Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Recently, a breakdown on the Metro Red Line between Woodley Park and Silver Spring delayed service for about 45 minutes during evening rush hours. I had the misfortune to be stuck on an overcrowded train with about 15 screaming middle schoolers, who took over the back half of the car.
They blocked seats with their backpacks and acted like kindergartners on speed.
Apparently, no teacher was with them. The train was so crowded it was impossible to get away from them. Everybody was intimidated by them.
Several fought with one another.
This was certainly not the first time I've had this experience on Metro, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
Either school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation, or schoolchildren should not be permitted to travel on Metro in unaccompanied groups.
I'm sorry this happened. Getting trapped with a pack of out-of-control juveniles adds yet another dimension to commuter stress. Metro advises you to try to summon Metro police. This can be done by pressing the intercom button at the front of the car and asking the train operator to summon help. If you have a cell phone, you can call Metro Transit Police directly at 202-962-2121.
Metro police take such complaints seriously and will respond, according to spokeswoman Candace Smith. "We absolutely want to hear about it," she said. "We consider it a quality-of-life issue."
Complaints can include youths who are picking on passengers, fighting, arguing, baiting, running around and screaming. Usually, police will warn the offender and send a letter to the parents. In aggravated cases, the juvenile can be charged with disorderly conduct or a more serious offense.
Rowdy juveniles are a problem for Metro and its customers. As such, the agency has a program in which police visit schools to try to educate students, teachers and administrators about proper behavior on the system, Smith said.
Also, plans are being developed to offer teachers and school administrators free passes on the Metro system in return for a pledge to ride to and from school with students to help discourage bad behavior, Smith said.
A public information/advertising campaign also is in the works.
I'm interested in your views and experiences with rowdy juveniles on the Metro system.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was reading your recent columns on animals and automobiles and was reminded of something I learned in high school driver's ed back in the late 1970s.
I was told that, in the commonwealth of Virginia, if a motorist hits and kills a deer or other large animal on a public road, it is the motorist's responsibility to move the animal off to the side of the road.
This was the law because the motorist that killed the unfortunate animal had now caused an obstruction on a public highway, and it was the motorist's responsibility to remove the obstruction.
Is there really such a law in Virginia?
No, according to Officer Bud Walker of the Fairfax County police.
An apparently dead animal could simply be stunned and could bite, kick or gouge a motorist trying to drag it away. Or the motorist could be endangering himself by walking about in traffic or by halting his vehicle in or too near the roadway.
Best to contact local police immediately, Walker said. Animal control will be contacted in the daytime, and police will respond at night. Sometimes both agencies will respond, and police will direct traffic.
It might be helpful, if you carry flares, to put some out if you can safely do so. And you may want to wait at the scene if your vehicle is damaged. Your insurance company may want you to file a police or animal control report.
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 to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxes to 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.