Travel Tips: rules of the road

Over the course of this summer, I have driven a lot.  I’m not referring only to the usual driving around we all have to do to get to work or meetings or to run our errands.  I’m talking about additional highway driving, getting from the airport to the heart of San Francisco, getting from San Francisco to Napa, from Napa back to the airport, driving from Dallas to Memphis and back, and visiting friends in Austin for a delayed screening of “Sharknado” (which is my new favorite movie).  I have a few friendly pieces of advice for my fellow drivers.

1.   If the cars in any of the lanes to your right are passing you, you are in the incorrect lane.  Please change lanes to the right and continue to do so until you have found your speed team.  For some of you, I understand that this might put you on the surface streets or the highway access road; based on your speed, this is where you belong.  I do understand that the number posted on the speed limit sign is supposed to represent an upper limit for speed.  You should understand that many of us believe that you can add some constant, x (where x varies

from person to person, which I understand may make it a variable rather than a constant, but for each person x is fixed, so please quit nitpicking because you’re only doing that because you’re guilty), to the upper limit, and still be driving within the spirit of the law.  We are both correct, so please keep moving to the right until you find your team.

2.   If you are in the left lane, driving x over the speed limit, and you look in the rearview mirror and see that the car behind you is breathing down your neck, it is time to move over to the right.  The driver of the car behind you has a bigger x than you do, and out of respect for the joys of driving and road trips, you should let her pass you.  You should not interpret this as an insult to your manhood or womanhood.  You should not try to increase your x to match his.  Simply move over to the right, let her by, and take your place in the left lane again.

3.   If you are in the left lane, driving x over the speed limit, and you look in the rearview mirror and see that not only is the car behind you breathing down your neck, but you appear to be the engine of a freight train made up of passenger vehicles, it is way past time to move over to the right.  You see, it’s not safe for all those cars to be driving x over the speed limit with less than a half a car’s length between them.  This is especially true because most of them are also angry that they have been driving for many, many minutes, stuck behind you, wondering why they are driving so slowly when they can see the open stretch of highway in front of you.  This is going to cause a situation where they all start trying to jockey for position behind you so that when there’s an opening in the lane to the right, they can pass you.  There will definitely not be enough room for all of them to pass you, and again, they are all angry.  Angry driving at x + y (where y is the additional number of miles over the speed limit + x that we have to drive to get past you) is a recipe for a big, fat accident for which you are morally responsible.  I’m pretty sure you don’t want that on your conscience over some temporary, perceived slight to your pride or sense of public duty (I imagine you thinking that you’re doing the state troopers and your fellow drivers a favor by helping them go a speed that is closer to the speed limit, which you’re not, but I’m trying to put a good face on it for you).

4.   Many states have posted signs that read, “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY.”  I hesitate to translate it for you out of concern that you will be insulted, but your actions demonstrate that you may need a tutorial.  “LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY” means that if you are not passing anyone, it’s time to get out of the left lane.  The left lane is not for cruising, or hanging out, or relaxing.  It’s for passing.  Just like the sign says.  The authorities of the jurisdiction in which you’re driving have recognized the problems caused by situations 1, 2, and 3 above, and so they have provided guidance for everyone to avoid those problems.  At the speed you’re going, and with the size of the lettering on the sign, you shouldn’t have any trouble reading what’s on the sign, and so it leaves the rest of us puzzled as to why you are not following instructions.  The longer we think through why you are not following instructions, the more insulting the reasons we come up with to explain your antisocial behavior.  I know that the opinions of strangers whom you will probably never see again, and if you do, nobody will recognize each other, don’t matter to you, but there is such a thing as karma (or carma, hahahaha, sorry), and we should all be striving to ensure that our karma is positive, not negative.

5.   If you are not confident enough to pass the semi next to you at the speed limit + x, please move to the right so that you are behind the semi so that the rest of us can get past him.  After we’ve gone by, you can move over to the left again and pass the semi at the semi’s speed + 5 mph.  None of us understand why you feel the need to take so much time to pass the semi, and it’s really not safe for all of us to be bunched up in the driver’s blind spot as you contemplate the lint in your belly button while you drive (congratulations on the multitasking, by the way).

6.   If there is open road in front of you, eat it up.  If not, move over to the right.  The only time you can stay in a lane with open road in front of you is when there is nobody else around you.  Otherwise, there are others behind you and beside you who will try to eat it up for you.  This can create an unsafe situation all around.  Also, when you have that much open road in front of you, you are inviting slower cars to jump in front of you.  Nobody wants that.  Sometimes, the semis in the right lane need to pass other semis (or sometimes even passenger cars, which is a sure sign that said car should not be on the highway).  If you leave too much open space, the semi will pass in front of you.  This is ok if you are the only driver in your lane, but usually, you are not.  Trust me.  And yes, we should let the semis pass each other, because otherwise, they experience the same frustration that the rest of us do and engage in the same driving etiquette the rest of us do.  If you think that driving at speed limit + x with only half a car length’s in between all the cars in the passenger car freight train is unsafe, it is exponentially more unsafe for semis to be doing it.  Let the semi over.  The driver will get back over to the right as soon as possible, because as professional drivers, they understand the unwritten rules of the freeway.

7.   If you are driving a U-Haul, Ryder, Hertz, or some other rented truck that is much larger than any of the vehicles you own or normally drive, get out of the left lane.  Just do it.  We know that you’re an amateur:  (a) it’s a rented truck, and (b) you’re driving like it’s your first time behind a steering wheel.  Forcing us to look for a small stretch of open road to pass you is a total douchebag move.  We’ve all rented these trucks, and we know that the companies who rent them to us have guidelines on the speed that you should be driving their trucks.  It is never at the speed limit, especially the new 75 mph speed limit we have on certain stretches in Texas.  Please accept that it’s going to take you longer to get to your new residence, understand that nobody will think less of you for it, and get over.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments.  Happy driving!

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6 Responses to Travel Tips: rules of the road

  1. Leah Solon Streem says:

    I love this. “Carma”….ha!!! I would like to address the “want to cut in at the last minute when there is a long line exiting so you end up blocking a non exiting lane and/or forcing those in the proper lane to hit their brakes.” I believe there is a special place in hell for these drivers.

  2. Jessica S-P says:

    Can we also talk about how irritating it is when you are trying to pass someone (in the left lane), and they slowly increase their speed to keep even with you? So you end up going not x+y, where y is your preferred constant, but x+y+z, where z is the speed you have to add just to pass. It never feels safe, and half the time I just give up, and get back in behind the car I was trying to pass. At which point they slow back down to their previous speed, and the whole dance starts again. Having just completed a 1,300-mile drive with 2 cars, three kids, a dog and a box of overripe peaches, I’m feeling all this quite immediately.

    • OMG, yes — those people are THE WORST. In the instances when you manage to pass these people, they will then climb up on your bumper as if you are somehow in their way, even when their x is smaller than your x. The knowledge that there are faster drivers enrages them for some reason.

  3. Paul says:

    I recommend folks download the book “Traffic” by Tom Vanderbilt. It is a wonderful, quick read in the “Freakonomics” vein which does a great job explaining other people’s poor driving habits. I say “other people’s” because my driving is perfect. Or, as my Dad used to say — “Anyone driving faster than me is an idiot; anyone driving slower than me is an a**hole.” Well said, Dad. Well said.

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