Slow Traffic - This Means You.
Somewhere along the way US drivers have been led to believe that being passed is inexcusable and keeping others behind you is a matter of honor.
Seems to me we should teach proper driving etiquette in school and take out calculus. You’ll never need any math you can’t do on a cell phone calculator, but you’ll encounter plenty of drivers acting like a bully who ran out of Ritalin.
Any drive on my favorite mountain road reveals another person unaware of common driver courtesy. Everything from trucks to sport bikes cruises this windy stretch of blacktop so it’s pretty obvious they all can’t take hairpins at the same speed. That’s why the road has turnouts.
Oh, sorry. I know I lost some of you. Let me explain.
A turnout is that extra large paved shoulder you just passed. Because this is a two-lane road with mixed traffic, the highway designers created ways for slower vehicles to pull over and let faster vehicles pass. I realize this is a new idea to many of you. I know this because I’ve watched you stare at me in your side-mirror and completely ignore the last in a line of six opportunities to use said turnout.
So as I roll along in my sports car, trapped behind a mini-van full of family, I see other cars bunching up behind me and I start to wonder. What’s the use in keeping someone behind you? It’s not that you can’t see the cars stacking up. I’ve caught your eye more than once as you look back to see that I’m still trapped with no way around. Yup, we’re still here.
If this were Germany, I’d flash my brights. Just a quick friendly flick of light to let you know, “Hey, I’m back here and wanting to go faster than you. Would you mind letting me by?” Doing so won’t incite riots, just a slide out of the way. Elsewhere this isn’t the car equivalent of an obscene gesture. It’s just proper driver communication to help keep traffic flowing.
This ain’t Germany.
The last time I flashed my brights, the person systematically trapping me actually slowed down. And, I’m surprised he didn’t have a wreck because he spent nearly 90% of his driving time looking at me in his mirrors instead of navigating the road. And when I finally had the chance to pass, he sped up!
All this has me thinking. What sick joy do we get in keeping a faster driver imprisoned behind us? Is this payback for a childhood of being picked last for kickball?
When the sign says “Slower Traffic Keep Right”, that’s not a challenge. It’s not the highway patrol's attempt to insult you as a driver. Each car and driver handles speed differently. Pull the minivan over. Or let your sports car get passed by that Camry playing tag with your tailpipe. No one will think less of you. I’ve done it. Only thing hurt was my pride.
Recently I was riding with a friend as they drove down the left lane of the freeway. Cars were swirling around us, darting up behind and then passing in the lanes to the right. And the driver suddenly revealed the problem when they said “I’m going plenty fast enough for the fast lane. If they want to go faster they can just go around.”
We’ve been lead to believe that our personal “fast” should apply to everyone else. And we’re taught that the “fast lane” is the one on the left. When we think we’re going fast we get all the way to the left. It would help if the signs said “Stay Right Except to Pass”, but they don’t, they say “Slow Traffic Keep Right”. And none of us believe we are slow.
We’re all slow sometimes. The wrong day. The wrong car. Or when you’re hauling the entire Peruvian Rugby team in the back of your mini-van.
Deal with it. And pull over.
Look, there’s another turnout coming up in a ¼ mile.