I have no problem with the fact that drivers are perpetually in a hurry. I also have no problem when they break the speed limit in order to get there faster. I not-infrequently do the same. I will do everything that I can to enable that someone is allowed to go the speed that they want to go. But I do that because I am a nice guy, not because I am under any moral or legal obligation to.

So while I don’t wholly disagree, I have some reservations with the point-of-view of this fellow:

The entire point of on-ramps and merge lanes is to allow you the possibility to get up to the same speed as the highway you are about to be launching your car onto — that you do not take advantage of that opportunity is indicative of a remarkable lack of self-awareness, an even stronger lack of situational awareness, and an amazing amount of purebred stupidity. There is absolutely nothing worse than being stuck behind some dumbass in an econobox doing 40 trying to merge onto a highway where the speed limit is 65, and traffic is moving at 80. That is, there is nothing worse than that except actually being on that highway as the dumbass in the econobox just lurches out into your lane doing 40, and make absolutely no attempt to get up to a rational speed.

I have some sympathy for the person in the former situation, wanting to merge onto a highway but not being able to pick up what you consider to be safe speed because of the car in front of you. I don’t have nearly as much sympathy for the latter person.

There is no reason under any circumstances to be going 80 miles an hour in the right-hand lane of a freeway unless you know for a fact that you are nowhere near merging traffic. I don’t want to hear any crap about how it’s somehow “unsafe” to go the speed limit on the freeway. I have experience studiously holding below the speed limit and experience hovering 10-15 over it depending on whether I am on or off of traffic probation. If you go the speed limit, you have a place on the freeway. It’s called the right-hand lane.

I’ll even go a step further, though. Even if you live in one of those western states with an 80mph speed limit, it is still a monumentally bad idea to be going 80 miles an hour in the right-hand lane anywhere near a traffic merge. Honestly, I’d recommend against going 65mph without a clear idea of what merging traffic is going to do (ie you see who is about to merge, are gauging their speed, etc.).

Why? Well, because some drivers try to merge in at half the speed of traffic-flow. But even if the merging drivers are as good as you believe yourself to be, there are a number of people that may be going significantly below the speed limit. Examples:

Sometimes “merge” lane is actually an entrance/exit lane wherein a car will be in front of them slowing down to get off the freeway and onto an access road or intersection.

They might have had to slow down because back when they were going 65mph they weren’t let in and they were running out of lane/shoulder space.

They might be driving on a donut or otherwise have a temporarily impaired car that they need to get home or to the auto shop.

They might have just been on an on-ramp that had a line of cars, meaning that they’re accelerating from a stopped position and cannot speed up in time.

Some onramps are metered so that they force people to stop before entering the freeway.

And no, it is not everyone’s job to have a car on the road that can accelerate from zero to eighty or close to eighty from the beginning of an onramp to the end of merging lane. Not everyone is going to have a car with that kind of pick-up, and not everyone needs to, and nobody should be forced to in order to assure the freeway drivers’ right to go as fast as they want in the right-hand lane. Yeah, if their car is incapable of getting up to 50 with ample merging time they represent a hazard. But beyond that, you should be ready. Anyone that wants to go 80mph almost always has at least one lane in which they can do that. That lane is not the right-hand lane.

While some people are understandably quite frustrated with cars entering the freeway too slow, I frequently have to deal with cars that get upset, honk, and flash their lights as they whirl around me at excessive speeds in the wrong lane when I’ve given any driver going at a reasonable speed more than enough time to slow down (and indeed, even at their unreasonable speed they always have enough time to change lanes, honk, flash me with their lights, and flip me the bird as they whirl on by. I’ve yet to have a close call, but I am sick and tired of the attitude that some drivers have that their desire to go 75-80mph is crucial while my need to get on the freeway (as opposed to being forced to drive on the shoulder or run into a concrete barrier) is some sort of imposition.

I can’t afford a Camaro and, contrary to the drivers whose little fingers I meet, I have nothing to apologize for.

-{via Dustbury}-


Category: Road

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2 Responses to The Slow Lane

  1. Linoge says:

    While I absolutely hate to make assumptions, I do believe it is relatively safe to say that you missed the core point of my post, for which I apologize for not making it more clear.

    It basically boils down to thus: Merging into traffic going approximately 2/3s the traffic’s speed, much less going approximately 1/2 the traffic’s speed, is not safe, and is borderline stupid/suicidal. I was not attempting to defend those people who travel at high rates of speed in the right lane, nor was I attempting to make explanations for them. Even if you completely removed them from the equation (impossible, here in San Diego), it is still idiotically dangerous to merge onto a highway where the speed limit is 65, when you are only travelling 40.

    And, yes, there are always extenuating circumstances for every situation. That still does not excuse those drivers who refuse to attain a reasonable rate of speed when there are not any extenuating circumstances to limit them.

    My post was not to defend those people who might wish to travel rapidly in the right lane (for reference, I am not one of those people). I am simply tired of my life, and the lives of my passengers, being put at risk by those who simply have no concept of how to move out onto a highway.

    And regarding the straw-man of a “Camaro”, I drive one of the most cost-effective economy cars on the road, and its 2.3L engine has absolutely no problems attaining the speed limit well before the end of just about any merge lane or on-ramp I have encountered. Sorry… that argument just does not fly.

  2. trumwill says:

    The specific part of your post that I had a problem with was the plight of the guy on the highway having to swerve around the slow merging car. I am simply saying that I don’t feel sorry for him and adding my own rant about people that trample the right hand lane and get pissed off that everyone’s not up to their speed.

    On drivers that intentionally enter freeways going 40mph, we are in agreement. I’m not really defending them, either. Our main difference I guess is where we assign most of the blame. While you’re not defending the speed demon, you’re placing the blame on the merging car. I’m not defending the slowpoke (except when he’s doing so out of necessity), but I’m placing more of the blame on the fast-moving vehicle.

    In the states where I’ve lived, a car that safely clears the lane change and is hit from behind is not declared at fault. While I don’t think anyone should use that law to act recklessly, I think that’s about right.

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