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Same drivers, old problems

Having spent a large portion of the long weekend behind the wheel of a car, I am reminded of an old problem I have with American drivers. (I reflected on it in passing in this post.)

Left lane is for passing, not for cruising. I don’t care that your speed is marginally faster than that of the car to your right – if nobody is in front of you and you do not pass that car within seconds, then you have no business being in the faster lane. And if there are no cars to pass and you persist in staying in the left lane, then you’re a dick. Yes, I can break two laws at once – pass on the right while exceeding speed limit – to get around you, but you won’t be any less of a dick as a result of that.

Somehow, this never feels like a problem when driving in Europe. People exceed speed limits all the time, of course, so you might come up behind someone already going pretty fast in the fast lane. But if they see in the rear mirror that another car is gaining on them, they’d move to a slower lane as soon as they find an appropriate gap between vehicles. If they don’t, while no longer passing cars in slower lanes, a couple of headlight flashes will remind them of what is considered common courtesy on Euro roads, and they’ll comply.

Try flashing your headlights to a car that drives at around speed limit in the left lane on an American freeway. It will likely decrease speed and the driver will either completely ignore your hint or gesticulate his confusion at your apparent intrusion into his driving reverie. Finishing with a bird.

Man, I hate stupid drivers!


  1. Dr. Phil

    The problem is that in America, drivers crawling up your ass will not LET you move over as soon as it is possible — they think they’re bloody NASCAR drivers and will cut you off before you’ve cleared the car you’re passing and dive in and out of the right hand lane with clearances measured in centimeters and not meters.

    Stupid cuts both ways.

    Dr. Phil

  2. Ilya

    Another stupid habit, agreed, Phil, but I don’t accept it as the cause of what I see as the problem. When you properly use the left lane for passing, rather than driving, and don’t get into the left lane except for a clear pass, you will not be frequently bothered by someone tailgating and trying to pass you on the right…

  3. Dr. Phil

    I hear what you’re saying. But I also have trouble with those who take the attitude that I’m “in their way” in their entitlement to exceed the speed limit. Sorry, I have no obligations to those who break the law. Not when the people in the right lane I’m supposed to just meekly join are NOT traveling up at the speed limit. I get to go home on time, too.

    As for “Using the left lane for driving”, at a certain traffic density, the left lane will be occupied. Period.

    Dr. Phil

  4. Ilya

    We differ in our attitudes toward speed limits, Phil. Pass slow movers on the right as much as you can, of course. But when someone behind you is faster, regardless of your own speed and regardless of your opinion of them, common sense, considerations of safety, and – heck! – common courtesy all suggest that you need to switch lanes to the right rather than persisting that the car behind you attempts to pass on your right.

    At a certain traffic density, the average speed of each lane is fairly stable, so I don’t expect to be moving faster than the fastest lane. That is annoying, but it is not the problem I describe.

  5. jason

    Ilya, I pray to god you never find yourself driving anywhere here in Utah… the standard paradigm here is something many of us like to call “the Mormon blockade,” in which you find yourself trapped behind a slowpoke in the left-hand passing lane, with a guy keeping pace with you in the lane to your right, and — the coup de grace — a maniac tailgating you who doesn’t seem to get that you can’t go any faster because of the guy in front of you, and you can’t get out of his way because of the guy alongside you. (The Mormon reference comes from the fact that these vehicles are often minivans or SUVs loaded with kids, or otherwise identifiable as belonging to the locally dominant faith.) Utterly maddening…

  6. Ilya

    You’ll need to show me some good times when I eventually come to visit, Jason. I expect that I will absolutely have to drive when in Utah, and I’ll need something to mollify me 🙂

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