Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, see many Maryland cars without a front license plate. I've made notes on 16 missing plates on parked or moving vehicles in Howard County over the course of one week. Many of those were spotted on Route 175.

I probably see three to five vehicles a day without a front tag.

Karen Gilbert


That is way too many, and it suggests there is a problem with voluntary compliance and law enforcement. A Maryland vehicle is required by law to display license plates front and rear. I'm puzzled why so many people are not doing it.

Dr. Gridlock checked with Howard County police, and a spokeswoman there said that if you see a one-plate vehicle on the road, you can call police at their non-emergency number, 410-313-2929, to report the violator.

If you see vehicles regularly parked with only one plate, e-mail the information to the county police at Do e-mail them the list you sent me, and let me know what happens.

Wilson Bridge Woes

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Maryland has done it again with its usual "throw up a traffic light" solution to a problem. The new Capital Beltway intersection at Oxon Hill Road is a true nightmare. Traffic now backs up in all directions, and northbound Route 210 traffic must cut across two lanes of gridlocked traffic to access the Beltway northbound.

Thanks for a great column. After taking 40 minutes to make what used to be a 10-minute trip and seeing two drivers almost get into a fistfight at the new intersection, I felt it was time to finally contribute.

Paul Thomas

Oxon Hill

Thanks. I feel your pain. You are encountering changing traffic patterns to build new Capital Beltway interchanges at Interstate 295 and Route 210 as part of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

The project already includes ramps constructed to link northbound Route 210 traffic to the Beltway's inner loop and outer loop, so I'm not sure why northbound Route 210 traffic has to cut across two lanes of deadlocked traffic. What is gridlocking your morning commute is the sheer volume of traffic on the Beltway, according to John Undeland, spokesman for the project.

The ramp onto the inner loop feeds into three Beltway lanes, one of which is for right-turn-only traffic. The bridge project will be finished in Maryland in 2008, at which time the Beltway will have been widened to five lanes in each direction. That should ease your connections at I-295 and Route 210.

Meantime, you can follow the lane changes and detours by logging on to

Parents Should Teach

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

We recently moved to Virginia and are interested in recommendations for a commercial driving school. How much should it cost for classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction?

Jeff and Joanna Carra


I suggest that parents take charge of basic driver training. Take trips during spring break and in the summer. Ride with your children until you feel they are ready to drive solo.

Put them in all sorts of basic and challenging driving situations: changing lanes, merging, interstate driving, nighttime travel, the Capital Beltway, stopping for an animal, snow, ice, rain, passing on a two-lane road, running off a road and getting back on, city driving, recognizing red traffic lights and parallel parking.

Simply reaching a 16th birthday is not a good reason to get a license. I suggest that completing 1,000 miles of local driving and 1,000 miles of interstate driving is a better barometer.

A Good Start

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

This is a fan letter to you and the Car Guys. Long before my daughter was old enough to drive, I decided she would take one of those daylong defensive driving classes you are always recommending. She took the Car Guys class on Labor Day weekend, and this morning it really paid off.

My daughter, who is still driving on her learner's permit, handled a very dangerous situation with skill and aplomb. Her dad and I are still scared, but she was fine.

She was driving south on Interstate 270 this morning from Gaithersburg to her bus stop at Tilden Middle School. Usually she stays in the right lane, but this morning we were running late, and my husband suggested she get in the carpool lane to save time. Just as she was moving into the lane, another car attempted to enter it. He was aimed right at us.

My daughter quickly steered the car to the left and partly onto the shoulder, then smoothly pulled it right back. This is a traffic challenge that new drivers often mess up. They oversteer and go off the road, or they panic as they go off the road and jerk the steering wheel too far in the other direction. My daughter handled it like a pro.

Thank you, Car Guys, and thank you, Dr. Gridlock, for recommending them. I now have some reassurance that my daughter may be a safe solo driver when she gets her full license.

Melissa Yorks


Thanks for the feedback. Car Guys of Rockville can be reached through 800-800-GUYS.

I trust that you will continue with her training and will allow a license only when you are comfortable that she has the necessary skills to go solo. Sounds like she has a good start.

Message Received

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On the westbound stretch of Dale Drive between Piney Branch Road and Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring, the highway department has programmed an electronic sign to read, "You Win. Daytime Paving. No Street Parking Bet 9am-5pm."

What is that all about?!

Richard Wong


The county was doing resurfacing work on Dale Drive in the middle of the night. Residents complained, understandably. Looks like the county has responded.

Support for Cab Meters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I'm not a cabdriver or a frequent rider, but anyone who can count can see that what's fair is fair. A cab ride in rush hour is going to take longer and prevent the driver from accepting other fares. It should cost more -- otherwise, we're likely to find cabs disappearing during rush hour because they can't afford to run at a loss.

Riders do not want to pay extra to be stuck in traffic, but if cab businesses or employees are instead forced to absorb that cost, then they'll have to either raise overall rates to compensate or stop providing the service.

Meters are the way to go.

Mark D. Hall

Mount Vernon

Somehow, cabs using the zone system are available during rush hours.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As a resident of the District and a cab rider, I would much prefer a meter system. More important, tourists, so critical to the District's economy, are ill-served by an opaque and inexplicable zone system, as well as by those taxi drivers who take advantage of passenger ignorance of the system.

Lynne Martin


It seems to me the meter system is the most clear and fair way to go. Does anyone know of anyplace else in the world where a zone fare system is used?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Per your request for readers' preference for metered or zoned fares for District taxicabs: My vote is for meters.

As I see it, the zone system is an open invitation to cheat all passengers who do not routinely travel a fixed route.

Brent Malcolm

Silver Spring

Paying for a cab ride through the zone system is a mystery to many of us. I think we'd like to know how much we're being charged and see the number displayed, as we would on any cash register.

I-95's HOV Schedule

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Would you kindly inform me which days and hours the HOV lanes along Interstate 95 are open to the north and to the south?

Roger Mudd


The barrier-divided Interstate 395/95 HOV-3 lanes are open to everybody, including non-carpoolers, as follows:


From 1 to 3:30 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

From 1 to 3:30 p.m. Fridays and from 6 p.m. Fridays until 2 p.m. Saturdays.


From 9 to 11 a.m. and from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

From 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays.

From 4 p.m. Saturdays to 6 a.m. Mondays.

HOV-3 hours are 6 to 9 a.m. northbound and 3:30 to 6 p.m. southbound, Mondays through Fridays.

Fuel Economy

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It is not speed alone that wastes fuel, but also unnecessary speed changes. When I visit my family and fiancee in New York, I drive late at night. That means I can set my cruise control to a steady highway speed, get into the middle lane and not have to change my speed.

I end up getting spectacular mileage that way.

Contrast that with stop-and-go driving, which wastes gas and causes more wear on the car.

Jeff Poretsky


It's hard to avoid stop-and-go driving in this metropolitan area. It's one thing to drive to New York late at night, another to drive Georgia Avenue anytime.

Stop Coasting

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am writing in response to Alan Bosch's letter [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 10] about coasting to increase mileage. While I agree with most of his recommendations, one of them hit a nerve: "As soon as you sight a red stoplight, coast into it so little braking is needed to come to a full stop."

That suggestion shows a lack of respect for other drivers. What about those motorists behind Mr. Bosch who are attempting to enter a left-turn-only lane and make the green arrow at that light? They are stuck behind him and will most likely miss their opportunity to make the turn.

I encounter this daily on my commute from Vienna to Chantilly, especially on Lee Highway and Route 50. I estimate that for each turn missed, I lose two to three minutes. That can really start to add up when you count the number of lights.

I suggest that Mr. Bosch drop that tip and choose to increase his awareness of other drivers instead of his gas mileage.

Seth Weizel


I am not noticing "coasters." More often, I notice the left-turners who won't move up into the intersection, meaning drivers behind him miss a light cycle. That's my grrrr.

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, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.