Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Every morning and afternoon, as I use the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, I see dozens of commercial vehicles -- vans, trucks, cars, etc. -- also using the parkway and ignoring the "Commercial Vehicles Prohibited" signs.

I grew up in Mississippi near a similar parkway, where commercial vehicle drivers were ticketed. Why can't the National Park Service enforce the same law up here? I always thought it was standard Park Service policy to disallow all commercial vehicles.

Is there anyone I can call? I can't take it another year!

Jonie Lehmann


The National Park Service prohibits commercial vehicles on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which extends about 20 miles from the District line to Route 175.

Commercial vehicles are defined as trucks, station wagons, pickup trucks or other vehicles transporting valuable property for a fee or providing services to another person for profit. U.S. Park Police have written 600 citations for violations in the past four years, according to Bill Line, a Park Service spokesman. He says police recognize that they can't get all the violators.

By the way, the road from Route 175 on into Baltimore becomes Maryland Route 295 and is under state jurisdiction. The state imposes no restrictions on commercial vehicles on its segment.

To complain, you can call Line at 202-619-7177. Tell him Dr. Gridlock sent you.

If this is driving you crazy, I wonder if it makes more sense to commute on the parallel roads, Interstate 95 or Route 29?

Battle of the Counties

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I just read the letter from John Binford of Silver Spring in which he said he would never live in Prince George's County [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29]. What an insulting letter!

Mr. Binford should review Montgomery County's crime rate (teen stabbing at Blake High School, etc.), cost of living and commuting alternatives.

I lived in Montgomery County from 1959 until I moved to Prince George's in 1979, first to Takoma Park and then to West Laurel in 1986. There is not much about either county that I don't know well.

I live in a terrific community. My son has gone to three award-winning public schools, starting in grade school and now high school.

Your suggestion to the couple who worked in Annapolis and Manassas to live in Prince George's County was a very good one, especially in the northern county. There are high-speed roads all the way to both Annapolis and Manassas.

I scoured the Northern Virginia area for an affordable home with a comparable community and to this day have not found an equal, and even if I did, my wife would have to suffer a horrible commute to Washington from Northern Virginia, and my son would be uprooted from a very good school and terrific friends.

Prince George's County certainly has some serious problems -- but so does Montgomery County. Prince George's, however, has plenty of neighborhoods that have a lower cost of living and are safe, affordable and convenient to mass transit and major work areas. Silver Spring has a fairly high crime rate, is traffic clogged 24/7 and is a very expensive place to live.

P.S. When gasoline was $2.89 in Laurel, it was $3.29 in Four Corners.

Tim Joliet


I'm happy to see someone so proud of where they live. Makes such a difference in quality of life.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm writing in response to the man who said everyone in Prince George's County should sell and move elsewhere [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 29].

Two years ago, when I was looking to buy a house, I would have loved to have moved to Silver Spring, but the almost-new, two-bedroom, two-car garage townhouse I ultimately bought in Prince George's County would have cost three times as much.

Yes, there is crime, but it is concentrated on the District border, not in the suburbs where I live. I feel safer at night here than I did during the six years I rented in Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom.

In exchange for living in Prince George's County, I have an average 40-minute, 17-mile car or bus commute. Or, if I get to the Largo Metro station by 8 a.m., I can park and ride. Try that in any other Metro parking lot!

All is not perfect. I soon plan to move back to Washington, but only because I miss the D.C. nightlife and walking to work, not because of an irrational fear of crime.

In fact, my biggest concern about moving back is that, despite my relatively high income and a 40 percent increase in home equity, I'm afraid I won't be able to find an affordable, decent place to live in the District! To me, that's the real crime.

Mark Reilley

Upper Marlboro

That's the dilemma here. Home prices are rising in the metropolitan area, but if you sell and cash in, where can you afford to go next?

An Untowed Truck

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am concerned about a very large truck carrying a lot of junk that has been parked at Fourth and C streets SW for the last couple of weeks.

It has been ticketed three times, but according to a meter attendant with whom I spoke, that is the maximum number of times it can be ticketed. The attendant also said the truck cannot be towed until a month has passed.

This is not just a meter violation, but also a violation of no-standing/parking rules during the morning rush hour (from 7 to 9:30 a.m.).

More important, this truck strikes me as a security threat, parked with unknown cargo next to federal office buildings.

Heidi Sorensen

University Park

The city says to call the catchall complaint number, 202-727-1000. Get a tracking number for your complaint, and check back in a few weeks.

If the problem remains, please contact me again.

Stiffening Seat Belt Laws

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

There is a simple move that can be taken to increase seat belt use. States should pass laws exempting insurance companies from having to cover a person who wasn't wearing a seat belt when injured in an accident.

That will encourage the majority of people who don't use them now to buckle up.

Perhaps if judges required all those who are ticketed for not using a seat belt to write up funeral plans -- including music, Scriptures or other readings, etc. -- it might get some people's attention. Nothing like having to contemplate one's own mortality.

Chris Miller


That's an inventive approach.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in the 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.