Warning: boring whining about other drivers follows. And no, I don’t claim to be a perfect driver myself.

One of my coworkers has been known to say something like “east coast drivers are assholes, west coast drivers are clueless”. Having driven on both coasts recently, I’m inclined to agree. And, while I’ll take the clueless driver over the asshole, I do wish people around here would think a bit more.

I actually hadn’t been bothered by the clueless behavior much in the past. Most of my driving is during rush hour; during those times, I understand why people make the decisions they make, and while I disagree with some of them, it’s quite possible that I’m the one making bad choices instead of them. But I’ve been doing some driving recently during off-peak times, and been astounded more than once (much more than once) by how drivers around here manage to create congestion in a four-lane highway that is way below capacity.

Suggestion 1: You do not have a god-given right to stay in one lane in perpetuity.

Traffic conditions change: just because you were behaving reasonably by driving at a given speed in the third lane two minutes ago does not mean that you are behaving reasonably by driving at that speed in that lane now.

Suggestion 2: If you are at the front of a wave of traffic, think about why that might be.

A dozen or so times recently, I’ve been driving along a four-lane highway at good speed (around 68mph, I’m not a big speeder these days), run into a clot of cars, and had to slow down to 60-65. And, when making it through the clot, I’ve discovered that the cause is because four drivers have decided that it’s a smart thing to drive next to each other at the same speed, making it impossible for anybody to pass.

Those four people are blocking potentially hundreds of people; I don’t blame the one in the right lane, but if any of the other three were the slightest bit awake, they’d notice that there is open road in front of them, dozens or hundreds of cars behind them, and they’d accelerate slightly to move ahead of the car to their right and then change lanes to their right. And then the clot would disappear. But no, they apparently all think they have the right to stay in their lane no matter what.

Suggestion 3: If the amount of open space ahead of you is more than the following distance you need to feel comfortable, think about why that might be.

By all means, keep a generous buffer between yourself and the car in front of you: I’m towards the extreme end of that spectrum myself. But if the amount of space in front of you is more than you need, look in your rear view mirror. Is there a car, perhaps even several cars behind you who would prefer to pass you? Are you not in the right lane? Then move over! Do it even if you have to, heaven forbid, speed up two miles an hour to pass the car to your right to find a space, or, heaven doubly forbid, slow down a mile an hour to match the rightward lane’s speed so that you can let some cars pass.

This is, of course, a generalization of suggestion 2, this symptom’s most perverse form. And I do realize that, at times, the lane to your right is too clogged for you to be able to get into it. Which leads to:

Suggestion 4: If you’re not going at least three or four miles per hour faster than the lane to your right, and you can take action to correct that, do so.

Lanes are there for a reason; they don’t work well if the right lane is going 65mph, the second lane 66mph, the third 67mph, and the left lane 68mph. I appreciate that your favorite speed in the entire world may be 67mph, and that the lane to your right may be going a pathetic 66mph. (Honestly, I really do appreciate that: it’s really annoying to be stuck behind somebody going just a bit too slow.) But sometimes you have to balance your desires between those of, say, the twenty drivers behind you. If that means speeding up a bit and staying in your lane while being less of a hindrance, or slowing down a bit to move to the right, do so.

Suggestion 5: Look at the drivers around you; try to figure out what they’d like to be doing and, if you can make it easier for them to do that, consider doing so.

Honestly, it’s a lot more fun to pay attention than to drive zombie-like down the road, obvlivious to your surroundings.

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