Daily Archives: October 9, 2013

Lead, follow, or get out of the way: Proper highway driving

i95-north-trafficImage from WTVR

Driving in England for two years was an excellent refresher lesson in how to properly and politely use the highway. The last two months of driving up and down I-95 have clearly demonstrated that this knowledge has been forgotten (never learned?) here in Virginia, so I’d like to pass on a few pointers. However unrealistic impossible, all of the following assume multi-lane highways, with free-flowing traffic (no accidents, no construction, no military convoys) and ideal driving conditions (no fog, no rain, no snow, no ice, no sun glare).

1. Know before you go. Highway speed limits in the US generally range from 55mph to 85mph. If your vehicle is not mechanically capable of achieving the posted speed limit, or if you are too timid to navigate the roadways at that velocity, choose another route.

US_speed_limits Map retrieved from Wikipedia

2. Slow traffic keep right. If you are only willing to go as fast as the posted speed limit, the right lane is your home. Stay out of the other lanes. If you are comfortable driving somewhat above the speed limit, you might be able to drive in the middle lane, depending on who’s out there on the road with you. No one, and I mean NO ONE should be traveling in the far left lane. It is meant as a passing lane.

slower-traffic-keep-right-and-i-ll-keep-calmImage created by BradEiskamp

3. If you’re gonna pass, pass. Regardless of whether you choose the middle or right travel lanes, you might come up behind a vehicle moving slower than you. In this case, you will need to move one lane to the left in order to overtake the slower driver. Make sure you have a large gap in traffic on your left before changing lanes, then step on the gas! Do not move into the left lane if it is going to take you five miles to finally overtake the slower car. As soon as you have safely passed the slower car(s), pull back into the lane to your right.

4. Be the other driver. Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Anticipate what he wants. If you are in the center lane and he comes charging up behind you, so close that in your rearview mirror you can read the barista’s notes on his Starbucks cup, he wants to get around you. If he does not have room to move left, you might need to speed up until he can find his window of opportunity. Or maybe, just maybe, you could be courteous and move to the right.

If everyone on the interstates would adhere to these few simple guidelines, driving in the States could be just as civilized as driving in the UK. So please, sir–yes, you in the rusted out Civic–lead, follow, or get out of my way.