Monday, February 23, 2015

Californians and lane discipline.

Lane discipline on motorways is something that seems to confuse a tremendous number of people. The rule is pretty simple: use the inner-most lane(s) and only use the outer lane(s) when passing. Not sure that's so hard to remember. I think part of the problem is that people think the outside lane is called the 'fast' lane, and it's not. You can drive plenty fast in the inside lanes.
What was enlightening to me recently though was just how regional this is. We were driving from Salt Lake City to Palm Springs and once we got south of Vegas, there was a noticable change in driving style. The motorway is two lanes either direction, and without fail, the Nevada vehicles would pull out, pass and pull back in, whilst the California vehicles would be sitting in the outside lane even on totally empty sections. (Utah vehicles would be stuck on the hard shoulder, crashing into other vehicles, driving backwards etc - the usual Utah crapshoot)
Fortunately in the US, you can overtake on both sides, so passing on the right was quick and simple. (Ok technically that's illegal in many states but the chances of being pulled over for doing it are absolute zero.)
I have trouble understanding the mindset of the drivers who just sit hogging the outside lane. It's the same everywhere - worse in Europe because not only is it illegal to overtake on the wrong side, but the police take such a dim view of it that you can lose your license in some countries if you're caught. But to see such a stark example of it made me wonder if there's some peculiarity about California drivers or the way they're taught. We passed hundreds of CA plates on open sections, on the right, as they were dawdling in the outside lane going 5 under the limit.


Paul said...

Agree 100% Chris. We have, recently, had the pleasure of two long distance road trips (Houston to Las Vegas and Houston to Miami) and the drivers who just sat in the left lane annoyed the hell out of me.
One part that we still disagree on is which is the inside lane and which is the outside lane. To me the inside lane is the left lane. And looking online it seems about 50/50.

Chris said...

Inside / outside comes from countries where you have to pass on one side only. Inside lane is the lane you come on /off the motorway. Outside lane is the one furthest away from the on/off ramps :)

Silas Humphreys said...

Learned my road manners in California, and I'll freely admit I'm crap about lane discipline - but I'm still better than most of the other idiots in this state.

Some time ago, I wrote up an explanation of "inside lane" versus "outside lane" that was deliberately designed to be as confusing as possible, in the vein of the towels which purport to explain how cricket works...

Anonymous said...

I lived in CA for about 30 years, my observation is that CA drivers face so much traffic during normal hours that the concept of fast lane/passing lane is irrelevant. If all your driving is rush hour like conditions, then leaving the left lane open for passing makes no sense - leaving the left lane unused except for passing would just decrease overall speed for everyone.

So once you are conditioned to always using the left lane as a regular lane, then you will tend to do that everywhere.

I live in Vegas and find it doubly annoying that the CA driver will still ignore the flashing highbeams to move over or think I am being rude by using them.