Thursday, June 19, 2014

NOT ADDRESSED TO ANY PARTICULAR READER OF THIS SITE:  As part of our nation's Lane Courtesy Month celebration, Vox explains why you shouldn't drive slowly in the left lane:
Research shows that many traffic jams result from a surprisingly small number of slow cars obstructing traffic, with their effects rippling outward. A small buildup of cars that can't pass because someone is driving slowly in the left — right next to another car traveling slowly in the right — is the exact type of scenario that can start this cascade of traffic. 
Now, some people counter that as long as they're going the speed limit, they don't have to move over — and by slowing down would-be speeders, they're making the roads safer. 
Apart from the fact that in 44 states, simply going the speed limit doesn't permit drivers to travel in the left lane, this argument doesn't make a lot of sense based on research into how accidents occur....  research has generally shown that the strongest predictor of an accident isn't speeding, but variance from the average speed of traffic — and a car going five miles per hour slower than the surrounding traffic has a greater chance of causing an accident than one going five miles per hour faster than it.


  1. Joseph Finn9:02 AM

    Ah, the "coddling speeders is a good thing" theory. Right. Got it, Stromberg,

    (Hint to Stromberg: if you're driving the speed limit in the left lane, you're not driving slowly.)

  2. Adam B.9:27 AM

    According to Illinois law, per the article:

    (b) Upon a 2 lane roadway, providing for 2-way movement of traffic, a vehicle shall be driven in the right-hand lane 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. ...

    (d) Upon an Interstate highway or fully access controlled freeway, a vehicle may not be driven in the left lane, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle.

    [625 ILCS 5/11-701(b),(d)]

  3. Joseph Finn10:23 AM

    Ayup. And if I'm doing the speed limit in the left lane, I'm passing slower drivers. Sure, some people might take speeders into account, but as they're law-breaking galoots, I don't feel a need to.

  4. If you are presently (i.e., at that very moment) passing a slower driver, you can drive the speed limit in the left lane. But then you have to get back over in the right hand lane. Meaning that you can't hang out in the right hand lane to try to stop people from using that lane to speed by you.

  5. Meghan11:16 AM

    Isn't blocking the left lane to try to slow faster drivers really just vigilantism?

  6. Yes and those people are the worst.

  7. How many drivers do you pass going the speed limit in the left lane on a major highway? Just curious.

  8. The Pathetic Earthling11:26 AM

    It's like trolling, but in real life. And for the same reason.

  9. Joseph Finn11:29 AM

    Plenty, of course. They're the ones going below the speed limit.

  10. Joseph Finn11:29 AM

    Driving is trolling? OK then.

  11. Joseph Finn11:29 AM


  12. The Pathetic Earthling11:31 AM

    You also have the right to drive the speed limit in other than the fast lane and you choose not to. Go 55? Lane on the far right is available. Your behavior -- yours, not the guy trying to go 68 in a 65 -- is what removes slack in the system that requires slack. And the lack of slack is what causes accidents. It's what killed a friend of mine.

  13. Joseph Finn11:34 AM

    You're failing to show how driving the speed limit and not speeding is a bad thing. This goes right into the flow of Stromberg's argument, that somehow the the person driving safely and following the laws is the problem, not the people speeding.

  14. The Pathetic Earthling11:39 AM

    I assume you have the right to stand in the doorway in an empty subway car. Who does that?

  15. Adam B.12:00 PM

    You are causing an unsafe situation through your obstinate behavior.

  16. Marsha12:07 PM

    I feel like I came in in the middle of this conversation.

  17. Nigel from Cameroon12:09 PM

    Yes, you are

  18. Nigel from Cameroon12:12 PM

    This is an obvious and well-known Rule of the Road.

    And just plain frustrating that the 'I'm going the speed limit so it's okay' mentality exists. It's dangerous. It slows traffic. Causes congestion. All that. Just move.

  19. Joseph Finn12:15 PM

    Only as compared to law-breaking speeders.

  20. Jenn.2:42 PM

    I guess my question to JF is: why do you care if someone is going faster than you in the left lane? It can't really be because you are concerned that that person is causing a dangerous situation, because you're cheerfully ignoring evidence that your preferred activity (driving the speed limit in the left lane even if that causes many other drivers on the same road to pass you on the right) is affirmatively dangerous. And it can't be because that person is affecting your ability to drive your preferred speed---that person is passing you either way. So, why do you care?

  21. Joseph Finn3:02 PM

    As long as they're not speeding, I don't care if they're passing me in the left lane. And I've not been shown any evidence that driving safely and legally is the cause of accidents which are clearly caused by people speeding and weaving in and out of lanes.

  22. Joseph Finn3:04 PM

    Driving safely and legally is "unsafe" and "obstinate"? OK then.

  23. Joseph Finn3:07 PM

    Wow, lots of attempts to ascribe motive to my driving safely, as if there was any other motive to my driving than, oh, getting somewhere safely and not endangering other drivers. When I am driving the speed limit in the left lane, which is the fastest I can legally go in the left lane, I am passing slower drivers over to the right, as it should be. Speeders are going to do whatever they want, being reckless drivers, and my driving safely and legally isn't going to stop them.

  24. Joseph Finn3:08 PM

    BTW, fascinating amount of support for speeders in this discussion.

  25. Jenn.3:08 PM

    (A) You still haven't answered the question. How does it hurt you if a stream of vehicles is going faster than you in the left lane?
    (B) And you're ignoring the evidence that people driving slower than traffic in the left land is the direct cause of other drivers "weaving in and out of lanes."

    So my question remains: If you are able to go the speed that you want in the right lane, what does it matter to you if people are passing you in the left lane, regardless of their speed?

  26. Joseph Finn3:13 PM

    A) "As long as they're not speeding, I don't care if they're passing me in the left lane." Question answered, safe drivers in the left lane passing me don't hurt me at all.

    B) No one has shown any such evidence. Oh sure, they frame the accidents caused by people speeding around lawful and safe drivers as somehow being 'caused" by the safe drivers, just because the safe drivers are in the minority. But c'mon, that's blaming the victims of the speeders who can't be bothered to drive safely.

  27. Jenn.3:18 PM

    (A) I have defined the question very narrowly. If someone is going faster than you in the left lane, at whatever speed, how does that hurt you? As they say in law school, don't fight the question. If the speed limit is 55 and someone is going 60 in the left lane, and you are going 55 in the right lane, how does that hurt you?

    (B) Technically, if you are being passed on the right, in most states, you are not being a "lawful and safe driver," as the article establishes. It means that you are further to the left than you should be under the law.

  28. Adam B.4:23 PM

    Legal doesn't make it safe. It's not safe, and in fact, it's not legal unless you're passing others.

  29. Becca7:16 PM

    This quote also seems pertinent:

    "In 29 states, the law says any car that's moving slower than the "normal speed of traffic" should be in the right lane — so even if it's going at the speed limit, a car that's not moving as fast as the other cars around shouldn't be in the left."

    Both the state I learned to drive in and the state I currently live in are included. The average speed on SoCal freeways is about 70-80 MPH, I'd say, and if you're going below that in the far left lane, you're the problem.

  30. Duvall8:17 PM

    Right, my understanding was always that you aren't supposed to cruise in the left lane at *any* speed.

  31. Honestly? This is why 2-lane interstates are the bane of my existence. With even just three lanes, you have your right lane for the slowpokes, the middle lane for people going at or near the speed limit (give or take 1-2 mph, for variance in speedometers) - especially those using cruise control, and the fast lane for everybody else and the ones that want to pass the cruisers in the middle.

    Related: the Germans have a word for it:

  32. Adam C.9:46 AM

    Agree with Amy here. There are a lot of good reasons to undertake an effort to upgrade all 2-lane interstates to at least 3 lanes. (That said, when I rule the world we won't all be doing so much goddamn driving.)

  33. Watts9:51 AM

    When I go visit my parents, who live in the next state, it's mostly 2-lane, but with a brief, beautiful three-lane respite about 2/3 of the way there. I curse while driving most of the 2-lane stretches.

  34. Genevieve12:43 PM

    People aren't trying to change their behavior, they're trying to change yours.
    You are the one who is posting here about actually breaking the law, if you are driving in one of the 29 states that has a law that says "any car that's moving slower than the "normal speed of traffic" should be in the right lane — so even if it's going at the speed limit, a car that's not moving as fast as the other cars around shouldn't be in the left."
    How do you justify breaking that law?

  35. christy in nyc6:20 PM

    Problem is, the beautiful-when-it's-done-right system of staying right except to pass, don't pass unless/until you're going around the same speed as most other people around you makes inevitable, and indeed only works at all if, people at all speeds have more patience for each other than anyone here is displaying.

    Because even when it's working exactly as planned, SOMETIMES you're going to end up behind someone going slower than you want to, and you're not going to be able to pass right away. If it's when you're on the right, and the cars on your left are going faster than you want to go, you have to wait, and not try to cut in before someone going way faster. If it's when you're on the left, and the person in front of you is legit passing someone slower than them, after having waited their turn, and then you came up behind them because you're going that much faster, then you have to wait, and not swerve into the right lane before that person has a chance to fulfill their side of the bargain. So either way, you have to cool, man.

    Thanks for making the NYC subway and bus system feel really relaxing, though! I needed that.