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Bad driving is no mystery

Recently, a study was published by some mathematicians using some fancy mathematical models that showed bad drivers cause traffic jams. To this I say, “Duh!” Either you were already aware of this fact, or you are, perhaps unknowingly, one of the bad drivers.

To be fair, the study was a bit more in depth. What it really said was drivers who don’t merge in with the flow of traffic can cause a ripple effect through traffic behind them, and actually bring it to a halt. You know the type – the person who mistakes their 30mph on-ramp speed with being cautious. The person who believes defensive driving is leaving ten car lengths between them and the person they’re following [in the left lane]. The person who cannot turn the wheel right or left without simultaneously stepping on the brake. Yes, these are the people who are causing the backups on the highways, the traffic jams during rush hour, and of course, global warming.

Now that I have a longer commute, I get to experience all the different types of bad drivers even more often than before. It’s time to start calling them out. Yes, Buffalo, I’m going to spread your pitiful lack of basic driving skills with all [10] of the people who read this blog. You’ve been warned.

Amazingly, just like we associate different types of people with different towns around Western New York, the different roads around here also have drivers with certain characteristics. What do the Jimmy Buffet lovers on Grand Island do when they leave Margaritaville and hop on the 190? What happens to the East Aurorains when their Birkenstocks touch the gas pedal? How do the Williamsvillenites navigate their SUVs down Main Street? I’ve travelled among them all, and I’m going to tell you.

Let’s start with a universal offense, committed by far too many Western New Yorkers on far too many of our supposedly high speed roadways. You know them as the left lane hogs. To them, it doesn’t matter that the right lane is free and clear for miles ahead and behind, in their mind the left lane is first-come first-served. That there speed limit sign says 65 and dammit, it’s their Constitutional right to maintain that speed in whatever lane they damn well please.

Now, New York State law actually does prohibit this behavior. Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 25, Section 1120 says:

… upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

Yes Mildred, your staunch obedience to the speed limit is by no means dispensation for your flagrant disregard of the law to keep right. The signs on the Thruway saying:

Keep Right!

apply universally.

There are reasons that the Autobahn functions as well as it does – your slow, left lane hogging ass will earn you a ticket there. Having driven the Autobahn between Germany and Belgium last year, I can say firsthand that there’s nothing magical about the roadway. It’s the same as any highway in the U.S. as far as it’s construction. What’s different are the drivers. Once they cross the line into that left lane, it’s like they’re walking on hot coals and can’t wait to get back into the cool comfort of the travel lane. There’s no, “well, the cruise control is set for 66, so there’s no need to step on the gas pedal to get around these ‘slow’ right-laners. I’ll be past them in another 18 miles.” No, no. On the ‘bahn it’s into the left lane, on the accelerator, overtake, and get back in the right lane. Even if it means *gasp* pulling in behind another car and waiting to pass them because there’s someone coming up faster in the passing lane behind you. This concept is complete foreign to us in the U.S.

However, there may be hope. Oklahoma had absolutely nothing newsworthy happening recently, so they decided to fight the good fight and start pulling over people with left lane constipation. Whenever there’s money to be made, especially when the law to do it is already in place, New York can’t be far behind. In this case, we can only hope.

Drive right, pass left is the most basic of all traffic courtesies, but it’s almost as if some people enjoy being high-beamed, honked at, and eventually buzzed from the right as they continue to cycle through their Kenny G collection on their Sync, or enjoy their Bluetooth oblivion. If nothing else, this is the one law that must be obeyed. It lets traffic continue flowing, it keeps the road rage to a minimum, and most importantly, it keeps math geeks in the U.K. gainfully employed. Do it for all of us.

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One Comment

  1. You are correct, Sir. But I will plead guilty to two exceptions. I am a left lane hog on Maple Road in Amherst (betw millersport and Hopkins). You might lose a friggin’ wheel in the manhole cover depressions in the right lane. Same is true of Transit near Wehrle, particularly if it has rained in the last month. Those are just regular, old-fashioned, big, hungry potholes that will rip your wheel off and spit mud at you.

    Otherwise, I am the guy riding behind you in the left lane, waiting to pass. Get over in the right lane, slowpoke.

    BTW, doesn’t this belong on the thread over at WNYRants.com?

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