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Meyer's Inbox: Left Lane Hogs

Like to read other people's mail? Well, have at it. The Against the Grain inbox is open for your perusal. And by the way, this is not a blog.

'Save Gas: Liberate the Left Lane'
In response to my proposal to liberate the left lane from slow-moving left lane hogs, some readers fired back with complaints about the dangers of aggressive left lane bullies. Some goodie-goodies complained about anyone who would exceed the speed limit. But this time, most readers agreed with me; that won't happen again soon, I promise.

I get the distinct impression that you are one of those people who think the speed limit signs along our highways and byways have a disclaimer that says the speed limit only applies to everyone else.

Using the left lane for passing only is a good idea, except that some morons think it is carte blanche to use the left lane for Grand Prix racing. This is America, where we have more cars than people -- not Europe, where you do not need a car to travel across the continent and a driver's license costs $1,200.

In actuality, it is the speed differential that causes the most serious accidents. If only one person in the right-hand lane is doing 45 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone, it does slow everyone down. But it is when some idiot in the left lane is doing 100 m.p.h. that unexpected and fatal accidents are likely to happen. By your logic, and I have heard it from others, those people who are stuck behind the person doing 45 have no right to pass unless they can go faster than everyone else on the road.

And exactly how do you apply the left lane rule in metropolitan areas?

The real answer is to start driving sensibly and realize that we all have a tax stake in the roads of this country and have a right to go from point A to point B without some steroid-crazed, Earnhardt-wannabe driving up our tailpipe -- right lane or left.
Doug Williamson

So, let me get this straight -- us mere mortals are supposed to cower in the right-hand "stop 'n go" lanes, dodging traffic entering and leaving the highway, so the chosen ones can sail majestically by? That's OK with me when traffic is light, but when it gets busy, all bets are off. Every lane is public property so the left lane is available to all -- even us troglodytes who insist on keeping our speed within the same neighborhood as the posted limit.

Most cars get their best mileage at about 40 to 55 m.p.h., so having the freedom to go faster won't save gas at all.

As for your admiration for the European way of doing things, well, if the grass is greener ...
Mike Graham

Dick Meyer completely ignores what AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board include among the most deadly causes of highway accidents: speed and aggressive driving. While all motorists would do well to heed the rules of the road and keep to the right, except for passing other vehicles, Mr. Meyer appears to sanction aggressive techniques in an effort to "push" the offending motorist into the right lane.

There is absolutely no room on our highways for an ego, Mr. Meyer. Perhaps Mr. Meyer would get better mileage and feel safer if he were to move to Europe where speed and aggression are not only tolerated, but encouraged. Hey Mr. Meyer ... I'd be glad to help you pack.
S.M. Eliopoulos

Cute column, but Mr. Meyer missed the point. Unfortunately, most of the freeways/expressways are beyond capacity. My late father, then a surveyor with the city of Los Angeles, was informed by a highway engineer that the design capacity of Los Angeles freeways was 3,500 cars per hour at 35 m.p.h. past a given point. Add to that the various sizes and capabilities of vehicles, plus the training and experience of the vehicle operators, and it all adds up to a can of worms. Don't drive if you don't have to--walk, bicycle, carpool, shuttle, public transit – lots of options. Consolidate your errands. It can be done. Since fuel is a market-driven commodity, the less that is used, the cheaper it will be. When we make water (hydrogen) a viable fuel source, demand for oil will be cut in half.
Jim Emanuel

Hallelujah! Amen! And every other exclamation one can think of regarding Dick Meyer's article on Left Lane Hogs. Can't tell exactly how much of the piece was intended as tongue-in-cheek (if any), but no matter; I wholeheartedly agree and was happy to see my views reflected so nicely.

Lollygagging in the left lane does not just inspire road rage in males – it tends to infuriate this particular female as well. People who are moseying need to be in the right lane (or, preferably, at home) not impeding the flow of traffic by tying up the passing lane. To them I say – stop being so selfish. You're in someone's way – and that someone is going to try a stupid maneuver to get around you. Yes, it is not legal to drive too fast. Yes, it is not legal to cut in front of cars to pass someone. But, you in your piety are blocking the way, leaving those of us in a hurry no other choice.

However, I don't think passing lane laws will solve the problem. This country needs to see a culture change. Like smoking, Left Lane Hogging should be frowned upon, ridiculed and made unacceptable by every driver. Then, and only then, will the lollygaggers get the heck out of the way.
Karol Olson

Your suggestion about getting slow drivers out of the left lanes on multi-lane highways is fine, but there's an idea that would save a lot more fuel and frustration. At long last, why don't businesses that employ knowledge workers get serious about telecommuting? There are many millions of people clogging up the highways and burning up gasoline commuting every day to jobs that they could do at home just as easily and effectively. I'll bet most of these workers already have their own computers and high speed Internet connections, not to mention fax machines and cell phones and just about everything else they would need. If every knowledge worker in America would work at home just two or three days a week out of five, what a difference it could make on the roads.
Steven Randolph

This was a great article and I loved the idea of liberating the left lane and doing away with tolls.

However, banning SUVs is not the answer. If you live in the country and have to maneuver back-road conditions in the winter, they are a must. Many people who work for themselves depend on these types of vehicles as a safe and comfortable transportation for them and their tools.

My Jeep Cherokee gets about 17-18 miles per gallon, which I believe is the equivalent to the Subaru Outback station wagon. The Outback is a smaller, disguised gas guzzler. And what about the large vans that people own? They also block your view and guzzle gas. Stop singling out the SUVs and get down to alternative methods of fuel, hybrid cars and safer driving rules such as staying left.

Quite frankly, I am tired of people singling out SUVs as the cause of all these problems. In the city, that may be true, but try living in Vermont where they are not a luxury, but a much needed mode of transportation when you have to drive 30-60 miles to work in a snowstorm to make a living. We are not sitting at any toll booths, idling in traffic or at stop lights while trying to get to work. I live eight miles from work and can get there in 12 minutes after navigating a section of steep, dirt mountain road.
Fran Rhynhart

Your piece on LLLs was great. This is a worldwide problem. We in the U.K. have a similar, but slightly different problem. Here we have middle-lane hoggers.

They sit in the middle lane at 65 m.p.h. (speed limit on U.K. motorways is 70 m.p.h.) refusing to budge. At least you have the right lane (we drive on the other side, don't forget) to pass them, but it's still a pain.

I don't even bother flashing my lights now, I just overtake on the inside lane making sure the shoulder is empty, should they decide to move over without looking.
Richard Bacon

Left lane hogs are definitely a problem. Worse are the people who think you should abandon the left lane immediately and remain five feet from your bumper, blinking their lights and snarling even though you are moving 10 m.p.h. over the posted speed limit and passing center-lane cars. They usually have their driving gloves on and are drinking coffee and juggling a cell phone. These bullies should be dealt with more severely than the hogs. I know that this will touch a sore point with these "experts" who will not recognize themselves as being part of the problem.

I got caught up in one of these freight trains on Interstate 75, driving north through Tennessee. I attempted to pass slower moving cars in the center lane and within 15 seconds a group caught up with me before I could safely get out of the left lane. I sped up so the Chevy truck with his high beams glaring in my rear window would not be unconvinced. Before I could get out of this bully's way, I had driven at least 10 miles at 85 m.p.h. and when I finally got an opening, they passed me like I was sitting still. Behind him was a solid line of 10-15 vehicles. I pulled over at the next exit to calm my nerves.

I've got this off of my chest and believe left lane bullies are a worse problem than left lane hogs.
Mary Hedrick

Here in Kentucky, it makes me furious every morning on the way to work. It's amazing how rude people are. There needs to be some change in thinking. We need lots of signs that say "slower drivers keep right," and perhaps tickets for blocking the left lane. Many lane blockers, I think, do it intentionally. They are the control "parent" types or they are brain dead or talking on cell phones oblivious to everything going on around them. Good article!
James Ewen

'Hell Is Other People'
After looking into a modern social disease, I found readers were either bothered by cell phones or bothered by those who complain about cell phones.

My favorite thing to do when someone is talking on a cell phone near me in a store is to join in the conversation. This inevitably leads to the ill-mannered person exclaiming, "this is a private conversation", whereby I tell them they are in public. Priceless!
Mary Catherine Headley

I am in 100 percent agreement that cell phone users are extremely annoying -- except, of course, when I'm the one using the cell phone.
Al McClain

Thank you for your forthright and correct observation of the cell phone trend. Personally I have banned them from my lifestyle. In general terms, they were once a useful tool, but in my opinion have become a nuisance and even so much as a handheld weapon.

From the young woman in tight jeans with a cell phone pasted to her ear running out in front of commuter traffic as a light turns green at a major intersection, to the suburbanite woman in the black SUV that rear ended my car while dialing a number and the truck driver turning left pulling a double trailer in the middle of a major freeway interchange with one hand on the wheel and the other holding his cell phone, I can only describe the cell phone as a handheld weapon.

I know everybody's business: who their associations are, and who just slept with whom. It does not matter where I go, I still know everybody's business. I know what people's kids are up to, and I know their deepest secrets. Yet I have no idea who these people are next to me in the mall, restaurant, grocery store, and gas station.

So what makes it so important that we carry one of these overpriced and expensive toys? I can only attribute it to a lack of self esteem.
Randall Graff

Thank you for speaking out for me and countless others. I personally find these loud louts on cell phones as annoying as second-hand cigarette smoke. But, alas, I have little faith for a true cure-all for this public malady.

However, if you should actually come across a source for that "remote control device" that you mention, well...please don't keep it to yourself.
Mary Norcross

You're right that other people can make your life hell. But, you are not right to say hell is created by bad cell phone manners. Actually, I'm tired of the media making such a big deal about this subject. People talk about everything, mundane or personal, in public with their friends. This has occurred since the first restaurant or pub was invented.

People will discuss how often their baby poops to the last time they had sex. These conversations occur on a bus, in a car, in a train, or in a restaurant, with or without cell phones. For some reason a bunch of busybodies think they have the right to complain when these conversations occur over a cell phone.

In public you learn to tune-out people's conversations and to give them privacy by not paying attention to what their saying. It's a common courtesy that some people have forgotten in regards to cell phone users. So you busybodies can start minding your own business and stop writing these stupid reports about bad cell phone manners. Better yet, why don't you write a report on how rude it is to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations?
April Clanton

Most of us seldom do anything really important. Most of us seldom have anything really important that we have to receive information about. None of us ever does anything so important that others have to hear about it.

Cell phones used to be a sign of some level of prestige. That one could afford to spend the money on a cell phone call was a sign of some level of wealth. Many cannot avoid trying to pretend to have more wealth and to be entitled to more prestige than they really have or really are. Now that just about anyone can afford a cell phone, there can't be anything prestigious about them, but I'm not sure that that message has gotten through. I'd be interested in a serious sociological study. My guess is that truly wealthy people or those who might really be entitled to prestige are not as boorish or frequent in there use of cell phones as those whose who are "nouveau riche" in a cell-phone sense.

The fundamental problem is an inflated sense of one's own importance. As a result of that inflated sense of importance, one forgets that there are other people around and that those other people matter. One also forgets that anything that seems momentarily important to you doesn't really matter very much at all.
Steve Carlson

I personally can't see the problem. We think we should be able to control everyone else's life and hold people to a standard that is completely outdated.

It almost seems that you are trying to say that people should not be
allowed to talk to each other in public places. I was at the post office recently and was offended by a sign that said I should refrain from using my cell phone in the facility. At the time, a woman had her crying, screaming and unruly kids there, and no one was telling her she couldn't have them in the place. Also, there were several people having conversations with each other, and no one was offended by that.

Is it the use of a cell phone that gets under your skin or is it the fact that you can't hear both sides of the conversation? Maybe I should turn on the speakerphone function while in public places so as not to offend those who can't hear the entire conversation.
Richard Padgett

The Gun Lobby's Dead Aim
I liked your article. But I suggest you seek cover soon.

Frankly, this is one of those political issues that is only going to be resolved by more dying and more grief. That is a sad note. I do think people "get it" when someone in there family dies in gunfire. That is a poor way of getting it though. I am ashamed of the Democrats for not standing up to the NRA more. As soon as there is an alternative party, I will support them.

The lack of gun registration and control is one of my main concerns today. It is more that just stupid, it's criminal. Or I guess you can ask most any chief of police.
Bill Finn

See, there is a God, and he is not happy with you commie Democrats.
Have a nice day!
Ron Lojewski

Ask McDonalds if lawsuits aren't frivolous. An entitlement society always tries to pass the buck, having never learned the value of personal responsibility: hence we sue. If a gun dealer breaks the law he should be liable, but suing law abiding citizens is totally un-American. And that is why I'm not Canadian.

Gun manufacturers are the deep pockets for gun crimes. You understand the reasoning why lawyers want no protection for gun manufactures. It is to benefit lawyers! What I don't understand is why do you?

We have auto insurance, and drug makers and cigarette makers have already been through the cleaners. Why shouldn't we have legal "protection" for the others you mentioned and place the responsibility for abuse, disease, crime, etc. on the responsible individual.
John Coleman

As a responsible gun owner and avid sport shooter (not hunter) that I believe your treatment of this topic to be entirely biased and one sided. If we were to apply the same logic that is taken in opposition to the existence and passage of this bill to the automotive industry, any one who is injured in an automobile accident (or the family of ones killed in an accident) should have the right to file suit against the dealership where the vehicle was purchased, as well as the maker of the vehicle... The same treatment could be given to alcohol and the astronomical abuse of that product.

I am a firm believer that this bill is required to keep organizations from purposefully bringing lawsuits against the firearms industry for the purpose of bankrupting it.
Mitch Sharp

Is it possible that some of the support for this legislation was not only from expected pro-gun lawmakers, but also from other elected officials whose constituents work in other industries that up until now have not suffered the wrath of attorneys (a.k.a "trial lawyers") and frivolous civil litigation?

If firearms manufacturers are to be held accountable for products they legally manufacture and distribute, might auto manufacturers be concerned since they create and distribute the vehicles which are involved in the deaths and injuries of thousands of motorists each year? Is Detroit automatically liable? Many adults and children drown annually in legally manufactured and distributed above-ground swimming pools. Again, is the manufacturer automatically to blame? How about the American boating industry? If an unlucky fisherman falls overboard and drowns, is it the fault of the boat manufacturer? How about ladders? Electrical appliances? Exercise equipment? Lawn darts? Knitting needles? Roll the dice!
Lawrence Baxter

The gun bill does not shield the industry from product liability re injuries or death that result from a defectively produced and sold firearm. It does protect the industry from the third party lawsuits of crime victims that are being pushed by the left and their friends the trial lawyers to try and disarm Americans so that they can become victims or either criminals or future oppressive governments.
Curtis Jones

Stop insulting the American people by calling proponents of the Second Amendment "The Gun Lobby". Your gun lobby, Dick, is actually most of the American people, who don't agree with your leftist gun control policies.

Just because you Kool-Aid-drinking Democrats are upset about the failure of your little end-run around the Second Amendment does not make it reasonable for you to call honest people "spineless". If you can't get the votes to pass gun control, then you can't have gun control, Dick. That's the way democracy works, you better learn to live with it.

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Dick.
Paul Jacobsen

The Police have no responsibility to protect citizens.

The Army cannot protect citizens.

The Border Patrol is a joke.

Only you and your Gun can protect your family and friends.

It has been that way since man stepped on this Earth, and it will be that way when he leaves.
Darrell Berg

You state, "No other American industry, no other branch of commerce would have this kind of special protection from civil law. Not drug makers, hospitals, doctors, farmers, or food processors. Not knife makers, car companies, tobacco companies, brewers, distillers or firecracker makers. Just the gun industry."

However, there is no active political movement (e.g., the hysterical Brady Campaign, etc.) trying to sue these other industries out of business. So naturally, there is no need to protect them from frivolous lawsuits designed specifically to bankrupt them. These lawsuits have nothing to do with public safety; their entire purpose is to destroy companies that manufacture a legal product, simply because a criminal decided to use the product illegally. This is as un-American as it gets.
Michael Garcia

Allow me to congratulate you on an excellent and insightful editorial. It perfectly illustrates the bias that is present in most of today's media. I'm sure Mr. Meyer's demonization of the NRA and the "gun lobby" managed to scare the pants off the dozen or so gun-control advocates still left in this country. However I would suggest that Mr. Meyers wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. The culture war is over. You lost.
Andreas Miller

If you still want to send in an e-mail, you'll have to read a real column to find the address.

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