Those happy campers in the left lane
Only 9% of drivers in a recent poll said they regularly camp in the passing lane. So why is it often blocked by slowpokes?
This post comes from Des Toups at partner site CarInsurance.com.
The battle for the highway's left lane has raged for decades and, despite well-intentioned efforts to clarify laws and unclog the passing lane, has become part of the fabric of urban life.
Regional insurer Pemco acknowledges as much in the most recent addition to its long-running ad campaign, "Northwest Profile No. 51: Oblivious Left Lane Occupant":
"It matters not how many honks, high beams or dirty looks he receives, because he's in his own little world, a world where 'Speed Limit 60' can actually mean 51, and the words 'Stay Right Except to Pass' are merely a suggestion," the announcer intones. "Perhaps it's the breathtaking mountain view, or maybe it's the continuous soft hits on the radio, or maybe he thinks this is London, England -- if he thinks at all.
"Oblivious Left Lane Occupant, you're one of us. And like you, we're happy right where we are."
On Wednesday, the insurer released a lane-usage survey of 601 Washington state drivers. Its findings:
- 86% agreed that the left lane should be reserved for faster traffic.
- 89% said they often or sometimes see the left lane blocked.
- 9% identified themselves as someone who camps in the left lane.
- 43% said blocking the left lane was not a ticketable offense.
Lane-blocking is in fact a ticketable offense in Washington, carrying a $42 fine, as it is in most states. (Pemco treats the violation as it would any other minor offense, such as a seat-belt ticket, and it would have the same effect on insurance rates.) Even states that don't reserve the left lane on free-flowing highways for passing usually have some sort of slower-traffic-keep-right law on the books. In some states, the law applies even if the other guy is speeding -- that's his ticket to worry about. Post continues after video.
"Some people have asked if we actually stop drivers for staying in the left lane, and we absolutely do," Sgt. J.J. Gundermann of the Washington State Patrol told Pemco. "The Legislature's intent is for the left lane to be used as a passing lane, and ultimately some people need a ticket to get them to comply."
"If almost half of drivers don't know that left-lane camping is illegal, that might explain why it seems so common on our freeways," Pemco spokesperson Jon Osterberg said. "Perhaps we simply need to increase awareness."
If you're a driver waging a one-man awareness campaign, Pemco's survey says Washington drivers are most likely to respond to a flash of the headlights (34%) or tailgating (33%). They are least likely to respond to tailgating (32%) or to "hand gestures" (28%).
"Italian-style heavy tailgating flashing doesn't seem to work well in the U.S.," says "Traffic" author and columnist Tom Vanderbilt. "We like our rights: our rights to have that lane to ourselves, but also our right not to be bullied out of it."
Here's what the National Motorists Association -- proclaimer of Lane Courtesy Month -- recommends:
- The driver of a faster vehicle in the left lane should signal their desire to move past a slower vehicle in the left lane by turning on their left directional light for a few seconds.
- The operator of the slower vehicle should acknowledge this request by turning on their right directional light and merging right as quickly as possible without slowing down.
- If the slower driver fails to respond, the faster driver should briefly flash their headlights to catch the slower driver's attention. Ideally, the slower driver will then merge right.
Sgt. Gundermann advises only patience. "We strongly discourage drivers from taking any action -- like flashing headlights or tailgating -- when they're stuck behind a left-lane camper. These actions can promote road rage and rarely get other drivers to change their behavior."
More on CarInsurance.com and MSN Money:
Driving on I-5 in Washington State. Dumb A$$ in left lane with old travel trailer going 60 in a 70 zone. Stayed there for miles... I finally moved to the right lane and passed. Guess what? Yep, the trooper pulled me over for passing on the right. I asked what about the travel trailer in the left lane - isn't that illegal. He said it's not my business. I broke the law by passing on the right. $100+ ticket.
I say common courtesy (and common sense!) is to move to the right except when passing.
This also goes for the carpool lane. Just beacause there is a carpool lane, it does not mean the lane to the right is the slow lane. That is STILL the FAST lane. Move the hell over if you are going to go slower than the traffic on the right.
I sincerely hope the people who are posting from the "pro-camping in the left lane" group come back here and look at how many thumbs-down their inane comments warrant... and then MAYBE think, "hey, well whaddya know? I couldn't possibly be MORE wrong!"
It really is simple folks, it isn't about SPEED, it is about PASSING. Left lane is for PASSING, irrespective of speed.
It goes a little something like this: Cruise in the right lane, accelerate and merge into the left lane to PASS, then merge right and resume whatever speed you choose.
Your obstinance about not merging, especially when you've been signaled to get out of the way only causes problems...
YOU are the ones causing tailgating
YOU are contributing to road rage
YOU are inducing someone to merge RIGHT to pass (illegal many places, dangerous in every place)
YOU are in the wrong...
YOU are making the world a more dangerous place by just being in it.
Yes, if you are going the speed limit, you are doing the right thing. Just do it in the right lane. PLEASE.
The left lane is meant for passing. Occasionally, in order to pass you have to accelerate above the posted speed limit. Speeding is a personal choice, if that driver wants to speed in the left lane then they can face the consequences. The drivers whom sit in the left lane are impeding the flow of traffic. If the speed is posted as 65mph, that is what's expected. If you want to go less than the speed limit then do that in the right lane. Just because you are doing the speed limit doesn't mean you have the right to block other people. What if that person was rushing a loved one to the hospital? Are you going to sit in their way to "teach them a lesson"? Or, are you going to move out of the way so they can reach medical care? Don't assume every driver who wants to pass you is an a**hole. Allow the left lane to remain open so that people can take their turn to pass others as they have the right to do.
Passing lane hogs don't understand that they are more dangerous than a speeding driver.
The left lane is for PASSING not cruising cross country. Use it to go around a vehicle and then return to the right lane.
You have no more right to break the law by cruising in the left lane that the speeder you so detest has to exceed the speed limit.
You think it is OK for you to break the law but no one else, typical left lane mentality.
The Uniform Vehicle Code states:
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 ...
Note that this law refers to the "normal" speed of traffic, not the "legal" speed of traffic. The 60 MPH driver in a 55 MPH zone where everybody else is going 65 MPH must move right.
I understand that in some places there is a driving technique called "lane discipline". It consists of staying in the right lane except to pass. Doesn't matter how fast you chose to drive, the left lane is for passing only, not for cruising at any speed.
Lane discipline demonstrates attention to driving, and attention to driving is what promotes safe driving. Getting back into the right lane after passing, regardless of who is not behind one's vehicle, is the proper way to drive. Staying in the left lane shows a casual disregard for for courteous driving.
The safest hiway to drive on is the one where drivers are doing what is expected, and there are no surprises and no drivers calling attention to themselves. The speed of the drivers is of little consequence as long as there are no surprises and no distractions (and no left-lane cruisers). I offer the Indy 500 as an example of how well drivers can perform when using courtesy, staying alert and not providing other drivers with surprises.
There is a special place in hell reserved for those who lack lane discipline.
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