Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Concerning Robert Van Epps's pet peeve about drivers who do not move into the intersection to make a turn when the light turns green [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 6]:

As the father of a sheriff's deputy and a volunteer firefighter, I can tell you that one of their pet peeves is people who move into the box, or the center of the intersection, when a light turns green but a turn is not possible because of oncoming traffic.

I have been taught to stay out of the box until it is clear for me to complete my turn.

Thomas H. Brown


It is proper and accepted practice around here that the lead vehicle waiting to make a left turn can creep into the intersection and wait for a gap in oncoming traffic, even if the turn has to be made at the end of the green light cycle (on amber or red).

However, a second motorist should not creep into the intersection until after the first one has made the turn and the light is still green. Vehicles bunching up in the intersection can lead to the blocking that you describe, Mr. Brown.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Does Robert Van Epps [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 6] understand that the law states you are not supposed to enter the intersection until it is safe to clear the intersection? People who block the intersection to cross traffic because they can't complete a safe and legal turn are among my pet peeves.

Brian Rugen


It is legal -- and the custom here -- for the lead vehicle to creep into an intersection and wait for a gap to make a left turn, so long as you enter the intersection on a green light.

Since many traffic lights have a second or two when red is displayed in all directions before the light changes, that interval should allow the turning motorist to complete the left turn as oncoming traffic is halted.

On the other hand, there is no law that requires a driver to creep into the intersection to make a turn if the driver doesn't feel that is safe.

Living Where You Work

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You frequently suggest that people live close to their work. That is the biggest laugh I have heard in a long time. I just saw a report where the average home in Arlington costs over $600,000, and in Fairfax it was $500,000.

I was out in Gainesville recently, and the building boom there is just incredible. I am guessing the traffic there is not bad enough that people are not willing to live there. Plus they have several neighborhoods where new homes cost in excess of $700,000, and there does not seem to be a problem selling them. So why would the prices get any better closer to the city?

The city has more jobs than there are homes surrounding the area. Just because the job is located in the city does not mean you get paid enough to live near the city.

Wyatt Miedema


You are correct. The more affordable homes are farther out from the District. New subdivisions are booming in places like Loudoun and Prince William counties, where buyers may find themselves in for a hellish commute due to too much demand on an inadequate transportation system. Gainesville to Washington is one of those awful commutes.

Supervisors who approve new residential developments without necessary road improvements are some of the congestion culprits. The Virginia General Assembly members, who could give local governments more power to regulate growth, are others. The buyers of these new homes are also contributors to commuting gridlock.

Some commuting alternatives are working at home; four-day work weeks; staggered work hours; regional office centers; slugging to use HOV lanes (; carpooling (call 800-745-RIDE for matches); Metro (try and click on "Trip Planner"); local commuter buses; or Virginia Railway Express (703-684-1001).

VDOT, Give Us a Sign

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My biggest pet peeve is road signs and the highway departments responsible for them. Signs are too often missing or inadequate (how many years did it take for them to put up signs from Interstate 395 north to the southbound George Washington Parkway?), just plain wrong or impossible to read at night.

Errol Waits


You strike a chord with me. I've lobbied for years for a G.W. Parkway sign on I-395. You would think that would be a no-brainer, but the Virginia Department of Transportation said that there were too many letters in the George Washington Memorial Parkway name to fit on an overhead sign, and that a ground-mounted sign would add to sign clutter in that area. In recent months, VDOT somehow managed to put one up as part of a sign redesign of Pentagon area roadways.

VDOT could be a lot more helpful to motorists with efficient, consistent signs. For instance, overhead signs should be lit at night and should note cross streets, so approaching motorists can get into the correct turn lane.

The existing little signs at the corners are often too small and too poorly lit to be seen at night. For instance, try going inbound on Route 29 (Lee Highway) to its intersection with Gallows Road in Merrifield. That is a major intersection, but there is no overhead sign, and it is hard to see the small Gallows Road sign at the corner at night.

Other states provide overhead signs that can be seen from a distance. Maryland does. VDOT says the overhead signs are too heavy to be mounted on the traffic light wires that span some intersections. But Maryland manages that quite nicely.

Anyone care at VDOT? I don't think so.

Turn Left Into Left Lane

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is it too late to add to the pet peeve list? If not, here's mine: Drivers who make a left turn at an intersection and move into the right, not left, lane, or vice versa. In other words, you're supposed to turn into the right-hand lane when turning right, and into the left-hand lane when turning left.

Traffic at intersections would flow much easier if drivers practiced that simple technique.

Lawrence Gregg


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.