Posts Tagged ‘avoid accidents’

Leader driven Harmony #34: Left Lane Loonies

by Mack McKinney on July 22, 2011

Our society is based on predictable actions by us and the people around us.  Nowhere is this more important than on our highways.  As we hurtle past each other on our roadways in 2-ton cars, just 4 feet apart, at a relative speed of 120 mph, being predictable is crucial. And with urban sprawl and longer commutes, we are spending more time than ever on the road.  In fact, for many of us the highway IS our office.  Cell phones let us do business from our cars as we travel to the office, the airport or to meetings with clients.

But I am not arriving at meetings as relaxed as I’d like to be, mainly due to an increase in what I call Left Lane Loonies on the interstate highways in the eastern US.  These are people who drive in the left lane at speeds slower than other traffic, creating undue stress and aggravation for other drivers and further slowing traffic on our already-congested highways.  This behavior has nothing to do with their traveling above or below any certain speed limit – – – they just drive in the left lane at a speed LOWER than other drivers behind them would like to drive.  Why is this a problem?  Let me count the ways:

  1. FACT: It is absolutely illegal in, I believe, every state of the USA and most foreign countries.  State laws that I have examined always say something like “on multi-lane highways, slower traffic must keep right”.  And that requirement is independent of any speed limits:  if someone wants to pass you and you force them to do so on the right (because you do not quickly yield your left lane), it is a ticketable, moving violation.  In Germany, both drivers will be cited!
  2. FACT: It impedes traffic.  Some years ago a friend was driving to the emergency room with an injured child in his car, only to get stuck behind a person driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane and in-formation with two other cars in the right lane.  The driver just wouldn’t move on past the traffic in the right lane so either she could then move right or so my friend could move right and pass her on the right.  It took several minutes to get by her and he finally did so by driving on the left shoulder when it became apparent that she had no intention of moving to the right lane, even when it was clear.  Luckily the child wasn’t critical or those minutes might have been fatal.
  3. FACT: It creates unsafe situations: the driver trying to pass may take unwarranted chances to get around, cutting too close to other traffic or, in extreme cases such as my friend above, driving on the shoulder.
  4. OPINION: It marks you as either narcissistic (in love with yourself), in La La Land or a frustrated person who wants to control the actions of others (in other words a bully), or some combination of these.  No matter what, it makes you look foolish.

If you are guilty of this behavior, you need to stop it.  But assuming that you don’t do this, what should you do when you encounter someone who does?

  1. First, be safe.  Maintain at least 1.5-2.0 car lengths between you and them.
  2. Slow down yourself!  Try getting into the right lane, moving at a slower pace and just enjoying the scenery!  Most of us are in too great a hurry anyway.
  3. If you don’t want to slow down for whatever reason (that’s your business), politely ask them to move right by signaling them with the quick, international “two flash” of high beams.  If they CAN move right (there is room over there) and if they are traveling at roughly the same speed as the traffic in that right lane, reminding them to move over shouldn’t cause a problem.  (I sometimes get caught in the left lane by faster traffic and I willingly move over when asked.)  Both flashes should only take one second and you should get back on low beams or no-beams.  Then WAIT 10-15 seconds to see if they will move to the right when it is convenient for them and they can do so into traffic that is traveling at roughly their speed.
  4. If they don’t move over, even though they could do so safely and the other traffic in that right lane is moving at roughly their speed, then there are three possibilities:
  • They are waiting for a bigger “slot’ to move into, maybe among somewhat faster traffic in that right lane than you and they are currently passing, probably moving more closely to their desired, long-term speed.  So if you and they are still passing vehicles in that right lane cool your jets and just wait awhile.
  • They haven’t seen your lights flash, asking them to yield. On the chance this is the reason, flash them again, just briefly – – – don’t brighten your lights in anger – – – it marks you as a hotheaded rookie driver.  And stay well back: Unstable people have been known to slam on their brakes when pushed too hard to yield a left lane and this is not worth a collision.
  • They saw your light-flashing signal and know what you want but they have no intention of moving over, because a) they are the self-appointed speed police and have decided their speed is the correct speed for everyone or b) they feel they have a right to drive in any lane they want and are unaware they are violating the law or c) they just don’t like YOU.  If they are only an annoyance and I’ll be able to pass them on the right soon, I just bide my time and pass when able.  Then as I get back in front of them, I roll my driver’s window down, extend my left arm and point repeatedly above my roof over to the right, asking them to move right for the string of traffic now formed behind them.  In about 1/3 the cases, they move over to the right lane!  They were in La La Land and didn’t realize they were causing traffic problems.  But sometimes they just shake their head “no”.  I made my point that their controlling behavior did not go unnoticed.  On the other hand, if they are knowingly causing a serious traffic problem by refusing to change lanes when asked, I assume they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  I then dial 9-1-1 on my cell phone and report their strange behavior and tag number in a calm, measured way to local law enforcement.  Hopefully some of these people get pulled off the road and get educated about the importance of keeping traffic flowing.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation