04 November 2010

QotD: Is it really so hard to drive fast in the left lane and slow in the right?

This month I've decided to post every day. Please don't faint. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

For me to get to work, I have to drive on the dreaded DC Beltway. So that means that I get stuck in traffic. And, therefore, I think about traffic and driving patterns a lot. (so do lots of other people).

One driving behavior that really sticks in my craw is slow cars in the left lane. While I know that all traffic on the Beltway is not caused by moronic driving habits, I am convinced that there are some important driving rules that should be obeyed. And one of those is fast--left, slow--right. What is the lure for these people who like to drive slowly (and by slowly, I mean less than 60 mph) in the left lane? Is is inherent curmudgeonliness? Is it a need to make everyone else around you slow down? Is it simple cluelessness?

My question for today is "Is it really so hard to drive fast in the left lane and slow in the right?"


Shawn Powers said...

It may actually be ignorance. I've lived all my driving years in a very rural area. The idea of "fast lanes" isn't something I'm really all that familiar with. Granted I understand the concept now, but I'm still not sure on what is legal, what is expected, what is done, and what isn't done.

For example, the whole "commuter lane" befuddles me. By a guessing definition, I'm assuming the lane is reserved for folks with multiple people in the car or something. But are those people allowed to drive faster than others? Is the "fast lane" looked over by police officers? How fast is too fast?

See, I think I'm a pretty smart guy, but these are things I've never had to deal with, so I have no idea. So maybe that pokey guy in the left lane is me, wondering why the whole world is mad at him. :)

Shawn Powers said...

I suppose I could ask, "why can't people figure out that there is only one lane on our street. You can't pass someone on the shoulder just because the shoulders are big..."

Next time on Be A Hick Broadcast, we'll be teaching the proper way to tie a deer to the roof of your car. ;)

Claudia said...


I'm funny. But the answer is really yes. Now that we've established that you cannot rely on the cooperation of people who are mostly either stupid or ignorant of others while they are driving, I have a solution for you: do it the German way! Have a law that prohibits passing on the right. Problem solved.

John the Scientist said...

Shawn, even in Michigan, the left lane is also known as the passing lane. If you are not passing, GET THE FUCK OUT OF IT!!!!

Sorry, Natalie, gotta wipe the foam off my mouth. o.O

And those pokey guys in DC live in the area. One day I'm going to follow one of these clueless assholes home and demand an explanation for the behavior. Because anyone who's spent more than 30 minutes driving in a city cna figure this one out.

neurondoc said...

I had thought that pass-left, drive-right was a standard highway driving rule. I'm pretty sure there was a question about it on the NJ driving test, but I took that when I was 17. O.o

Claud -- Larry passed on the right when he was in Germany the time before last. He got shrieked at, I believe.

Anonymous said...

1. Drive right, pass left is the law around here. However, it is not enforced, therefore it is generally not observed.

2. I've heard a lot of folks comment that they feel safer driving in the middle lane (we have a lot of 3 or 4 lane highways around Toronto, that is number of lanes in EACH direction). Personally, I try to avoid the middle lanes. Why would I want the potential of traffic coming at me from both sides? Much safer to be in one of the side lanes, preferably with a shoulder as an escape route.

Herman X said...

Well, what can I say, I pass on the right several times a day, EVERY DAY. Why, because I have too or I will be permanently behind someone going well below the speed limit which is sometimes half the true value during high-traffic times.

During these "slow contests" one is often given the opportunity to see EXACTLY who these people are. It seems to be a mix between old and young, male and female which sheds no light on a specific group. What I also see MANY times is someone happily talking on their cell phone absolutely oblivious to the 27 cars that recently passed and then cut back in just in front of them.

There are giant signs on the VA side of the beltway indicating the pass on left rule. Nope, not read or heeded but the giant overhead sign prompting you to call a number for terror tips is always read - mostly by slowing down to 25mph approximately 100 yards before the sign and only resuming speed 300 yards past.

Maryland has no real signage about passing, just giant signs indicating the cops will be watching you. "Aggressive imaging in use" whatever that means, oh, and that sign has been there since the 80's.

DC, forget it, you can't get up enough speed to pass on the left or right on either of DC's two "major" freeways but I still do! Its usually some fool with faraway license plates either sight-seeing or looking for an exit ramp. This behavior is not limited to the freeway, Pennsylvania Ave NW or Constitution Ave, NW past the White House is good for left lane gawkers who slow to like 10mph hoping to see Barack.

Yes, I did pass right in Germany last time, just outside of Frankfurt. I got fist shaking, lights flashing, horn blaringness and all kinds of other evil spells put on me. Glad we had German plates on the car!

Douglas said...

If it is anything like Twin Cities the slow people in the left most lane are preparing to exit. We have lots of major left lane exits here. Thus, in preparation, drivers get to the lane they need well in advance. WELL in advance. Hence they may go 5 or 10 or more miles in that left lane before they need to exit. Couple that with the timidity that requires them to get into that lane well in advance, and you get slow drivers in the left land.

Further, there are lots of right lanes that end up turning into "Exit Only" lanes. Thus, people will get out of that lane well in advance as well. Hence, it often turns out that the far right lane is the lane that allows traveling at the fastest speed.

Just a guess...

John the Scientist said...

Douglas, there are very, very few left exits in the DC area, and on the East Coast in general, compared to the Midwest.

That isn't the issue here. I, too try to find a pattern in the drivers. Up here, clueless old farmers in pickup trucks are a major part of the demographic. I was just in Norfolk, and getting passed by souped-up pickups was definitely a blast from the past (I grew up in the area). In New England, pickup = idiot driving slow in the fast lane.

Young people on cell phones are another component of the demographic.

Self-righteous fundie Christians and green party idiots trying to control other people's speeds are another problem. And those idots generally don't know how to press the pedal on the right a little harder going up a hill, so they tend to drive 65 on the flats, but 58 going up a hill. Then the semis dodging the aged and clueless doing 55 in the right-hand lane swing out behind them and suddently everyone in the left lane is doing 56 in a 65.

But people who drive more than 5 mph below the limit in the right lane is probably another rant for another day (hint, hint). TAKE THE LOCAL IF YOU'RE AFRAID OF SPEED!!!

Sorry, foam again...

My dream is to buy a beater pickup with a snowplow and pound a couple of these idiots off the road one day.

Pour encouragez les autres, of course.

neurondoc said...

Welcome Douglas (another Douglas!). I find left exits annoying for that very reason -- they bollix up the traffic even more than usual. There are very few left lane exits on the DC Beltway. There are none in Maryland, which is where I was driving, so that can't be the cause.

Random Michelle K said...

I think the left lane is preferred by cautious drivers because it is the only lane where traffic is not constantly shifting from both directions. I always try to get into the left lane as quickly as possible.

However, unlike my husband, I do not insist on driving the speed limit. In fact, I like to go fast more than is good for me.