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.
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.
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.
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.
Slow Doesn't Always Save
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I'd like to respond to Tom Wiedemer's "Slow Down, Save Gas" letter of Oct. 20. While I agree that fast starts and high speeds will reduce gas mileage, the speed limit does not necessarily indicate the best speed for maximum fuel economy.
With the exception of hybrids, most cars today with overdrive transmissions have their sweet spot for gas mileage when cruising between 50 and 70 mph, depending on gearing, coefficient of drag, temperature, load and tire inflation, among other things.
If driving more slowly conserves fuel, more power to you. However, I would remind those driving below the speed limit around here (or even at the speed limit on many roads) to stay to the right wherever possible. It will certainly cut down on the reckless passing.
Right or wrong, people don't have the patience for environmentally conscious driving if it impedes their progress.
So true. Sometimes, one person's conscientious driving is another person's road rage.
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 email@example.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.