Meyer's Inbox: Left Lane Hogs

Traffic Jam Cars Highway Rush hour
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