I have been doing a lot of long-distance driving recently and once again encountered an issue that I have ranted about in the past and that is those drivers who camp out in the left lane permanently. And the people doing this cross all ages and both genders. So I was glad to see NPR doing a story on it with the title Don’t Be A Slowpoke: Why Left Lane Driving Causes Traffic.
The story interviewed science writer Joseph Stromberg who explained why such drivers are not merely annoying but also increase the ricks of accidents.
When you’re traveling on the highway, the moment at which you’re most at risk of getting into a crash is when you’re changing lanes. And when you have people going slow in the left lane, as well as the right lane, then people who want to move faster kind of have to zigzag back and forth. They have to change lanes looking over both different shoulders, and it just increases the amount of possible accident scenarios that can happen.
It is really annoying to be stuck behind two cars in adjacent lanes that are each traveling at roughly the same speed. It causes other drivers who want to pass them quite a bit of frustration and they try to zip in and out of small gaps in the adjacent lanes in order to get past. When I notice an impatient driver in such a situation, I drop back because I know that s/he is going to try and suddenly cut into my lane in an effort to pass the car in front.
The fact that you are driving at the speed limit is no excuse.
One of the best predictors of an accident isn’t necessarily whether someone’s speeding or not, but the difference between the average speed of traffic surrounding them and how fast they’re going. And it turns out that going 5 miles per hour slower than the surrounding speed of traffic puts you at a greater risk of accident than going 5 miles per hour faster.
Such drivers also increase the risk of causing traffic jams.
There is, you know, strong research showing that just a small amount of congestion can ripple outwards and make a really big traffic jam. And a lot of times that’s because of just a few cars that are going slower than the speed limit or just at it and blocking up both lanes. And that causes, you know, layers and layers of people trying to pass just backed up behind them. And so it’s annoying, but it also really can cause legitimate congestion.
So knock it off, people. You are probably avoiding the slow lane so that you do not have to deal with cars entering the highway from an on-ramp, but that it not enough of a reason to annoy everyone else.
On that last point, I notice that almost every driver in the right lane now considerately tries to move over to allow people to enter the highway. It used not to be the case but this may be one of those things that people have seen others do and realized it is a good thing. So good driving habits can become universal by example. Let’s hope it happens for the slowpokes in the left lane too.