Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I just read the letter from Eric Anderson [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 17] describing how he was driving with his 13-month-old daughter in the HOV-2 lane when the tailgating driver behind him held up two fingers. In your response, you commented that the driver probably thought he was a solo driver ignoring the HOV-2 rules.

I imagine such a situation could be avoided if passengers were required to be of driving age to qualify the vehicle for HOV use. I was under the impression that the HOV lanes were put in place to encourage carpooling, leading to fewer cars on the road. Am I mistaken?

Ursula Badertscher


There is no restriction on the age of a passenger in HOV lanes. A body is a body. I'm sure many parents are not taking their children in the HOV lanes for their pleasure or convenience. Instead, they're probably going to child-care facilities, schools, medical appointments or extracurricular activities.

I have heard the age limit argument before, and it generally gets roundly booed by readers of Dr. Gridlock. Besides, the most traffic congestion in Virginia's HOV lanes is caused by solo drivers violating the HOV rules, not by adults with children.

Tri-County Parkway News

Now comes word that Virginia has approved a route for the long-studied tri-county parkway, designed to link Manassas with the Dulles corridor via a new north-south route.

The 10.4-mile parkway would begin where the Route 234 bypass hits Interstate 66 and would run directly north to the Loudoun County line.

The next steps are completion of a final environmental impact statement and a record of decision by the Federal Highway Administration. Those steps are expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Now for the bad news. VDOT doesn't have any money allocated to push the process beyond this point. Certainly not the $201 million it would take to build the road.

So VDOT is soliciting interest from the private sector, which could build the road and collect tolls to pay for the construction. A public-private partnership has worked well in the swift construction of six interchanges along Route 28 (the last ones due in fall 2006), and such an agreement may bring about a 14-mile addition of two new Beltway lanes in each direction (possibly by 2010).

It's a little fuzzy how any tri-county parkway would link to the Loudoun County Parkway, and hence northward to the Dulles Corridor. Heaven knows that Route 50, a possible link, already is swamped with motorists coming from all the new mega-subdivisions being built in Loudoun County, as well as commuters from points farther west.

Free Trip Both Ways?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have always been a fan of your articles. They are insightful and thought-provoking. But there is one subject that I do not remember reading about.

If I am dropping someone off at Dulles International Airport, I know that I can cruise all the way to the airport on the Dulles Access Road without thinking twice about getting a ticket.

My question: Am I allowed to use the Dulles Access Road after I drop someone off in order to get back to the Capital Beltway, or do I have to take the Dulles Toll Road and pay the tolls?

Bernard Bundy Jr.


You can use the Dulles Access Road going to or from the airport. It might help if you keep a copy of a flight itinerary or passenger receipt in case you are stopped, but police can usually tell whether you have been to the airport by the way you answer their questions.

Blue Lights Special?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I live in Northern Virginia and drive into the District for work. On a number of occasions lately, I have seen individual Metropolitan Police Department cars running their blue lights without their sirens.

A few times, I have pulled over to let them by, but they are almost never driving faster than usual and in fact don't seem to be in any hurry at all (they wait in line at a red light like other cars, for example).

What's up with that? Am I still required to pull over and make way for them when I see them? Or is there just some new policy that has them running their blue lights even when they're just tooling around town -- a policy that doesn't require me to get out of the way?

Rebecca Davis-Nord


D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey noticed that Israeli police used their emergency lights just to let citizens know that police were around. So a couple of years ago, Ramsey directed cruisers on patrol to display flashing blue lights.

You don't have to pull over for them, according to police spokesman Quintin Peterson. You need to pull over only if you hear a siren.

That seems confusing to me. I can see why you'd be puzzled, Ms. Davis-Nord.

Sign Him Up

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

After reading Eric Anderson's complaint that the driver behind him in the HOV-2 lane didn't see his 13-month-old daughter and thought Anderson was violating the rules [Dr. Gridlock, Nov. 17], my first thought was, "Perhaps he should put up one of those tacky 'Baby on Board' signs." If ever there's an appropriate reason to have one, it's for that.

Chris Rogers


I agree. Now, does anyone know where to get one? And I assume we are talking about a rear bumper decal or trunk sign. Placing one in the rear window may obscure the driver's rearward sight line.

The Right Way to Turn

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One dangerous behavior I see more and more is the right turn on red without any stop.

I have to use evasive maneuvers every week because someone comes zooming from a side street and thinks "right on red" is all there is to the rule.

Signs don't reinforce the "after a complete stop" part of the rule, so that little detail has disappeared from the way people drive.

How can we get the "right after red after a complete stop" rule back in front of people, to stop the dangerous behavior of running red lights from a side street?

Walter Lazear


Right now, the only right turn on red signs I see are ones where there are limits to such turns. Most intersections in our metropolitan area have no signs at all about right on red. So to notify the public that "Right Turn on Red -- AFTER STOP" is permitted would involve posting new signs at thousands of intersections.

And even then, would people stop any more than they do now for red lights, or for four-way stop signs, or for pedestrians in crosswalks? It's traffic anarchy around here, and I don't know how to change the culture.

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 e-mails, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.