December 20, 2008

Just Pass Me Already

A lot of Californians drive at only one of two speeds. One is with the right foot pressing the accelerator all the way to the floor. The other is with the right foot pressing the brake all the way to the floor. But life and experience serving as a traffic judge has made me very conscious of my speed and of speed limits, too. So I’m typically going the speed limit or at most five miles over. On a day like today, when I’m wary of icy patches on the road, I’m making sure to drive the speed limit.

If someone wants to pass me, that’s cool. I’ve given up investing any ego in that issue. On longer stretches of one-lane roads, I’ll frequently use turnouts and pull over to the side to let people who want to drive faster than me do so. If they want to wipe themselves out, that’s their business. On I-5 and Highway 99, the right lane is pretty much reserved for big trucks hauling cargo. They’re going slower than me because the automobile speed limit is higher than the big-rig speed limit. So I take the next lane and set my cruise control at the limit. The #1 lane, and in places the #2 lane, are to my left so if someone wants to drive faster than me, they can pass me on the left in the fast lane, and get on with whatever they’re in such a hurry to do.

But what confuses me is why it consistently happens that when I get into a wide-open stretch of straight highway with light traffic, and do my speed-limit-in-the-middle lane thing, and some yahoo shoots up right behind me at an incredible velocity and tailgates me in the middle lane for about seven miles. The entire time, he could pass me on the left but for some reason he prefers to hang out about ten feet behind my rear bumper at sixty-five miles an hour for more than five minutes at a time, with a face growing visibly more frustrated with me every mile. It’s not until someone faster comes along on his left that it occurs to him that he, too, can change lanes and pass me. And most of the time, he passes me on the right, in the truck lane.

Do these guys simply forget that they can pass slower traffic on the left?

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