NMA E-Newsletter #181: Lane Courtesy Sparks Member Feedback

NMA members are passionate advocates for lane courtesy, which, when practiced consistently, has a positive impact on all drivers. Last week’s E-newsletter (#180: Lane Courtesy Around The Globe) prompted many thoughtful responses from members. We thought we’d share a few with you.


From Wade Scannell, Connecticut:


Lane courtesy should also apply to those drivers who are in the left lane for the purposes of passing.


Some drivers have said that they do not use signal lights to change to the passing lane because the approaching driver in the passing lane will speed up, preventing the driver that wants to pass from entering the passing lane. Then the driver has to slow down behind the slower car, making it more difficult to get into the passing lane.


When passing cars, the instruction has been to leave adequate room before pulling back in front of the car that was just passed. This leaves room for the slower car to stop without hitting the car that just passed. However, some drivers are in such a hurry that as soon as there is a car-length gap between the two cars, they pass on the right. Sometimes this continues with everyone copying the first driver, making it difficult to move to the right. These drivers even ignore signal lights indicating a desire to move to the right.


If these drivers were a bit more courteous, other drivers might be a bit more willing to change lanes more often.


From P.H., Budapest, Hungary:


The European courtesy you describe is true in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, etc. But many European countries tend more towards the style of India (which is far worse than you described). Here in Hungary, for example, where I’ve been for a couple of years, there is little courtesy and lots of lethal habits (literally), such as tailgating within inches of your bumper, passing within inches, using your car to express your feelings in general, etc.


In some countries, such as Romania, there are many places with no signs, no markings of any sort. Once in Romania we almost had a deadly accident because we came upon a three-foot deep by eight-foot long hole in the road with some tape around it but no notice whatsoever that is was coming up! And if there is an oncoming vehicle, you just go into the hole. There were many such in Romania.


From Mark Kaepplein, Massachusetts:


The Drachten (a city in Holland referenced in the original newsletter) experiment has evolved into “shared space” design for village centers. Like roundabouts, it commands attention, thus reduces accidents. US transportation officials, being bureaucrats or employed by educational institutions, favor sluggish, overly structured environments, otherwise they would leave those jobs. For the majority who work in the private sector, excess order fosters inattention and dangers. US transportation designers have made driving worse by always wanting to lower cognitive load and decision-making on drivers, thinking that will reduce accidents. The opposite occurs—either bored drivers seek additional activities while driving (distraction), or they totally zombie out (inattention).


Besides cognitive load, the other thing that keeps one awake is sensory stimulus. In a convertible sports car or motorcycle, road/air feel, smell, and vision are stimulated. In a comfy cage sealed from road feel, temperature changes, sound, and smells, only vision of the world presents itself. This too breeds inattention and distraction temptation.


Left-Lane Loafers and others in road repose seek mental holidays from driving. In the right lane, having to watch for entering and exiting traffic gets in the way of their conversations or daydreams. I swear there is a government conspiracy to have no KEEP RIGHT education, either in manuals or highway signs. They want loafers in every lane slowing traffic. What they got was more road rage and having to weave through traffic around the inattentive drivers.


From Finn Simmensen, Nevada:


Many motorists want to go 5-15 mph over the posted limit, which, one may argue, would be fine under some circumstances. But some of these motorists, perhaps tired or preoccupied (always bad when driving), tend to follow too closely.


Moreover, the same motorists, when in the lead position, will cut back 5-10 mph, unconsciously fearing they’ll be nailed by radar. They push the car in front of them but hesitate as soon as that car gets out of the way. This bunches up traffic and creates drama, both of which are negatives. Is there a lane selection and spacing strategy that would let motorists be safe and courteous while lowering their radar profile?

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