Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Slower Traffic Keep Right

My friend Dean posted about "Fido the Peeve" over on his blog. He asked about the reader's peeves; I left a comment, but have since decided to expand on this a bit on my own blog. After frequent travel during the Christmas holidays (down to Pensacola, back to North Alabama, down to Birmingham, back to NA, back down to B'ham, back to NA, and we're not done yet: a trip to Atlanta is coming in the near future as well), I've realized that inconsiderate drivers are among my biggest peeves. Especially those who can't seem to read this sign:

I mean, how hard is it to figure out what that means? I've joined the "Slower Traffic Keep Right campaign" (I don't fully endorse that site, but it is where I got the image of the sign, so I figured it only fair to give them credit; I haven't read much beyond that page on the site, and there is some language there, so please use caution if you venture over there). These signs are scattered around Alabama's interstate highways (you know, those divided, controlled access freeways whose names start with "I-" and then some numbers). And ignored by seemingly 95% of slow drivers who decide that the left lane is an appropriate place to drive whatever speed they want. Or, when there are three lanes per side, the middle lane is an appropriate place to drive under the speed limit (last night, on the way home from Birmingham, I came upon a driver who suddenly slowed to less than 40 mph in the middle lane of a 60 mph highway; this caused aggravation and hazardous conditions as traffic quickly piled up in that center lane). I saw another guy's blog post about this issue on I-85 in Atlanta, but due to excessive language there, I won't post a link to it here.

Anyway, it is common courtesy to allow people who are driving faster than you to pass. In fact, it's more than common courtesy - it's the law. From the Code of Alabama, Section 32-5A-80:
Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
This isn't really that difficult to understand: if you're driving, and traffic is moving faster than you are, you should be in the right-hand lane. It's also much less dangerous to allow faster traffic to move along in the left lane than to force it to weave between lanes and vehicles. Courteous, safe, smart. And it's not hurting you to drive in the right hand lane, anyway.

I've also noticed something else: people don't seem to know how fast they want to drive. I hate playing "leapfrog" with other vehicles because they're periodically change their speed by 10 mph or more. I'll pass a car, then shortly down the road they'll pass me at 5-10 mph faster than I'm driving, then they'll slow down to 5-10 mph under my speed (which is fairly constant, having my cruise control set to a specific speed and left there). This will go back and forth until I finally (in frustration) speed up to 10-20 mph above the speed I've been maintaining, drive like this for a while (in order to get well ahead of the offending vehicle), and then slow back down to my previous speed.

Another thing: people seem to have a tendency to speed up to catch a vehicle in front of them, then slow to about the same speed when approaching the vehicle, then only speed up again once well past the vehicle. This often causes problems since the vehicle being overtaken may need to pass a slower vehicle, but someone has moved up to their rear bumper in the left lane and then stays there for a while until the first vehicle has to brake to avoid hitting the slower vehicle. I think this is a subconscious thing, as I've found myself guilty of this at times. I try to keep my speed constant as much as possible (this reduces fuel consumption as well, which I'm sure the environmentalists enjoy; I enjoy the savings in fuel cost, although that's not really a big deal to me).

Anyway, here's a proposition: if you're passing someone, and that person is approaching a slower vehicle, why not accelerate yourself a little so you're not holding up the person you're passing from moving into the left lane to pass the slower vehicle? That way the one you're passing won't have to tap the brakes, slow down, move over, press "resume" on the cruise control, and speed back up. Again, a little courtesy goes a long way into making the roads a nicer, and safer, place to be.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, it's illegal to coast down a hill in neutral.

Enough ranting for one night... drive safely, and equally as importantly (in my mind), courteously! Do to others (even when on the road behind the wheel of a moving vehicle) as you would like them to do to you (not how they've done to you already, but how you wish they had done to you!).

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