In “A prayer for the gesticulating driver 4 inches off my bumper” (Oct. 27), the author repeats some common thoughts many drivers share, but he and they are greatly mistaken. He reminds me of the Mark Twain quote: “Often wrong, but seldom in doubt.”
He said a couple of times that there is “no passing lane in rush-hour traffic,” adding “I repeat,” as if saying something often enough makes it real. But that is only a creation of his belief of how things should be, and not Minnesota law. This belief, and his driving habits, like many on the road, creates a negative impact on highway traffic flow.
According to Minnesota statute 169.18: “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, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway, or when a specific lane is designated and posted for a specific type of traffic.”
According to Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer Tiffani Nielson: “The law is written that slower traffic needs to move right and drivers can use the left lane to pass vehicles.”
In short — and “I repeat” — the signage on the highway saying “Slower traffic keep right” is the law. This law remains in effect regardless of traffic density.
I have often observed clueless or obtuse drivers in rush-hour traffic camp in the left lane, many car lengths behind the drivers in front of them. The commentary’s author should already be educated to the fact that every time someone causes another to tap their brakes behind them, it causes exponential brake-light-tapping behind that car, resulting in a needless, miles-long traffic congestion behind him that he alone created. This is simply transportation engineering dynamics. Had he, and all others who wish to drive slower, stayed in the right lane, he and they would be allowing a continuum of traffic flow, even in rush hour traffic.
Actually this dynamic has a greater effect in rush hour traffic when given a chance to work.
Is not realizing the dynamics of traffic flow a result of being clueless, uneducated, or just obtuse?
It is correct that “the internet says that two-thirds of all traffic fatalities nationwide are associated with aggressive driving behaviors.” But he forgot to continue the full assessment that most aggressive driving is the resulting reaction to people being clueless (or obtuse) to the traffic around them, and what their behavior creates in others. This is the rule of cause and effect.
In fact, left-lane campers hindering flow can instigate frustration and anger in otherwise calm and aware drivers. This is not opinion, it is daily observable fact, and verifiable psychological behavior.
Traffic flow is the key element in all highway traffic, whether heavy or light. If slower traffic keeps right, or in the middle lane on multiple-lane highways, then faster traffic is not impeded in the left lane, and those wishing to drive more slowly (speed limit is not theirs to enforce) can do so in the middle or right lane. Everyone wins.
Professional truck drivers are taught that for multiple-lane highway driving, the middle lane is the cruising lane, right lane is for entering and exiting the highway, and left lane is for passing only. When there are only two lanes, the left is passing only.
I admire the author’s prayer for the well-being of the road rager on his bumper; it is a wonderful sentiment. However, I found it disingenuous at best. If he really cared about the rager, or had true compassion for that individual, he would not have participated in the building anger of that driver and would have just moved over and let him pass. Maybe smile and wave to him also.
This kindness is disarming behavior and is proven to relieve intensity in stressful situations. But he took a false equivalency of compassion in order to expound on his personal beliefs about righteously being able to drive in the passing lane, at the expense of all the others driving the rush hour highway. It is a singularly selfish way of interacting with all others on the road.
I make no excuses for Mr. Road Rager. He was breaking the law by tailgating, driving recklessly and creating the possibility of an accident. He was in the wrong.
Though it’s a struggle dealing with clueless or obtuse drivers. Had the writer merely signaled with his right blinker, and moved over when Mr. Rager was on his bumper, there would have been no need for his commentary. What the writer did not know was the situation Mr. Road Rager may have been dealing with. Did he receive a call that his wife was in the hospital from an accident or injury? Was she giving birth at the moment? Were his children left alone unattended for whatever reason, and he needed to get home? The possibilities are endless; we just don’t know.
True empathy and compassion acknowledge possibilities, and will react accordingly. Making a self-righteous sign of the cross and lane hogging the wrong lane is not compassion but rather an example of a Minnesota passive/aggressive action if I ever saw one. If the writer cannot abide by the law, acknowledge the physics of traffic flow or show courtesy in the face of aggression, then perhaps he should not be driving.
David Berger, of Minneapolis, is a retired trucking dispatcher.