The Truth About Left Lane Driving
If you are reading this, it is likely you drive on the Interstate with knuckles as white as snow and a face as red as….. well, something really red. However, go ahead and share this with anyone you feel needs some knowledge dropped on them. Slow left lane driving is not only a vexing problem, it is actually extremely dangerous and becoming increasingly illegal.
Before 1974, the year a 55 mph national speed limit law was enacted, using the left lane for passing was an unwritten rule of the road. Once enacted, many drivers believed that as long as they were maintaining the speed limit, they were allowed to drive anywhere they pleased. Let’s take a look at why this mentality has become such a problem:
Regardless of lane amount, having relatively slow drivers scattered amongst each lane causes faster drivers to repeatedly slow down and weave back and forth to change lanes. For example, if you were to be left-lane driving at 5 mph slower than surrounding traffic, it forces others to make dangerous moves while trying to pass you on the right. These dangerous moves are one of the leading cause of highway accidents in the United States.
In addition, and I think we have all been here, the presence of slower drivers in multiple lanes forces those further behind to make sudden, and significant, decreases in speed. This snowball effect is another leading cause of highway accidents. According the Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory, the strongest predictor of an accident is variance from the average speed of traffic. Surprising to many, it is actually more dangerous to drive 5 mph slower in relation to surrounding traffic than it is to drive 5 mph faster.
It’s simple: only use the left lane for passing. Also known as ‘lane courtesy’, this behavior allows faster drivers to pass several slower drivers at once and return to the right lane without making a high amount of lane changes. Furthermore, the resulting improvement to traffic flow cuts down on traffic jams and fluctuating cruise speeds (extremely beneficial to gas mileage efficiency). *It is important to note that one should still merge to a middle or left lane to allow merging traffic to enter.*
Although North Dakota is yet to enforce this rule, other states, such as Michigan, Texas, Washington, and Ohio, have laws to penalize drivers travelling slowly in the left lane. As more people educate themselves and understand why this solution works, we will see fewer traffic accidents, better traffic flow, and happier drivers. Let’s turn those white knuckles pink and make driving enjoyable and safe again.