Social Question

jca2's avatar

What is your opinion regarding the speed limit drivers should do in the left lane of a highway?

Asked by jca2 (6320points) May 24th, 2019

Do you think drivers in the left lane should yield to people driving closely behind them, by moving over to the middle lane (or right hand lane)?

Do you feel drivers in the left lane should drive at whatever speed they want to?

Do you feel that drivers in the left lane should go faster than the posted speed limit (when there are no police around, of course), in the interest of keeping a good flow of traffic?

On Facebook, there’s a group for a local commuter highway that I travel daily and there are constant posts about people driving slowly in the left lane, screwing up the commute for others. The speed limit on this particular highway is 65. Most people in the left lane on this highway do 80 mph, sometimes someone goes a little faster, often there are people doing 70 in the left lane which outrages people (in the FB group). This is what prompted this question.

I’ve been driving on this road for about 20 years so I’ve seen all kinds of situations.

What is your opinion?

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33 Answers

Yellowdog's avatar

If you have three lanes, the right lane should be for people who want to drive UNDER the speed limit, or for people who are about to exit, or for those entering. The middle lane should be for those who want to go about what the speed limit is. The left lane, in the mind of the drivers, should be the passing lane, which drivers should get out of if someone is wanting to go faster than you.

In a two-lane situation, it should be merely slower and faster drivers, slower traffic moving to the right, left lane the passing lane, regardless of whether the drivers should go faster or slower,

If you only have one lane, as in a two-lane highway, just go the speed limit. It is courteous to pull over to let speeders pass, but less obligatory than the above.

It has occurred to me that a lot of traffic jams and logjams and unruly traffic would be quelled if people did the above. You have a right to drive whatever speed you think you can get away with, but no tailgating and no blocking others, holding up traffic.

kritiper's avatar

The passing lane is for passing. Get in there and get the job done, at whatever speed is required, then get back to the right in the cruising lane.
People in Salt Lake City get out in the passing lane and get up next to another driver and just hang there mile after mile like they’re in some kind of a parade, backing up traffic for miles. Don’t do that!

KNOWITALL's avatar

What they both said! ^^

What really stinks are people who drive in the middle lane at 50 mph so they can chat and text on their phones, swat at their kids, talk to their mini-van full of people, etc…

The third lane is for me, I’m passing your slow butt going 50mph, so I can reach the speed limit of 60–70mph. Get in the Right lane and stay there if you can’t go the dang speed limit.

To answer properly:
Yes, they should move out of the way.
Yes, they’ll pay the ticket if they get one, that’s not your business.
Yes, sometimes when slow drivers take over the Left and Middle lanes, we have no choice but to jump in the 3rd lane at 70mph.

zenvelo's avatar

RE: “Passing Lane”

There is no Passing Lane in California, all lanes are available at all times.

That being said, if you are in the fast lane, better be going with the flow of traffic.

JLeslie's avatar

Legally, it’s the passing lane. That to me means the left lane should be moving at a faster speed than the one to the right of it.

On roads that are not heavy in traffic, then drivers should pass, and go right back over to the middle or right lane depending how many lanes there are.

If the road is dense with traffic, then whoever is in the left should be keeping up with the common traffic speed of the lane. People might ride the left for 30 miles, but they are in the “fast” lane. There will still be people who come over to simply pass a car in front of them, but if they generally drive slower than the left, then they should get back over to the right once they pass the particular slow car.

If there is a traffic jam and everyone is crawling then all the lanes become the same for the most part. Whatever is blocking traffic might be in the left or in the right and everyone is just trying to be patient and get back up to speed.

People who insist on going the speed limit in the left for long stretches when the flow of traffic is at a higher speed are dangerous and simply bad drivers, and in my opinion it could be argued they are breaking the law by being reckless.

@zenvelo I don’t know CA law, but states that I have lived in that allow passing on the right usually still have a clause that passing on the left is preferred.

zenvelo's avatar

@JLeslie California has the same preference. Some states, though, have laws that one should never be in the left lane unless you are actively passing another vehicle; otherwise you should be to the right.

kritiper's avatar

In Idaho, they are starting to crack down on cruisers in the passing lanes.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@kritiper Same in Missouri. You go 40–50mph in anything but the far right lane, you better watch out.

Do any of you cut around the slow drivers so they see that their behavior is unacceptable? It may be one of my favorite things to do. Going 50 in the 3rd lane, I’ll swing to 2nd lane and pop in front of your slow butt, then you can watch my tail-lights…lol

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I don’t purposely do anything like that. Are you saying you could go fast in the right lane, but you go in front of the slow driver in the left instead? I didn’t even know that was a thing.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I’m saying if I’m in the far left lane and someone decides to go 50mph in the fast lane, I wait for the second lane to clear, then go there, and pop over in front of the slow driver so he can see how the fast lane works.

Once I had four or five cars behind me all do the same thing because this person was piddling around blocking us all. It doesn’t cause any harm, but it seems to get the point across. Usually they will finally move to the second or right lane.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’m shocked it has any effect. The two jellies I can think of who insist that driving the speed limit should be just fine in the left, and everyone else is wrong and in their opinion breaking the law by speeding, never learned during any of the discussions on fluther that I can remember.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You should be in the far left lane for one reason, and one reason only….to pass. If they’re just traveling along in the passing lane they are in the wrong, and they’re setting up a potentially dangerous situation, by forcing people to pass them on the right, and just making a snarled mess over all. Most people who travel in the left lane like that aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed and half the time end up pacing the car next to them without even realizing it, creating a log jam behind them.

Yellowdog's avatar

Excellent post, @Dutchess_III That pretty much sums it up. People should always be allowed to PASS on the left, no matter what speed, and people SHOULD always pass on the left when they have the option. That would solve just about all traffic obstruction.

Covertly, people should be allowed to drive as slow as they damn please in the right lane, with the added benefit of making it easier for people to enter and exit the roadway

Zaku's avatar

It depends on the situation, but in general.

If a car can make way for faster drivers without causing a problem, they should.

But if they’re already exceeding the speed of the cars on the right, and making way means they’ll get stuck behind much slower drivers in the non-passing lane, they don’t need to stop passing just to make way for even faster passers.

It’s also fairly pointless and sometimes unsafe to change lanes to make way when there are several more slower cars ahead in the fast lane due to congestion.

Drivers should also leave enough room between cars to safely be able to suddenly stop. Other drivers should not merge into those safe stopping spaces between cars.

Yellowdog's avatar

Yes, @Zaku—when I was in Driver’s Ed in high school, we called that the “two second rule”—meaning the safe space between cars making it possible to stop in time, is two seconds. If you drive over a bump in the road, the car behind you should hit that same bump in two seconds, Anything less is not only too close for safety but is annoying as heck. And it is unfortunately just enough space for somebody who is an idiot to pull in in-between,

I wish I had a bumper sticker that said “Tailgaters just wanna have anal sex.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Zaku if I’m in the passing lane passing several cars, and someone comes up behind me going faster, as soon as it’s possible I pull over into the right line for however long it takes him to go around, just a few seconds. Then I go back to what I was doing, passing other cars.

People need to leave as much space between them and cars in front of them for a lot more reasons than to suddenly stop. People should leave 5 or 6 car lengths so other cars can safely and easily change lanes if they need to. Some people have this insane idea that what ever lane they are in belongs to them and ain’t nobody gonnna get in their lane.

Many years ago I was in the passenger seat of my girlfriend’s car. She was driving. A lady had just entered the freeway and was trying to merge into traffic. My idiot girlfriend refused to let her in and just kept going faster and faster to block her. I screamed, “HER LANE IS ENDING!!! WHERE THE HELL IS SHE SUPPOSED TO GO??!! LET HER IN!!!”

To many people drive emotionally instead of rationally.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

In Tennessee you can get a ticket for cruising the speed limit in the passing lane.

JLeslie's avatar

I get over also if someone wants to go faster than I am traveling in the left, and then I return to the left after they pass.

What is the point of blocking a faster driver? It takes then a few seconds to speed past you, and then you can go back to the faster lane. It’s easier and safer for you, the slower driver, to merge into a right lane, than the faster driver.

As a side note, I’m completely against tailgating to indicate to the car in front you want to go faster, and very annoyed America doesn’t teach to flash high beams if someone doesn’t get over within a reasonable amount of time.

I can see someone coming up on me fast, because I check my mirror. I’m already getting ready to change lanes for them as they approach. I’m not perfect, I can’t say I drive perfectly every day, so I might miss someone come up behind me for various reason on a particular day. Purposely staying put and saying let the fast driver go slower I don’t understand. If they are slightly faster why be angry, if they are much faster, they are probably dangerous, I don’t want them near me.

When you live in a high traffic area the passing lane basically becomes the fast lane. All lanes are full of traffic, and the way to keep traffic moving is for traffic to use all lanes.

Edit: TN had a lot of bad drivers in the Memphis metro area. Most don’t signal to change lanes, many people are clueless that the left lane is for passing or faster traffic. I’m not only talking about my experience driving there, I also mean talking to friends about the traffic they actually admit to these things. The cite if they signal other drivers will purposely block them, and have said things like, “what do you mean passing lane.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Rick didn’t know about the passing lane. My ex BF was clueless about it too. How that can be is beyond me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My Mom used to just hate those signs that say “slower traffic keep right.” She said that there are older people going 10 miles under the speed limit who think they’re going really fast. She had a good point.

jca2's avatar

The main highway I usually am on is a commuter highway, 3 lanes wide in each direction with other highways and exits entering and exiting, which can be seven miles apart. The speed limit is 65, and most people in the left lane are expected to do 80.

I agree with @JLeslie. No matter how fast I’m going in the left lane, even if it’s 80, if there’s someone behind me who appears to want to pass me, I move over, let him pass, and then get back into that lane when I can. Unless there’s a line of cars in front of me and so letting him pass me won’t do him any good, in which case he has to deal with it the way everyone else is dealing with it.

Troopers let us go 80 in the left lane. If we’re going 83, we may get pulled over, or if there are no other cars around, they may pull you over because you’re standing out. I don’t get why people will slam on the breaks when they see a trooper, and slow down to 60. Makes no sense when the speed limit is 65. He’s not caring if you do 70 or 75. I also don’t get why people will stubbornly stay in the left lane doing 70 when there are cars behind them looking to pass. I call them “zombies” because often when you pass them and look at them, they look like zombies.

On this road, if you do 70 in the left lane, in the mornings when people are frantic, people will cut you off and it can be annoying at best, dangerous even. Southern NY, which is where I Live, not far from NYC, people take their morning commutes very seriously. Not saying they don’t take their commutes seriously in other areas of the country, just that New Yorkers (down here) are known for being aggressive with attitudes and can be aggressive with their driving.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

People are thoughtless and selfish @jca2.

seawulf575's avatar

The left lane should be for “passing”. If you are doing the speed limit and people are going around you on the right, you are a hazard on the road. You should move over. If you come upon a person driving more slowly than you, then pull into the left lane to pass, then move back to the right lane.

Zaku's avatar

@Dutchess_III That’s what I meant by my first and main statement: “If a car can make way for faster drivers without causing a problem, they should.”

However, I find that this is fairly often the case:
“But if they’re already exceeding the speed of the cars on the right, [...] making way means they’ll get stuck behind much slower drivers in the non-passing lane”

For example, if you’re on that highway you mentioned where:
“The speed limit on this particular highway is 65. Most people in the left lane on this highway do 80 mph, sometimes someone goes a little faster, often there are people doing 70 in the left lane which outrages people (in the FB group).”

This other situation I mean still fits your description, but say the traffic increases and slows down so that there is a group of several people going 70 in the left lane, leaving just enough distance between them (and then it’s maybe 100 yards to another group ahead of them also going about 70) but the people in the right lane are generally going more like 55. Then someone comes up from behind in the left lane going 80+, who wants to go as fast as possible. Behind that car may also be others wanting to go 70–80+.

In that case, a car that moves from the left lane into the right lane will tend to have one or more cars passing them on the left, while the car that politely moved over is now closing in on the next car ahead of them in the right lane at 15+ mph, and the cars on the left can’t really get past because there are another several cars going 70 ahead, which means the car on the right ends up having to slow to 55, and possibly be stuck behind who knows how many faster cars now in the left lane going 70. There may even be other cars that come up from behind the polite car in the right lane, who get stuck close to each other at 55, leaving them no room to accelerate enough to merge back into the left lane.

And the even worse situation is as above, but the impatient driver coming from behind decides to zoom through the right lane and then cut into someone’s safe stopping distance on the left, creating unsafe merges just to try to get another few car lengths ahead in traffic that overall is going at most 70.

kritiper's avatar

@Zaku In all of these instances, common sense rules.
And Murphy’s Law is always in effect.
And shit happens.
Most of these scenarios you mention do not happen all at once in every single case, if ever.
So you just deal with whatever comes up, whenever it comes up. That’s defensive driving.

Zaku's avatar

@kritiper Yeah . . . ?

“In all of these instances, common sense rules.”
– Ok.

“And Murphy’s Law is always in effect.”
– If you’re cynical enough to experience life as Murphy’s Law “If anything can go wrong, it will”, then I suppose can it seem that way. Murphy’s Law is an ironic and cynical false truism and/or humor for coping. Or, possibly a philosophical idea that can help keep a person mindful of what could happen, so that they are prepared to avoid it if it does, or take action to avoid it in advance.

“And shit happens.”
– At some point, yes. More often, when people are doing dangerous things.

“Most of these scenarios you mention do not happen all at once in every single case, if ever.”
If ever?
In highways I have driven on quite a bit, I have seen quite a few people trying to cut into the safe passing space when there is almost no point in doing so, and/or it’s dangerous. And/or wanting people to pull over for them even when there is a series of cars ahead going as fast as they can. Seems to me on two lane highways in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, for example, when there are enough cars on the road, it tends to happen about once per hour or more.

“So you just deal with whatever comes up, whenever it comes up. That’s defensive driving.”
– No, “you just deal with whatever comes up, whenever it comes up” is not “defensive driving.” Defensive driving is driving and maintaining a mindset organized to reduce risks and mitigate damages. Such as leaving a safe driving distance, not tailgating, not treating the other cars as annoying obstacles to you speeding more than they are, and not undertaking and cutting off other people in their safe stopping distance so you can get in front of a car going as fast as the car ahead of it.

I don’t know how you meant it, but I’m hearing it like somehow I made the impression that you think I’ll benefit from any of these expressions you’ve written. Seems like you don’t get my point, have not had the same experiences or perspectives, and so conclude that I ought to consider “you just deal with whatever comes up, whenever it comes up”? What do you think I’m supposed to learn from that?

I’m just trying to explain to Dutchess III seemingly not getting what I’m talking about.

JLeslie's avatar

@Zaku The car going 70 moves to the right slowing to 55 for less than a minute as the cars going 80 pass him, and then when there is a break in the left lane traffic he moves back over to the left and drives his 70 again until another time when much faster traffic comes up behind him. If he’s stays on the left the 80mph drivers will be stuck for a long time, or will be cutting over to the right in between much slower traffic to try to get ahead of the 70mph driver, which is much more dangerous. This causes the faster driver to have to weave through traffic as opposed to the 70 mph driver just momentarily slowing down to allow faster traffic to pass.

Usually, it’s not 80mph and 55mph. Usually, the lanes done have that much differences in speed when looking at the the general flow of traffic, although once in a while there are much slower drivers and much faster drivers.

Basically, if someone wants to drive faster let them go. Why not?

Pinguidchance's avatar

Cut to the chase.

Road fatalities per billion vehicle kilometres:

United Kingdom – 3.4
United States – 7.3

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Up here there are signs saying keep right except to pass, and “let others pass” and you still get people going under the speed limit in the left for miles and miles and miles, with traffic backing up for those same miles.

zenvelo's avatar

@Pinguidchance

Two observations on you statistics:

1. It is much harder to get a driver’s license in the UK than anywhere in North America
2. Slower drivers in the UK stay to the left because that is the slow lane!

kritiper's avatar

@Zaku Sorry You just made it sound as though one set of rules will fit all circumstances all of the time. And @Dutchess_lll does that, too.

Zaku's avatar

@JLeslie “Basically, if someone wants to drive faster let them go. Why not?”
I agreed and said so and repeated it. But then I brought up the cases where I don’t think it makes sense (basically, just when there’s no point because there is enough traffic ahead that they won’t be able to exceed 70 anyway and/or it’s dangerous to try to fight through it, and there are problems with getting in the right lane). As I’m about to do again:

”@Zaku The car going 70 moves to the right slowing to 55 for less than a minute as the cars going 80 pass him, and then when there is a break in the left lane traffic he moves back over to the left and drives his 70 again until another time when much faster traffic comes up behind him.”
– Yes, as I initially wrote, if and when that is really that works well.
– But there are frequently cases where it won’t work, such as the exception I have described before. As I described, if the driver going 70 lane-changes right, and there are still several other drivers going 70 ahead of where he was, the driver who wants to go 80 doesn’t have any way to actually pass the driver who changed lanes very quickly, and in that time, more cars may start to fill the left lane, meanwhile the driver who shifted right is having to slow down and may be stuck for a while in the right lane going 55. All for no good reason, especially if he wanted to go 80 too but was only going 70 because there were several drivers at that speed ahead of him, and he wasn’t willing to drive unsafely to dry to Action Jackson his way through it.

“If he’s stays on the left the 80mph drivers will be stuck for a long time, or will be cutting over to the right in between much slower traffic to try to get ahead of the 70mph driver, which is much more dangerous. This causes the faster driver to have to weave through traffic as oposed to the 70 mph driver just momentarily slowing down to allow faster traffic to pass.”
– Yes, but the situation I’ve repeatedly detailed, is one where there are several cars going 70 in the left-hand lane, and not all that far ahead of them, more cars going about 70. Often some or most of the people going 70 would like to go 80+ too, and will as soon as there’s a reasonable opportunity, but are just not being overly aggressive and are leaving safe stopping distances.

JLeslie's avatar

@Zaku I agree in some cases there is no point moving over.

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