The Passing Lane

Commuting presents a daily set of challenges and frustrations.  There are the timid souls who don’t understand that the proper way to merge onto a highway is to accelerate into the traffic flow, rather than creeping up to the merge point, hoping that the traffic on the highway will make way and then braking suddenly when that doesn’t happen.  There are the oblivious types who are talking on their phones or, God forbid, texting, and therefore not paying the slightest attention to what they are doing.  There are the self-absorbed characters who click on their turn signals and then immediately begin to drift into the next lane, as if the simple act of initiating the turn signal gave them a magic pass that automatically cleared the way for their cars.

For my money, the worst offenders are the people who seemingly do not grasp the purpose of the passing lane.  When I took my driver’s education class and ventured out, for the first time, onto a four-lane highway, the instructor made it clear that the left lane was the passing lane.  You moved into the left lane if you wanted to pass the car or truck in front of you, and when you had completed the pass you moved back into the right lane.  This allowed traffic to flow properly.

This salutary concept evidently is lost on some people.  In their view, the left lane is simply a lane like any other, to be occupied by traffic.  If they are going to be turning left in two miles or so, they may as well get over into the left lane now, stake their claim to that spot in traffic, and continue to drive their normal speed — which typically is about 5 miles below the speed limit.  Why not?  It’s more convenient for them.  In the meantime, the traffic piles up behind them and then frazzled commuters begin to consider whether they can shoot around the car on the right — and when they attempt that maneuver the offender, shaken from his reverie, usually speeds up for some reason.  Eventually people start driving recklessly, brake lights flash, and accidents happen.  I’ve often thought that more accidents are caused by overly slow drivers that overly fast drivers.  Others agree; this website has a helpful collection of quotes that make that point.

So I say:  Slow drivers, give us a break!  Let the passing lane be the passing lane!