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Driving Too Slow in the High Speed Lane!

Life in the Fast Lane

We all know that speeding is against the law. Why? Because most of us aren't trained or experienced in handling a vehicle at a high rate of speed, especially if that vehicle goes out of control. So the answer, simply put, is that it's too dangerous to drive at high speeds.

Conversely, isn't it also dangerous to drive too slow in the high-speed lane? The answer is yes. So why then do so many people do it? And why does it drive the rest of us so crazy? Even cause road rage?

First and foremost, highways were developed with several lanes to accommodate not only mass traffic but also to provide various lanes for different driving speeds. In fact, most freeways in America are clearly marked with a maximum and minimum speed limit. The higher speed is for the high-speed lanes, which are the farthest lanes to the left. The lower end of the speed limit is for those who prefer to drive at a slower rate, which is what the far right lane(s) are for. The lanes in between the high-speed lanes and the slow speed lanes (on 5-8 lane highways) are for drivers who wish to drive somewhere in between the maximum and minimum. Sounds simple enough to understand and follow, doesn't it?

Then why is it time after time, day after day, freeway after freeway, people are driving 50 miles per hour in a 70-mph lane? Why do they do that? What is their problem? Don't they understand the basic concept of fast and slow? And does it frustrate as many other drivers as it does me?

It's a basic concept taught in driver's ed. Slow traffic stay to the right. Faster traffic uses the high-speed lanes. What's not to understand?

Well, times have changed. The U.S. has become a melting pot for new cultures from around the world where driving laws and roadways are different than those in America. During my research in recent years, I've discovered that not everyone that moves here from another country understands how our freeway system works or they fall back into old driving patterns learned in their own countries. I've even met people who grew up here who didn't seem to nail the driver's ed course where they teach you about driving rules of the road in high speed lanes vs slow speed lanes. I've even driven with some who drove slow in the high speed lane and when I pointed out that it was illegal, they were quite surprised to learn this, even after years of driving in Los Angeles.

And now, we have texters and headphones and people talking on phones, even though it's illegal in most states. Most people tend to slow down when they're texting or on the phone and worse, lose awareness of their surroundings like slowing down in a high speed lane or swerving like a drunk driver. As of late, it's been proven by law enforcement that texting is even more dangerous than drunk driving as texting takes your eyes off the road. Although illegal to drive drunk, even buzzed, at least a drunk driver is trying to look ahead. But then add a drunk driver on their phone?

These comments are much more than the rants of an irate writer and road test editor; they are the observations of a journalist who specializes in road safety. It's just plain dangerous to drive too slowly in the high-speed lane under any circumstances. So drivers need to be reminded in case they've forgotten the rules of the road.

When drivers drive too slow in the high-speed lane many dangerous situations can occur. First, it creates a long line of frustrated drivers behind the slow poke. Most wait patiently in hopes the slow driver pulls over, but others will begin to tailgate. While this in and of itself is illegal and dangerous, frustration builds, transforming law-abiding citizens into hell-bent, ranting road warriors.

Some drivers get so frustrated, they pull out of the lane in a fit of anger, pass on the right to catch up to the culprit just so they can send a message with a digit, or mouth off some idiotic phrase that the guilty driver can't hear anyway. And in this day and age, some go so far as pulling out or shooting a gun, sad to say. But it does happen.

In no way do we condone such behavior on either end. There is a peaceful solution to a potentially dangerous problem. If you're the person driving too slow in the high speed lane, then get your ass over to the slower speed lanes, and allow the high speed drivers to go their merry way. Slow speed drivers in the high speed lane are breaking the law as much as someone going to fast and can be pulled over and ticketed for going too slow. Also, most officers are trained to look for slow drivers as it indicates that a driver may be impaired.

And get off your phones, stop texting, and do not wear ear plugs to listen to your music. These are all illegal when driving and they impair your judgment making skills behind the wheel as they slow your awareness of and reaction to your surroundings. No, you cannot do two things at once while driving. You need 100% focus on the road especially on high-traffic freeways. You need front, side and rear focus to be ready to react in a moments notice. Accidents under the influence of these devices have climbed by 5000% in the last few years, needless deaths and the lives of hundreds of families ruined.

If you're reading this article and find you may fit the profile of a slow driver in the high-speed lane, please pull over and drive in the lanes to the far right. Keep your eye on your speedometer and take note of the legal minimums and maximums posted on the freeway. Some signs even say 'Slower drivers stay to the right' so be aware. Signs are there for your safety. If you prefer driving slower, then be aware that most state driving laws insist (this is not a request or suggestion - it is state law) that slower traffic must remain to the right. Not only will it keep you safer; it will keep drivers around you safe as well.

If you're a frustrated driver who finds yourself behind a slow-goer, flash your high beams a few times. Most people will respond to this and get out of the way. This is not an illegal maneuver. Let's face it, we've all been there when we're plodding along unaware that we've slowed down. Sometimes a gentle reminder is all the slow driver needs who is then more than happy to move over at a safe moment.

If you need to take a call, make a conscious effort to pull over to the side of the road and if not a safe area, then take an exit where you can sit and talk in a parking lot and where you won't be a danger to yourself or to anyone else. This is not only lawful behavior; it's also common courtesy.

For those people who want to drive slowly, then please do so in the lanes designated especially for slower drivers. If you're holding up traffic or someone behind you is flashing their lights, please pull over to the slower lanes when the time is safe, and indicate your intentions with your turn signal or a friendly wave. When the person anxious to pass sees this, he or she will relax and back off until you make your move.

For faster drivers who want someone to move over, give him or her a gentle nudge with the flash of your headlights a few times, or a little beep-beep from your horn. Give them a chance to respond and react. And when they do, send a wave of appreciation, not the international digit of disapproval. These are some very simple road manners that can and will prevent the escalation of road rage.

With the advent of dash-cams and phone cameras, there has been a marked increase in the capture of road rage, people ramming a car or a motorcycle, causing irreparable harm to others and causing multiple accidents, even pile-ups. Some have even been rammed into oncoming traffic causing head-on collisions of innocent drivers. Do not let your temper get so out of control... flash your lights, beep your horn, do not tailgate, give the slow driver a minute to acknowledge their mistake. Most will pull over. Don't forget, as the more aggressive driver in the high speed lane, some of your slow-goers are elderly or new drivers, and simply need a little nudge to get the message and will usually accommodate if you remain patient.

So the last question remains. What do you do if you flash your lights for two miles and the slow poke still won't move? That, my friends, is your decision and yours alone. Just make sure that whatever you do, it doesn't endanger your life or those around you on the freeway, nor escalate the road rage any further. What makes the most sense, is just pull around the slow-poke when there's a safe opening but keep in mind that passing on the right can be a ticket offense, and using the high occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) to the far left (in most states) just too pass is also a high ticket cost ($300-$400) if caught when driving alone. The HOV lane is for cars with more than two people inside. And no, dummies don't work as passengers, cops are on to this scam. Also, motorcyclists are allowed to use the HOV lane. Of legal note, there are cameras on poles to catch you on the road these days. Cops no longer need to stop you on a busy freeway. You'll get a photo of yourself in your car making the offense on camera. Can't deny that.

Don't be a slow speed driver in the high-speed lane. If you're not going to lead, then get out of the way. And remember, driving is a privilege, not a right.