How to Deal With Slow Drivers in the Fast Lane

Courtney Caldwell

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.

That said, isn’t it also dangerous to drive too slowly in the high-speed lane? The answer is yes. So why then do so many people do it?

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 lane, which is the farthest lane 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 is for. The lanes in between the high-speed lane and the slow speed lane 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?

It’s much more than the rants of an irate writer, it’s the observation of a journalist who specializes in road safety. It’s just plain dangerous to drive too slowly in the high-speed lane. And drivers need to be reminded in case they’ve forgotten the rules.

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 guy pulls over, but others will begin to tailgate. While this in itself is illegal and dangerous, frustration builds, transforming law-abiding citizens into 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 some idiotic phrase that the guilty driver can’t hear anyway.

In no way do we condone such behavior, nor is it a peaceful solution to a potentially dangerous problem. There are other ways to resolve it.

First, if you’re reading this story 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 compared to that of the legal minimums and maximums posted on the freeway. If you prefer driving slower, then be aware that driving laws state 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 himself behind a slow-goer, flash your high beams a few times. Most people will respond to this. 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.

Cell phone use slows a lot of people down too, which has become a very dangerous problem. If you must use your cell phone while driving, please make a conscious effort to pull over to the slow speed lanes 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 you 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.

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 anger further.

For future reference, doesn’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.

Nonetheless, you have the beginnings of road rage, and now a second person driving recklessly in an effort to deliver a message. Both these drivers endanger all those around them.


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