I had to post this, because I see it everyday, I thought it was just me who had a problem with it!

SPECIAL TO THE STAR

 

A good deal of the correspondence that I see on Wheels.ca from our readers usually entails arguments regarding the dreaded “left-lane bandits.”

This particular bad driving habit is easily one of the most annoying errors made by motorists of all ages, race or gender.

There are only two explanations as to why motorists will not leave the left lane open for passing. One, they are ignorant of the Highway Traffic Act and the ensuing traffic chaos caused by their illegal occupation of the left lane. Two, they are selfish and do not care that they are instigating “lane hopping,” road rage and other traffic troubles as drivers try to find a way around the rolling blockade.

Hogging the left lane does not only occur on our large divided multi-lane highways. It also occurs on all of our urban or semirural, undivided, multi-lane roads as well. Many driving experts have cited Section 147 of our Highway Traffic Act that states you should use the right lane unless passing. Motorists can be ticketed for impeding traffic flow by driving slower than others in the left lane. If there are still those who refuse to believe what it states in our HTA, then check out the illuminated overhead signs on all our 400 series highways and you will notice the MTO putting that message up in lights for all to see: “Keep left lane open for passing.”

That should be as plain as the bumper on an SUV. Something tells me the MTO wants motorists to understand that.

Driving in the left lane on these roads cannot only be annoying to most motorists, but it can also be very deadly. If our “left-lane bandits” won’t move over for legal or compassionate reasons, then perhaps if they look at it from a more selfish point of view, they may want to rethink their driving strategy.

Many of these undivided multi-lane roads have a posted speed limit of anywhere from 70 to 100 km/h. This means that two vehicles coming from opposing directions will have a “closing speed” of anywhere from 140 to over 200 km/h. This simply means they are approaching each other at a rate of up to 200 km/h with little more than a metre width of asphalt and a yellow line between them.

The outcome of a collision at those speeds is almost certainly to be fatal regardless of the vehicles involved. Motorists may feel comforted by the fact that the yellow line indicates passing is not allowed to occur. However, it is not a “magic yellow line.” An errant vehicle will not bounce off the centre line and back into its own lane.

Here is some information that should make you to reconsider your love affair with the left lane. According to a study conducted by the U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “most head-on crashes are likely to result from a motorist making an unintentional manoeuvre — the driver falls asleep, is distracted (cellphone, stereo etc.) or travels too fast in a curve.” There are other factors such as alcohol impairment, which we all know can lead to vehicles unintentionally crossing the centre line. Only 4.2 per cent of head-on collisions involved passing or overtaking another vehicle.

This same study showed that only one third of these head-on collisions occurred on a curve portion of road. The other two thirds involved a vehicle going out of its lane on a straight section of road.

In other words, most head-on collisions had nothing to do with passing. They can occur at anytime on any stretch of undivided highway. All that is required is for the driver of the vehicle coming toward you, to decide to answer their cellphone, change the CD in the stereo, engage in a sneezing fit or doze off. Quite possibly, that driver has had too much to drink. It is human error and most of it happens all too often.

If that vehicle inadvertently crosses the centre line while you are occupying the left lane, you have very little, if any, time to react and often no options. Had you been driving in the right lane, you would have more than doubled your reaction time and your options.

On some roads, driving in the right lane also gives you the shoulder of the road to use as an escape route. With no traffic on your right hand side, the shoulder of the road can be an easy avoidance route to dodge trouble. Any motorist driving onto the shoulder either intentionally or accidentally must remember to steer as smoothly as possible to remain in control of the vehicle while on the shoulder.

The choice in my opinion is a “no-brainer”: Drivers should stick to the right lane.

great article! Now, how do we put this into practice?….Ideas?