Today I find myself again (That Post) writing about one of the bedrock principles of roadway etiquette which is the sanctity of the left lane or SOLL. It is inviolable or at least it should be, and for good reason. There are three important aspects of roadway etiquette, and in no particular order they are: turn signal use (not just branches off the steering tree), left lane – pass lane, and don’t be a petty douche. These are not codified in society’s great documents, but they very well should be (except I’m pretty sure the first two are listed in almost every states’ driver’s handbooks). Anyway, the other two I’ll leave for another day, but sanctity of the left lane is important, and not just from motoring enthusiast’s standpoint. Specifically the consequences of SOLL abuse are higher rates of accidents (speed differential – it’s a real thing), traffic delays, poorer fuel economy, uptick in road rage and related incidents, an increase in both tailgating and passing in the right lane, and finally global warming. I’m not 100% about that last effect, but it’s possible that interrupting the flow of smooth moving traffic adds to the amount of time our wonderful internal combustion (except for your Tesla owners) carbon dioxide emitting transport boxes spew their planet killing emission. 1/5 of US emissions are attributable to cars/personal vehicles reports the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The sanctity of the left lane is universally known, accepted by most, and consistently ignored by the citizens of just one country, ours. U-S-A!!
Oddly enough the one positive takeaway from this epidemic is that the motorists who witness SOLL abuse are finding new, and creative ways to let the offending driver know they are not a good driver.
Speed differential is probably one of the least obvious threats known about SOLL abuse. When drivers in the left lane do not maintain a higher rate of speed than those in the right lane, drivers approaching from the rear can’t correctly gauge your speed, and plan accordingly sometimes until it is too late. If you’re only in the left lane to pass, chances are that any driver coming up from behind can use your vehicle and that of the one your passing to gauge the speed, and estimate how long before you merge to the right, and allow them to pass you. This can be scary depending on the difference in speed of the two vehicles. The overtaking vehicle is operating under the belief and law of many states that there will only be a car in the left lane who is overtaking another vehicle thereby minimizing any scenario where the overtaking driver would not have an escape lane to utilize if needed. Studies say that going 5 MPH slower than surrounding traffic is more likely to cause an accident then going 5 MPH faster than surrounding traffic. Just saying.
Traffic delays are not mutually exclusive to just one region in the country, but as I reside in Maryland I will speak about my experience. It’s annoying. I can ALWAYS tell when I cross a state line from WV, VA, DE or PA into Maryland. The tell tale sign is that there will be 30 cars in the left lane, and 2 cars in the right lane. The left lane is not overtaking any of the cars in the right lane, and we have the largest unbalanced stalemate where everyone loses. Traffic slows down because none of the other drivers in the left lane yield and everyone is bumper to bumper and cannot overtake any vehicle in the right lane. That’s an Argh! factor of 5.
Worsening fuel economy is the price people following the absent minded motorist in the left hand lane and the absent minded driver themselves pay. By not following the universal code of keeping to the right except to pass, everyone behind you gets to speed up and slow down in adjusting to your poor habits let alone the poor fuel economy you incur due to having to speed up or slow down to move to the right once the overtaking motorists pass on the right side, and disrupt the flow by then pulling back in front of your vehicle.
Road rage, tailgating, passing in the right lane all sort of belong in one section, people who abuse SOLL piss other driver’s off, and that angst has to go somewhere. Is that what Displacement theory is really about? Nowhere else in society do people tend to act out more than in their vehicle, whether it’s trying to police the other drivers getting them to follow “their” speed come hell or high water or participating in street racing people just tend to feel more protected and insulated in their car thinking that there will be no repercussions as they are not likely to see these same drivers again. And that might be true if you were driving one way across the country, but think about it for a minute. You drive like a douche in the left lane each day on your commute to work odds are you going to run into some of the same people more frequently than if you traveled to Hawaii once in 10 years. Just saying, you see the same people, maybe in different cars, where you live more frequently than you think you do.
Another consideration not mentioned is that of first responders. They operate on the understanding that traffic will yield on the right side allowing them to proceed, usually, in the left lane. The wrench in that works is when you have slow drivers in the left lane who are not passing and may not yield the left lane for first responders in time for them not to have to alter their course to the detriment of the end user.
So in summation, if you have to think whether or not you belong in the left lane, you my friend do not. Move to the right to save not just our planet, but yourself and your fellow motorists.
Check out this video about SOLL