30 March 2015


Now that I spend two to three hours a day on the road, I have a whole new level of frustration with the inefficiencies of driving.

(For reference, the entire drive to the city where I work is on a six-lane divided highway. Each side is three lanes.)

Problem One: people who are afraid to leave the middle lane. 

I get these people. I used to be them, back when I lived in places with only two lanes on each side of a highway. I understand that when you get to a busier part of the world and there are three lanes it is hard to leave the middle lane because in the right lane you might be forced to speed up or slow down or - gasp - move over into a small gap between two other cars or figure out what to do when someone is merging onto the highway. The middle lane feels safe.

This is incredibly inefficient. If only the semis use the right lane, we might as well have a two-lane highway. An entire lane is wasted. If you are the slow car, move into the right lane. Just... I beg you. Please. Stop clogging the entire road by staying in the middle lane.

I have taken to passing on the right. I am now that person who passes on the right. I used to hate that person, and now I am that person. In fact, I have driven for three to five miles in the right lane without ever having to slow down or move over. During rush hour. On a heavily traveled interstate. Passing many cars. Do you know what this tells me? The slow people are not in the right lane. They are in some other lane. People are not using the whole road.

When someone passes me on the right now, this is what I think: I deserved that. I deserved it because I should have been further to the right because I was the slower car and I was not further to the right, so I failed as a driver. 

Problem Two: people who believe that the left lane is their birthright and it shall not be taken from them except by force. 

I am not kidding when I say that there are times when the left lane is full of cars going two miles over the speed limit while both the right and middle lanes are empty except for those two cars waaaaaaaay up there in the distance who might be going exactly the speed limit or might be gone by the time we catch up with them, but everyone in the left lane is afraid to leave the left lane lest they have to touch their brakes if they ever catch up to the (possibly) slower cars. 

My new strategy is to get over in to the middle or even right lane in that situation just to make a point. Sometimes I end up going back to the left lane between the same two cars I was between before. Sometimes I pass a few of those people (on the right). Sometimes I pass all of them because the person in the right lane got off the highway and I have a lane to myself. Any way it works, I have used more of the horizontal space of the road, which is more efficient. Rarely do I lose ground in that situation. (And if I do, so what? It's just a few seconds of slowing down. The overall efficiency of the road was increased by my use of a lane other than the one full of cars.)

Problem Three: people who do not look ahead at what is coming down the road. 

If you are driving along in the middle lane, with no one around but that semi in the right lane that you are getting close to passing, is it not logical that you would look ahead and think, "Oh, there is someone trying to merge/a disabled vehicle/a police officer who pulled someone over. That semi will need to get over into the middle lane so that the other car can merge smoothly/the people getting out of the disabled car have space/the officer doesn't have to worry about his walk up to the car window. I will get over into the left lane so the semi can have the middle lane." (Semi drivers LOVE it when you do this. They get over instantly. Car drivers do not always understand that you moved over so they can move over. Maybe we need more drivers training.)

The job of a driver is to look ahead, see these things, and work to make everything move as smoothly as possible. People who do not move over in this situation are the root cause of Problem One, people being afraid of the right lane, because they trap people in the right lane, and yet they also are Problem One, because they refuse to leave the middle lane either to the right or the left. 

I appear to be alone in that opinion, however. Rarely do I see cars move over so that the right lane drivers can give space to someone merging. I am out there mounting a silent one woman campaign for more efficient roads, but it's not catching on. 

I just want to make a plea for efficiency. It isn't that hard. Stay right except to pass, as the signs say. It's basic. It's common courtesy. It works. And we'd all get to work faster.

//end rant//

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