Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The biggest cure for many incidents of road rage would be to enact laws that require drivers to keep right except to pass.

Many of the road rage incidents start when a motorist in the left lane gets stuck behind a slower driver and wants to pass.

Instead of moving right, the slower vehicle "enforces the speed limit" and stays put. Eventually, the second driver must either pass on the right or make some other unsafe move to get around the slower driver. If the passing driver is then involved in an accident, it's that person's fault, not the slower driver who was actually responsible for it.

While I'm not condoning tailgating or aggressive driving, having an enforceable keep-right-except-to-pass law would immeasurably improve travel on our highways.

Mike Ahearn

Crofton

New Jersey and Connecticut have laws requiring drivers to keep right except to pass. I wonder how motorists there feel about those laws?

Here, Virginia does have a law requiring motorists in the left lane to move right if an overtaking vehicle signals its intent to pass by flashing lights or sounding the horn.

With so many traffic violations unenforced here -- HOV violations, speeding, reckless driving, 100 mph motorcyclists -- I wonder if this would be one more law that would not be enforced, and hence one more source of frustration for law-abiding motorists.

A Wider, Brighter Route 450

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At long last, the reconstruction of Route 450 through Bowie is nearly complete.

At Route 450 and Martha's Choice Circle, two street lights were installed last year. Neither has ever been operational, but I assumed that would change when the construction on that section of Route 450 was complete.

The construction there was completed months ago, yet the lights continue to be dark. I have called the city, the county and the state, and no one will take responsibility for lighting that intersection. What is my next step?

Steven A. Gainey

Bowie

Consider it done. The Maryland State Highway Administration is finishing up electrical work in connection with the widening of Route 450 in that area, and workers have been asked to double-check those street lights before they are done. Their work should be completed by the end of this year.

But we should also look at the broader picture: the widening of Route 450, a major east-west highway and alternative to Route 50 in Prince George's County.

The state and developers have converted Route 450 from a winding two-lane road to four lanes, divided, with turn lanes, from Whitfield Chapel Road in the Seabrook area to Stoneybrook Road near the Anne Arundel County line.

The state is designing the next segment of Route 450 widening, from Stoneybrook Road to Route 3. However, that 1.5-mile segment has yet to be funded.

E-ZPass Math

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You have observed that some states charge a monthly fee for E-ZPass and Maryland does not, suggesting that Maryland is the better choice.

There seems to be some question, however, whether drivers in the Maryland plan benefit from the discounted tolls that E-ZPass users get in some other states, such as New Jersey and New York.

If Maryland users don't get those discounts and travel regularly in those states, the "no-fee" Maryland plan can become a loser in just one or two trips. Can you clarify that point?

A related aside: Delaware recently raised its fees on Interstate 95 to $3 and eliminated the discount previously granted E-ZPass users.

Wallace Fullerton

Kensington

The E-ZPass system is interchangeable in the 11 states that belong to the consortium, including Maryland and Virginia. E-ZPass is useful to pass through toll gates in those states without having to stop. However, to use an additional discount plan in any state, you need to have signed up for an E-ZPass with that state.

For instance, Maryland offers three E-ZPass discount plans for frequent users of three facilities: (a) the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, (b) the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial (Route 301) Bridge and (c) the Baltimore area toll facilities. You can add those discount plans to your Maryland E-ZPass account and have the fares deducted automatically, or you can pay in advance for the discount plans in cash.

But if you have your E-ZPass account in Virginia, let's say, you would not be able to use those additional discount plans in Maryland.

Maryland does not charge a $1-a-month administrative fee to join E-ZPass. Some states do charge such a fee. That is why Dr. Gridlock suggests signing up with Maryland. To do so, or for additional information about E-ZPass, log on to www.ezpassmd.com.

The basic E-ZPass is mainly for convenience and not discount savings, Mr. Fullerton. You'll have to add up the discounts you would lose in other states to determine whether a $1-a-month savings in Maryland makes sense for you.

E-ZPass Expands

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

For your information, the E-ZPass system has been enhanced. New Hampshire has been added to the system. This is particularly helpful when using the Everett Turnpike (Route 3) running north from Nashua.

Stu Newman

Bowie

Thanks for the update. There are now 11 states that accept the E-ZPass transponders, allowing for the electronic deduction of tolls and eliminating the need to stop and pay.

The states are: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Illinois.

To purchase a pass, log on to www.ezpassmd.com.

Beware Broken Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On a recent trip into the District, I found a parking space close to my destination and used my rusty parallel parking skills so effortlessly that I was strutting with pride, until I discovered the parking meter was broken.

However, there was a shiny new sticker on the meter telling me to call a number if it was broken. I did so, and within seconds received a report number which I displayed in my car window. I also was told that if I received a ticket, I could submit a letter with the report number and avoid a fine. I was truly impressed with this wonderful system.

Motorists can park at a broken meter without fear of becoming mired in bureaucratic hell, a valuable parking spot is utilized, and the city receives timely reports of broken meters.

Now, I don't know how quickly the meters are actually fixed, but this system made me think for a moment that the District was really getting its act together. End result: no ticket, no fine and no bureaucracy, and I got a warm, fuzzy feeling about D.C.

Paige Conner

Alexandria

Don't get too warm. Chances are you'll receive a letter one day saying that since you haven't paid your ticket, the fine is doubled. That happens to people. They write to me to complain. The city says your ticket can be dismissed if you report a broken meter immediately, but that doesn't mean the ticket will be dismissed.

The scenario you describe is how the system ought to work. The city claims to have 95 percent of all the parking meters working at any given time, and says your calls help them fix the ones that aren't.

Nevertheless, I won't park at a broken meter. That's because I read my mail.

Md. Driver's Handbook

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Now that I have a teenager with a learner's permit, I'm finding there are things I don't know, such as the proper following distance. Where can I find current Maryland driving rules? Thanks.

Scott Klein

Columbia

You can pick up a Maryland driver's handbook at any branch of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Some of the branches closest to you are in Beltsville and Largo, and the state MVA headquarters is in Glen Burnie.

You can also request that one be mailed to you by contacting the MVA online at www.marylandmva.com.

Rider Won't Stand for Metro

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't think we need a test to find out the results of taking away seats on Metro trains. I ride 45 minutes to and from work, and I have a bad knee and sciatica, which make it very uncomfortable for me to stand for long periods of time, no less on a moving train.

If I have to stand for 45 minutes each way, I will stop taking the train and will start driving to and from work. Many other people like me will do the same thing, and our streets will become more and more clogged with traffic. Metro is making a big mistake taking away seats.

The only way around this is to leave the first three or four cars of a train with the current seat configuration and allow people traveling longer than 30 minutes to sit in those cars. People with health problems and children would also be permitted to travel in the cars. All of that would require special ticketing, and it sure would complicate matters.

Metro should leave the trains as they are and just add cars. I would be willing to pay a slightly higher fare to pay for that. The price of gas has risen, so driving is no bargain.

Diane Hrabak

Silver Spring

I can't imagine how you would enforce priority seating for the needy. Metro "seat police" standing at each door to turn away the unworthy? What about the disabled people with no sign of disability? Should a doctor's certificate be required to show the seat police?

One of the biggest problems with Metrorail involves people trying to get on and off the trains. Right now, it's everyone for themselves, pushing and shoving. Exiting passengers congregate at the doors because that's where they have to be to get out.

Metro is trying to spread the passenger load down the aisles and away from the doors by installing new aisle grips for standees, removing some seats and removing the vertical bars near the doors. Metro will test one or more seating reconfigurations starting next spring.

People are complaining to me that they sometimes can't get onto or off a crowded train before the door snaps shut. Metro wants to accommodate even more passengers in the years ahead and, through possible car redesign, to get them on and off more efficiently.

Metro Parking Schedule

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Recently, at the GALA Hispanic Theatre at the Tivoli, I talked with friends about Metro parking fees. We all had taken Metro to the theater.

My local Metro is the New Carrollton station and, according to the lot attendant, parking fees are collected until midnight.

My friends said that at their local station (I think it is Silver Spring), fee collecting stops at 7 p.m.

I am writing to find out if there is a discrepancy in the times that stations collect parking fees. Before the Farecard payment system, New Carrollton stopped collecting at 10:30 p.m.

Gretchen Dunn

New Carrollton

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says the Metro parking lot at New Carrollton is staffed from 9 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays. Parking is free on the weekends.

Metro does not operate any parking facilities at the Silver Spring station, he said. Your friend could be using a county lot, or a private one, in the vicinity.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday 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.