You’ve experienced this: You’re driving down the highway, enjoying the journey, minding your own business when you encounter a slower car or truck. You cannot pass it because some self-important schmuck just drives on and on in the passing lane.
Perhaps you’ve also seen the guy driving the Chevy Spark, who weaves in and out of the flow of traffic. Does he fantasize that he’s driving a Corvette? You think to yourself, “Where’s the fire?” Left lane bandits are also infuriating to the rest of the drivers on the road.
You may think left lane bandits are only a bane to motorists in large, metropolitan cities, but that’s not the case. I encounter them from time to time in rural Nebraska, too. This used to be an even more common problem until the Unicameral revised the earlier statute regarding multiple lane highways, a few years ago.
Nebraska, and every other state in the US has some type of law that regulates passing lanes on multiple lane roads. The Uniform Vehicle Code mandates: “Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing, shall be driven in the right-hand lane, then available for traffic.”
The code says “normal” speed of traffic, not the “legal speed limit”. So, if the posted speed limit of a particular road states “50 MPH” but traffic is clipping along at 60 mph, it’s illegal to remain driving in the passing lane while driving 50 mph. Depending upon the jurisdiction, blocking the normal flow of traffic in the passing lane is considered to be evidence of negligent or reckless driving.
Just this past weekend I was cruising east on one of the rare four-lane roads near Norfolk, Nebraska. A large pickup truck pulled onto the highway and proceeded to drive in the left lane. There was no other traffic besides my car and the pickup. Yet, he maintained the same speed as mine whilst driving mile after mile in the passing lane. The pickup remained in that lane until the road narrowed down to a two lane highway. A couple of miles later, the truck slowed to make a right turn down a county road.
Fortunately, the pickup didn’t present an immediate traffic hazard, but the manner in which the driver violated the law gave me plenty of fodder for thought during the remainder of my own trip.
I reflected how many people’s personalities change when they’re behind the wheel. A mild-mannered office clerk may turn into a road rally racer once he gets behind the wheel of his Chrysler sedan. The laid back librarian may become an aggressive maniac when she drives her F-150 pickup. Thankfully, not everyone behaves this way.
As I sat in the comfort of the ol’ Camry, I postulated that perhaps some of the offending drivers may be displaying symptoms of narcissism. In my non-professional opinion, I thought about how some drivers behave as if the publicly funded highways belong only to them. They treat other vehicles like traffic cones arrayed in some sort of autocross competition.
Is the driver asserting some sort of superiority or perception of higher status? If so, the rest of us are not impressed. The lane weaver or the left lane bandit is only someone to be avoided and pitied. Regular drivers are only trying to get from point A to point B. We’re not vying for a trophy. Besides, nobody really cares who arrives a minute or so sooner than everybody else.
Some of this left lane banditry comes about because of self-righteousness and sanctimonious thinking. Sometimes you get a clue because the car sports a license plate frame or bumper sticker that states, “Jesus is my co-pilot” or some other moralistic slogan. I wondered if they might believe that it is their place to enforce the state’s speed limit laws. Unfortunately for them, only the police and the highway patrol are entrusted with that responsibility.
Left lane banditry might seem like an irritant to most of us. A behavior that makes us shake our heads and shrug our shoulders. However, it is more of a problem than seems apparent. First of all, left lane bandits can cause traffic jams, or worse, chain-reaction multiple vehicle crashes. Second, hogging the passing lane is the first-ranked complaint of North American drivers, (second is failure to use blinkers). Left lane banditry is one of the major causes of road rage violence.
What’s to be done about all those left lane bandits on our highways? I’m afraid, not much. We’ll continue to ask ourselves, “Where are the cops when you really need them?”
The Blue Jay of Happiness wonders what passing lane hogs are called in places like Great Britain, India and other countries where people drive on the left side of the road. Are they Right Lane Bandits?