One of them has to go.
I spend around a hundred miles in the car each day traversing the Washington DC region. It gives a man a lot of time to think (or a woman a lot of time to text that man who’s busy thinking about stuff). Each day the last straw breaks, and I tape it back together and do it again the next day. If you kept up on my trek across Europe, I lamented how well they exhibited lane discipline compared to us in the States. And that’s really it. The drive wouldn’t be so bad, save for the dozens of folks I encounter each day who are just not in any hurry. Where are they going? It’s rush hour in one of the busiest cities in the U.S., and they are on the “beltway” as we call it, so one would assume they are heading to and from work. Now that’s not necessarily the case, they could be using our ring road to head north or south up and down the east coast. But for arguments sake, let’s assume that most vehicles are occupied with a commuter. I’ve taken the liberty of categorizing those drivers sitting in the left-hand lane doing 50 mph.
The Anti-Destinationalist. I’m sure I didn’t coin this term, but if I did, well that’s awesome. As it sounds, this person just doesn’t want to get where they are going. Be it home or work, they just hate their destination and thus have decided to drive there as slow as possible. Their motivation for steering their motor vehicle into the left lane, remains unknown, but clearly they hate their job or their family, or both. Anti-Destinationalists will take as long as humanly possible to reach their destination, perhaps hoping that their workplace will erupt in a fireball, or their family will pack up and leave before they arrive. These drivers may not even notice you on the road, or care that you actually do want to get to work, or to see your family. Regardless, Anti-Destinationalisism is real and afflicts many people (*citation needed) and can also be found as an additional symptom grouped with the afflictions below.
The Passive Vigilante. Ah, then there is the driver who’s mission it is to slow you down. You, purveyor of speed, breaker of limits. Limits set by our well meaning state governments to keep us all from fiery deaths. The Passive Vigilante will make it his or her goal to keep everyone driving a bit slower. Often seen in their natural habitat, a Prius, they enjoy camping in the left lane of a major highway while you make wild gestures towards the right lanes as to suggest their future trajectory. Signs of displeasure or anger will only serve to validate this personality, and may even cause their right foot to slowly come off the gas. This driver may move to the right eventually, but only to pace the car next to them and continue to block your forward progress.
The Righteous One. In contrast to the vigilante described above, whose goal is to protect the good people of the United States, the Righteous driver is solely spending time in the left lane because it’s their right. You can pass them, their purpose is to show that they cannot be kept down, they can drive any speed in any lane. Perhaps they can’t be bothered to drive in the appropriate lane and move to the left as additional cars merge, perhaps they just enjoy making their exit directly from the left lane, at the last second. It’s hard to tell, this is one of the hardest types to explain.
The Mobile Mobile Device User. Ah yes, no list like this would be complete without a mobile device reference. That guy in front of you who’s right wheels keep coming ever closer to the lines delineating his lane from the one to the right, yep, he’s Instagramming. He couldn’t wait to register his displeasure at the end of Bachelor in Paradise on Facebook. He thought of a really good hashtag and couldn’t wait to share it with the world. Every time I look over and see someone paying more attention to the send button than the road ahead, I realize why we have lane-departure warnings and radar integrated into our cars. We just aren’t paying attention.
The Just Plain Bad Driver. Just as it sounds, these drivers know not what lane they occupy. They know not when their exit is coming up, nor which side its on, or where they currently are. They may attempt to use Waze, or some sort of app, but it won’t help. No level of assistance or warning will prepare them for the upcoming decisions they need to make in a timely manner. Be prepared to deal with the Just Plain Bad Driver by just giving them a wide berth.
Now there are some areas of the country that have anti-left-lane-cruising laws. MIT keeps a log of state “keep right” laws. I’m not sure if it’s up to date, but it’s MIT, so let’s assume it is obsessively updated. But are they enforced? The screen-capture above, from one of my favorite ever YouTube videos, shows the Trooper of the Year “enforcing” the law in hilarious fashion. Outside of that, and the likely minimal number of infractions doled out around the country, most left lane hogs are given relative impunity. Will extra enforcement help, I think it would, but it also needs to be incentivized. If its a small fine and no points, it’s not necessarily worth the average officer’s time. So legislators need to recognize the significance of the laws in place (or not in place depending on the state) and make this a real detractor for those described above. So until we can modify our behavior to model that found on the German autobahn, that is about the only option.
Now I’m going to go sit in traffic. #fml