A long-term commitment to education and public awareness is needed before we can all enjoy the benefits of lane courtesy. Lane Courtesy Month is just the beginning of this effort. The good news is that the majority of the public is supportive of lane courtesy. That means even a small investment to promote lane courtesy would pay major dividends.
A lesson on lane courtesy for new drivers and reminders for older drivers would both help a great deal, but for lane courtesy to work, we will also have to make changes to our driving behavior. First of all, the adoption of easy-to-understand signals that drivers can use to communicate is important. Here’s what we suggest:
- The driver of a faster vehicle in the left lane should signal their desire to move past a slower vehicle in the left lane by turning on their left directional light for a few seconds.
- The operator of the slower vehicle should acknowledge this request by turning on their right directional light and merging right as quickly as possible without slowing down.
- If the slower driver fails to respond, the faster driver should briefly flash their headlights to catch the slower driver’s attention. Ideally, the slower driver will then merge right.
Of course, true lane courtesy requires all drivers to be courteous. If you are in the right lane and a driver on your left signals to merge right, possibly to allow others to pass, accelerate or slightly decelerate to provide space for the merge. The same courtesy should be extended to vehicles merging onto the highway from an onramp.
The driver of a faster vehicle isn’t off the hook either. If they signal their intention to pass, but a slower driver fails to respond, they should never engage in dangerous tailgating or aggressive driving. They should just fall back and wait for another opportunity to pass safely. Additionally, faster drivers in the left lane should not request that drivers of slower vehicles merge right when such a merge isn’t safe, such as near an onramp or in heavy traffic.
These commonsense tactics will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, and eliminate many of the aggravations that cause road rage. They’re easy and free fixes that will benefit all road users. There simply isn’t a good excuse not to practice lane courtesy.