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Civil Obedience?
A video about obeying the law from some students at Georgia State. (Another version available on Google Video)
AppSocRes (mail):
In the DC area they actually have a word for this behavior, based on the name of some DC bureaucrat who once wrote a letter to the Washington Post arguing that he had a perfect right to travel at 50 MPH in the high speed lanes of the Beltway, no matter how much aggravation his behavior caused. Seriously, no matter what the speed limit, my experience has been that drivers who are not traveling near the average speed of traffic (whether above or below the speed limit, and even if the average speed is far above the posted limit) force other drivers to take evasive actions that endanger everyone on the road. Slower traffic should stay to the right, even if the "slow" drivers are driving above the posted limit. In Boston, the persistence of slow drivers in using the fast lane has led to an inversion of the intended traffic pattern: Slow drivers get the passing lane, so faster cars end up driving in the middle and slow speed lanes. Study after study has shown that most drivers adjust their speeds to current conditions and the speeds they choose have little to do with posted limits.
4.26.2006 9:08am
Freder Frederson (mail):
In the DC area they actually have a word for this behavior

In New Orleans, we don't have a word for the behavior, but rather for the people who perform the behavior: "assholes".
4.26.2006 9:40am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I think driving slow in the passing lane is a traffic violation in itself, although a rarely enforced one. In Germany passing on the right is a big NoNo, akin to DUI. I rememer in the late 70's the interstate speed limit being strictly enforced with use of CBs and Radar detectors being of limited use because of the number of cops on the road.
4.26.2006 9:51am
PeterM:
The problem with their assertion that they are "following the law" is that they likely were not. In MA, regardless of posted speed limits, slower traffic must keep right and the passing lanes are only to be used while overtaking another vehicle. So yes, they weren't breaking any speed limits, but they were also not obeying the basic traffic rules.

And being assholes.
4.26.2006 9:53am
Stamboulieh (mail):
That is amazing that everyone is calling them assholes for going the speed limit. True, they *might* have been breaking a law by using the left lane, but I think you miss the overall point of their movie.

A 55 MPH speed limit is arbitrary. Does 55 MPH make the roads safer? I personally think not. I think their demonstration serves its purpose.

S
4.26.2006 9:55am
tefta (mail):
Nixon deserves his place in hell for perpetrating the 55 MPH on us.
4.26.2006 10:48am
Grant Gould (mail):
If you need a word for it, call it a "work-to-rule" action by the citizenry.
4.26.2006 10:49am
Jerry Mimsy (www):
Just because it's called a passing lane doesn't mean you're allowed to go over the speed limit in it. In the states I've had the opportunity to look at, 55 and higher are "prima facie" speed limits: they are the speed limit regardless of other conditions on the road. That includes the speed of the drivers you want to pass. The students weren't blocking anybody from doing anything except break the law.

If low speed limits on roads like this were truly about safety rather than revenue, it would be easy to enforce them: just hire some students at the minimum wage to drive across the lanes at the speed limit.

The 55 MPH limit is an example of a law that if any tiny but significant fraction of the populace followed it, everyone else would have to follow it, too. But it's also an example of a real catch-22: on roads where the average speed is well above the posted limit, it is dangerous to follow the law. Dangerous not just for you, but for the people around you.
4.26.2006 11:01am
CEB:
I thought that the sole purpose of the 55 MPH speed limit was to conserve gas, not to make the roads safer.
4.26.2006 12:52pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Actually in Georgia it is not illegal to pass someone in the last lane. I missed that question when I took the Georgia driver's license test. My thought when I saw I missed it (that it was indeed legal to pass on the right), was, "well it should be."

In England, where eventhough the speed limit on the Motorways is 70 mph, that is the defacto minimum speed, and it is illegal to pass on the left (remember they drive on the wrong side of the road), somebody got ticketed for pulling this very stunt. The Judge upheld the ticket for impeding the flow of traffic, informing the traffic vigilante that it was not his job to unilaterally enforce the traffic laws and be a nuisance to other drivers.
4.26.2006 1:19pm
msk (mail):
In Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas (and numerous other states, no doubt) some major interstate exits in urban areas are on the left-hand side -- so you just gotta get into the lane you will need.

I thought the purpose of having up to eight lanes moving in the same direction -- and notifying everyone a mile ahead of most exits -- was so drivers could choose based on what maneuvers they anticipated needing to make.

True, you shouldn't be on the interstate if you aren't skilled, adaptable, or alert enough to work with the speeds that may surround you, but one of the biggest mistakes a driver can make is to give control of his speed to some maniac in the next vehicle back.

People who try to force you to speed up by riding on your rear bumper are always dangerous drivers, and if the only way you can escape them is to leave the interstate temporarily, it's your responsibility to protect your vehicle and its passengers from that danger. You control your driving only. It's the responsibility of various state and federal agencies to see to it that the highways stay useful.

It's considerate to pull over (safely) or to stay in the right lane if that's possible, but sometimes the driver behind you has mentally latched on to you, or wants to stay in the same lane for ten miles, and won't pass. He justs keeps trying to push you faster.

Posting minimum speed limits could make sense (if every driver nationwide understands minimum won't apply during extremely hazardous weather, or in traffic jams caused by accidents), but pretending "the most reckless, highest-speed drivers on the road set the pace for all of us" is a bit much.

It's not just speed. Ten percent of the drivers in my state seem to think centering themselves on the double yellow line of a city street, or completely crossing the double yellow to "straighten the curves" in the mountains (at 50 mph around blind, hairpin turns) is permissable. You can't let those people set the standards or even start a trend.
4.26.2006 2:39pm
Jam (mail):
I've been an AAA member since forever. AAA did a study once that showed that, on the average, drivers will travel the designed speed of a road.

I travel 35 miles each way to work (Houston, Texas) and I can tell you that it is extremely dangerousl not to travel at the prevailing speed and to travel above 10MPH over the prevailing speed of traffic. People think that they are driving in a safe manner but they never seem to look into the rear view mirror to see what the video showed - the mass of cars piling behind.

A defensive drving technique is to isolate yourself from any potential source of an accident. I will drive as fast as I have to to place myself inside the gap, between clusters of cars, also, to not drive besides an 18 wheeler.

I've seen people driving the speed limit on the leftmost lane, even 10MPH-15MPG below the limit. It is madness.

Those kids did something educational but foolish.

And all of those people that pull the stunts to get around are idiots.
4.26.2006 3:11pm
Jam (mail):
For you lawyers out there: speed limits are a prima facie evidence of unsafe driving but it is not conslusive evidence. Comments?
4.26.2006 3:14pm
Houston Lawyer:
I don't mind passing on the right, but I do mind those who, at whatever speed, block traffic behind them by driving the same speed as the car in the lane next to them. I also mind those who, in crowded conditions, flash their lights and otherwise drive aggressively when it is clear that no one can go faster.

I know a lawyer in Texas who successfully argued to a jury that his speed, although in excess of the posted limit, was not unsafe and was not therefore illegal.

In Harris and surrounding counties, we must live with a 65 mph speed limit to reduce "pollution". If they wanted to reduce pollution, they could do away with the HOV lanes and add two more lanes to the freeways. This would increase the traffic flow and reduce time spent sitting in traffic jams, which would in turn reduce pollution.
4.26.2006 3:57pm
reneviht (mail) (www):

In the DC area they actually have a word for this behavior...



What is the word for this behaviour? I mean, besides "assholeism."

For the record, although I know I'm not that good of a driver, I try to stay in the right lane if I'm at the speed limit or slower (primarily in unfamiliar areas). I also always (try to) avoid tailgating, and as such will often be passed by someone who then plops him/herself into the stretch of road I'd been using for a "following distance." I might be leaving too much, but at speeds >= 65mph, you cover the length of a car pretty quickly.
4.26.2006 4:35pm
David Matthews (mail):
A common phenomenon I've observed is a slower, bewildered, increasingly panicky driver in the left lane, wishing to get into the right lane, but being so constantly and consistently passed on the right by impatient speedsters simultaneously cussing the slow driver for being in the wrong lane, that the slow driver can't get over. I have several times, in coming up behind a driver like this, switched lanes to the right, slowed down, and waved the relieved driver over. The net result of my good Samaritan routine is usually that I end up behind the slow car, unable to get back into the left lane until all of the congestion has slipped by. The lesson is, if you come up behind some slow geezer in the left lane, don't freak them out by riding their bumper, give them a chance to get over (and "chance" means: more time than it would take you to make the decision -- after all, they're ^slow^), don't just swing around them to the right.
4.26.2006 5:30pm
Leland:
I appreciate MSK's post. I too drive in the Houston area and typically put 100 miles a day on my car. I observe some of the oddest behaviour in drivers.

I can easily identify the most dangerous drivers on the road by the fact they are driving a Chevy Avalanche Z-77. I don't know what it is about that vehicle, but I consistently see the drivers of them doing everything from tailgating, changing more than 2 or more lanes in under 300', and passing using emergency lanes besides driving at excessive speeds. I honestly cannot recall seeing one of these vehicles going down the road without witnessing some unsafe act by the driver.

Personally, I keep to the speed limit, try to stay to the right (Texas, particularly Houston has moronic civil engineers who design in left exits), and definitely keep around a 2 second interval. I appreciate the 10 mph variance, not matching speeds with vehicles in neighboring lanes, and the aggravation with slow drivers in the left lane. What I don't understand is the need to tailgate cars that are already limited by the speed of the vehicle in front of them, especially when there is plenty of room to pass the car whether on the left or right.
4.26.2006 6:07pm
Jam (mail):
My understanding is that the lowering of the speed limits due to environmental concerns is itself illegal and a defense against a speeding (driving in an unsafe manner). The law in Texas requires the speed limit be due to a safety determination by the design of the road. If a speed limit was lowered not due to safety and you get a ticket then you have a defense.

I am not a lawyer and this was NOT a legal advice but for educational/informational purposes only.
4.26.2006 6:20pm
Steven Crane (mail):
I think many of you miss the point, even as you acknowledge that the 55 mph speed limit is arbitrary.

The speed limit is indeed both arbitrary and artificially low, yes. It's also true that everyone exceeds the speed limit as a matter of course, and it's mostly ignored.

BUT.

That speed limit still exists... and if everyone is breaking it, it gives the po-lice an excuse to pull over anyone they choose. I wonder how many examples of "driving while black" happen on the Atlanta expressways?
4.27.2006 3:22am
Jam (mail):
The po-lice can stop you anytime, without excuse. Ever heard of a safety check?
4.27.2006 10:15am
ksd:
David Matthews: "A common phenomenon I've observed is a slower, bewildered, increasingly panicky driver in the left lane, wishing to get into the right lane, but being so constantly and consistently passed on the right by impatient speedsters simultaneously cussing the slow driver for being in the wrong lane, that the slow driver can't get over. [SNIP] The lesson is, if you come up behind some slow geezer in the left lane, don't freak them out by riding their bumper, give them a chance to get over (and "chance" means: more time than it would take you to make the decision -- after all, they're ^slow^), don't just swing around them to the right."

Actually, the lesson is -- IF YOU'RE AFRAID TO DRIVE AT THE PREVAILING SPEED, YOU SHOULDN'T BE ON THE ROAD IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Whew. I feel better now.

/we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...
4.27.2006 2:52pm
Tablesaw:
This is a rather old story in Internet years, so I'm surprised that no one has mentioned GA's law about driving in adjacent lanes.
4.28.2006 5:41am