's harder to pass on the right.

Melanie Keltz

Silver Spring

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One bad habit I see quite frequently is tailgating. Why does anyone think it is a good idea to tailgate when traveling 60 mph?

There is no margin for error, and there is no good reason to tailgate.

Terry J. Harbonic

Chevy Chase

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My pet peeve is drivers who cannot be bothered to turn on their directional signals when making turns. Is it just too much trouble to flip a switch?

Also, many drivers pull to the left to make a right turn or to the right to make a left turn. The person behind such a driver doesn't know what to expect. How do people learn these habits?

Sally McCarthy


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My pet peeve is drivers who insist on driving exactly the same slow speed as the driver in the next lane, side by side, effectively setting up a barrier to all other traffic.

Either speed up or slow down. Or move over! If you have an open space ahead of you and a pile of cars behind you, you are probably guilty.

Of course, some of those who practice this are trying to do traffic speed enforcement. If that is your purpose, join the police!

Chris Miller


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My pet peeve is police officers who fail to signal for lane changes. I feel it's important that they act as role models as often as they can.

If they've got lights and sirens going, that's one thing, but for routine driving, they really need to use their blinkers.

Catherine S. Lyon


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My pet peeve is drivers who refuse to turn on their lights in the pouring rain, making them very difficult to see. I almost ran into one of these phantom cars at twilight on the Capital Beltway. Maybe they don't realize that even if they can see fine, perhaps others cannot see them.

Michael Hoyt

Silver Spring

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.