Life in the pass lane


Brian Keith Dalton, whom most of us know Mr. Deity, takes on an issue that is close to my heart, and that is the proper etiquette for driving in the passing lane. I totally agree with him. It is so infuriating, especially when driving on a highway with just two lanes of traffic, to find the left lane occupied by a car that is cruising along in it with clearly no intention of moving to the right lane.

When that is coupled with another car moving at roughly the same speed in the right lane, that pretty much guarantees the creation of a caravan of cars. What are these people thinking?

Comments

  1. DaveL says

    Some people, upon noticing the deserted road ahead of them and the massive back-up behind them, think to themselves “Wow. I just beat the rush.”

  2. TGAP Dad says

    My policy is this: I use the left lane to pass and stay in the right lane, if there are only two. If there are three or more lanes, I stay one lane to the left, which gets me out of (most of) the merge mania. Most of the time my cruise control is engaged on the highway, and occasionally, this is faster than some of the slower traffic, and I will move to the left lane to overtake. When I do this, I am under no obligation to maintain a minimum speed dictated by the ultra-aggressive deuchebag driver behind me (should there be one) if he/she comes screaming up to my rear bumper. I am not looking to delay my fellow motorists, and I do not like being bullied by someone who thinks that threatening the driver in front of him/her by aggressively tailgating* is the ticket to an unhindered fast lane.

    *Tailgating means that you are following at such a speed and distance that you will be unable to avoid hitting me in the rear if I come to a sudden stop, which I would likely attempt if a child, animal or obstacle were to suddenly appear in my path.

  3. kraut says

    If you are passing and you do that with a differential speed that takes minutes instead of seconds to pass – you are an unmitigated arsehole (imho of course) and should not be permitted on four lane highways.
    But I grew up driving german autobahns with no speed limits and know to drive fast, and drive fast in the curves too – something the knowledge of has not been acquired in north America.
    In BC the situation is somewhat better due to the nature of the mountainous roads here.

  4. arthurhunt says

    In my experience, Ohio is the worst state for this sort of behavior. I have always suspected that drivers in OH were taught in driving school to jump into the passing lane on the interstate and set the cruise for 64 mph.

  5. sailor1031 says

    Some states, Virginia for example, do have such a law. Not that many people seem to know about it. Most folks don’t seem to ever update their knowledge after first getting a license (in fact they seem to forget half of what they did learn), so new rules get ignored. It’s like the one about having to have lights on if using the wipers that was introduced a few years back. How often do you see that being disobeyed?

  6. Mano Singham says

    Yes, that is another pet peeve of mine, people who drive in the gloom of rain and snow and don’t bother to put on their lights to make themselves visible to other users of the road.

  7. DaveL says

    On a related topic, the driver’s exam should include questions like:

    High beam headlamps are for:

    A) Clear nights when neither following nor approaching other traffic; or

    B) Special snowflakes like me.

  8. Jared A says

    Since we all have such strong, righteous opinions about this, I assume then that everyone already knows that passing on the right on a two-lane-each-way highway is illegal in most (all?) states. So I don’t need to point out that it shouldn’t matter whether both lanes are blocked or just the left, because when there is a slow car in the left lane passing is not allowed. And we give an audible signal to the slow car to signal if you would like to pass, so that the car in front will get over to the right lane, as they are obliged to do.

    Because everyone commenting here is a courteous, defensive driver, aware of the many dangers of passing on the right. You know, like making it impossible for a slower motorist to perform their obligation of getting over like you wanted in the first place.

  9. TGAP Dad says

    AFAIK: Ohio is the only state where the state police force only has jurisdiction on the roadways. That’s all they do – wring money out of the taxpayers with bullshit tickets. I once got a ticket there for 52 mph in a 50 mph speed limit in a highway construction zone. The whole state sucks, and I will drive around it whenever it is between me and my destination.

  10. TGAP Dad says

    Your comment doesn’t say, but you sound Iike you have a superiority complex with regard to North American drivers. You realize that just because you (think you) know how to drive fast, doesn’t mean it’s a great idea, and that other drivers are simply inferior to you.

    Your autobahn training doesn’t prepare you for driving in snow, or areas heavily populated with deer or Amish people. And in my state, there are ample quantities of all three. Also, the roads here are in horrible shape. And believe me, when I am overtaking someone, which is always at a reasonable rate unless it’s just the two of us, I am NOT tolerant of the headlights/horn/tailgating protocol. If you do that, you are a colossal asshole for deliberately engaging in behavior that endangers others.

    Also, the higher your speed, the more gas you burn per mile. And at $4 per gallon, I’m in no mood to pour extra money out of the tailpipe, while rewarding people who are being assholes.

  11. says

    I’ve always heard that the “no passing on the right” is for two lane roads, not four.

    “Passing” is not simply driving faster than another car on the freeway, it is a specifically defined maneuver for going around a car in front of you on a TWO lane road, which involves rules concerning curves, how your lane is marked, honking to et the car in front know you are passing, etc.

    If you are in such a situation, using the shoulder to pass IS illegal, as it is dangerous, due to obstacles such as parked cars, pedestrians, and other stuff one always sees on the right side of the road. It was necessary to pass such laws because of the idiots who would do that in frustration in heavy traffic moving in the opposite direction, preventing them from passing on the left.

    On a four lane (or larger) highway, going around a car on the right isn’t “passing”, it is simply driving faster than the jerk on the left who won’t move.

  12. Mano Singham says

    This makes sense to me. Whenever I’ve read of a specific law against passing on the right, it always refers to the situation you describe.

  13. Jared A says

    Technically that question is about staying in your lane, which is not considered pass and is usually not illegal. I guess that recently some states have changed the law, but it’s still there for many states. Regardless passing on the right is dangerous and a poor driving habit.

    To cite another online discussion board, this one is a little more thorough:

    http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-190934.html

    It is worth quoting one post part of the way down,

    “Illegal or not, passing on the right is a bad, though sometimes unavoidable tactic for several reasons:
    – it’s contrary to expected driving behavior
    – the passing car is in the passed car’s blind spot longer
    – increased risk of two cars trying to merge into the same lane when the driver being passed wakes up to his responsibility to move right just as the passing driver gets fed up and decides to pass on the right.”

    That last point is apropos to the discussion because that’s the type of situation that gets out of hand and can eventually lead to the caravan problem you wrote about in the original post.

  14. leni says

    See, I treat it like we’re working together so if traffic is heavy I speed up to pass. They can slow down while I pass and I’ll speed up a bit too. Not the point where I’m going 20+ over, but I’ll put on a few just because it makes life easier (and probably safer) for everyone, including me.

    You can make up for the extra mileage by driving 5 mph under the limit, in the right lane of course 😉

    So I live in WI and we have “Slower Traffic Keep Right” signs everywhere, even on 4 lane (two to a side) highways.

    People who drive in the left lane for no good reason and force everyone to pass them on the right are, I’m convinced, totally, totally evil.

  15. kraut says

    I don’t have a superiority complex, I know I drive better than the average american and Canadian driver.
    We also have heavy snowfall in Germany – and that on the autobahn – and we have likely more snow for longer on the roads in northern BC, where I drove oilpatch access roads (gravel or mud roads) for 30 years, mainly in winter on ice and snow, sometimes in mud up to a foot deep or slippery as soap, and done a lot of off road travel throughout hunting season. I have driven likely over 1,5 million km for the last 44 years on anything in cities in Germany, Canada, Austria to any kind of rural roads, through prairie country, foothills and mountains, climbed up and down 30 degree roads on shale in winter with 900′ drops on the side and no barriers, with heavy trucks approaching.

    “If you do that, you are a colossal asshole for deliberately engaging in behavior that endangers others.”

    I do not tailgate, but likely will show you the finger when you block my road and pass like molasses uphill.
    If you want to pass, do it quick or stay in the fucking slow lane. Or do as I do – if I do not want to go pass driving beyond the speed limit, and the other driver is close to the limit anyway – I slow down and follow, because I am not an asshole willing to block the traffic like those (YOU?) who think they have the fucking right to pass at any speed as long as it is 1/2 mph faster than the guy before them.

  16. kraut says

    PS – driving on roads is only fun when it has lots of curves, and you take them at the limit of your vehicle’s capacity to still stay on the road in the correct lane – everything else is “railroading”: put in in cruise control and rest.

  17. kyoseki says

    Worse than people just driving in the left lane are the ones who pace other traffic whilst doing so, if you’re going to pass, PASS, don’t pull alongside them and then just sit there.

    WHY do you insist on driving in someone else’s blind spot, especially when that someone is a goddamned semi?

    LA (Los Angeles, not Lousiana) drivers are notorious for doing this, I suspect because they’re usually on the phone, couple that with the fact that almost nobody here ever bothers to check their blind spot and you see why we have so many accidents.

    … oh and don’t get me started on these idiots in the wet.

    I would LOVE to see snow in the LA basin, just once! I can foresee cars sacrificing themselves to save lives, just exploding in driveways before anyone has the chance to get out on the roads (I’ll be walking the 10 miles to work that day I can tell you).

    When the driving test in this country is so laughable easy, is it any wonder we kill upwards of 36,000 people on our roads every year?

  18. arthurhunt says

    The most evil speed trap I ever saw was entering OH from Indiana on I74. You come over a slight hill and are going downhill into OH, where the speed limit changes from 70 (in IN) to 65 (in OH). Saw some OH state police sitting not 10 yards from the border, stopping people who had not slowed down fast enough.

  19. kyoseki says

    Save it for the track, there’s no way you can be driving at the vehicle’s limit and be either a: anywhere close to the speed limit or b: safe

    On the street you always need to leave a large margin for error; not necessarily for yourself, but also for other road users – the standard rule I was always taught was that you need to be able to stop in half the distance you can see, the reasoning being that someone coming in the opposite direction would need the same amount of space – even if you’re in the right lane, they might not be.

    … and I freely I’m guilty of not leaving as large a margin as I should in some cases, usually on the freeway, but shit, if you leave a 2 second gap here, 4 cars will jump into it.

  20. TGAP Dad says

    I am inclined to agree with you here. I don’t cause my fellow motorists undue delay by deliberately creeping by a slower vehicle in the right lane. And I nudge it up a bit to get around someone if traffic is collecting around me.

    Wisconsin is gorgeous. I especially love the north: Apostle Islands, Green Bay, and Marinette were some of my favs. Love to get back there some day.

  21. kraut says

    “On the street you always need to leave a large margin for error; not necessarily for yourself, but also for other road users – the standard rule I was always taught was that you need to be able to stop in half the distance you can see, the reasoning being that someone coming in the opposite direction would need the same amount of space ”

    Don’t assume you know the fuck where I am driving and what I am driving. It is a lot more fun to drive a vehicle at its capabilities when it reaches that limit at the speed limit than a vehicle that needs speed beyond the legal limit to reach that edge..
    Our roads where I live have little enough traffic to corner at speed (you have to know how to corner fast) safely and with nobody either ahead or oncoming – that is one reason I like to live where I live, not much traffic and a lot of landscape and winding roads – we also have the most boring Alaska Highway…why would anybody who loves to DRIVE ever use it except for business when there are more interesting roads to get to Alaska, like the Stewart Cassiar highway, or the road from Edmonton to Hinton and Grande Prairie, a beautiful mountain road with switchbacks and sharp corners I just don’t get.
    But the standard is: most folks slow down to a crawl into the curves because they have no fucking idea how to do it safely and fast.

  22. kyoseki says

    I really don’t give a shit what or where you’re driving; if, as you say, you’re at the absolute limit of your vehicle’s capabilities then you’ve left zero margin for error.

  23. kraut says

    Where the fuck did I say at the absolute limit, you idiot?
    Just because you have no fucking clue how to drive safely fast doesn’t mean anybody else has no idea how to.
    Go home and play with your pedal bike, asshole.

  24. kyoseki says

    Where the fuck did I say at the absolute limit, you idiot?

    Pretty sure it was when you said this;

    It is a lot more fun to drive a vehicle at its capabilities when it reaches that limit at the speed limit than a vehicle that needs speed beyond the legal limit to reach that edge..

    …. and also when you said this;

    driving on roads is only fun when it has lots of curves, and you take them at the limit of your vehicle’s capacity to still stay on the road in the correct lane

    So, want to pretend you were saying something other than what you actually said? Are we now going to pretend that “limit” and “absolute limit” are two different things?

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