Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Having read recently about the ineffectiveness of the District's red-light cameras, I am wondering how long it will take the city to realize it is speeding that is the problem.

It seems that the police have completely given up on controlling speed in this city. Traveling 20 mph or more over speed limits in the city appears to be common practice and is the real danger on our streets.

Is policing speeders just an impossible task?

Bill London


Apparently it is an impossible task, considering the extent of the city's traffic enforcement. Do you know how many officers the D.C. police assign to traffic patrol in the downtown commercial center? Zero. They could be methodically enforcing traffic laws, such as speeding and intersection blocking, but they are not.

The Department of Public Works handles the parking control aides who write most of the parking tickets, but they do not issue tickets for moving violations. The two dozen traffic control aides who are posted at downtown intersections also work for the Department of Public Works and also do not write tickets for moving violations.

District police do have a dozen or so fixed speed cameras and mobile cameras in cruisers to cite violators. Those cameras record license plate numbers, and police issue citations by mail. And the city has about 50 cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners.

Is that effort enough? If you drive in the city, you know the answer.

Signing Up for E-ZPass

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

How, with a District-registered vehicle, can I sign up for E-ZPass to use at Interstate 95 toll gates en route to New Hampshire? I know there are a few exceptions where cash payment must be made. But automatic payment at the majority of tolls would be a big help.

Any information you can offer to point me in the right direction would be appreciated. I am leaving again on a trip in a few weeks.

Patricia J. Kelliher


Sign up with the Maryland Transportation Authority. You don't have to be a Maryland resident. Log on to or call 888-321-6824.

Maryland does not charge the $1-a-month administrative fee that some other states charge for E-ZPass.

E-ZPass, whose small electronic device is mounted in your vehicle and registers and deducts tolls from your prepaid deposit, has proved popular among motorists.

Beware Broken Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Challenging broken parking meters in Arlington is not a hassle at all [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 9]. I've done it twice, and all I had to do was call the Arlington County telephone number listed on the parking meter to first report the malfunctioning meter and later check on the result of my report. In both cases, the tickets were voided.

In the first case, the meter was eating the quarters faster than normal; in the second case, the meter was not working and the dome displayed a FAIL sign.

Antonio Russo


I'm glad your situations worked out. But I don't advise parking at broken meters. You can become hostage to a bureaucracy. That can be a problem, especially in the District, which issues some 2 million parking tickets a year.

I get e-mails from despairing souls who parked at a broken meter in the District, got ticketed, reported the broken meter promptly, took time off to appeal the ticket and still had the fine upheld and, in some cases, doubled for failure to pay in time.

Beware the broken meter.

Explain Yourself

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was reading in your column [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 6] the litany of pet peeves that people had about driving. It occurred to me that maybe you should put a call out for responses from people who actually do the things that peeve other people, like running red lights/stop signs, sitting a car length behind the stop lights, weaving in and out of traffic, not using turn signals, turning right or left from the center lane, etc. Ask them to let us all know why they do those things.

I doubt you'll get many responses, unless it's drivers who have guilty consciences and did it once, but never again.

But I really am curious to understand why people behave like that.

Virginia Johnson


I would like to hear from them, too, but I don't run anonymous letters. Getting someone to admit to rude or lawbreaking driving -- and why they do it -- could be problematic. Anyone out there want to comment?

Blocking the Box

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.

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.