We try to stay away from opinion-based articles because we know that's not the reason people enjoy the Edmonson Voice; however, a recent experience has prompted me to write this piece because there's an apparent lack of knowledge when it comes to folks driving on the interstate.
Some of our staff did some extensive traveling last week to take care of a little business which caused the Voicemobile to cover several hundred miles on several interstates. After a couple hundred miles, I quickly realized that people have no idea how to drive on the interstate.
Growing up, I had family that lived in Florida, and we made the journey down each year, covering hundreds of miles on the interstate. My dad began teaching me the proper steps to interstate driving when I was 14 or 15 years old. It all was based around courtesy and common sense. Apparently that's a thing of the past...
Most interstates today have a minimum of three driving lanes on each side and each of those lanes have a specific purpose. The far right lane is for those driving the speed limit or slower. Most interstates have a speed limit of 70mph, so if you plan on driving around that speed, KEEP YOUR CARCASS IN THE RIGHT LANE.
The middle lane is for those going just above the speed limit, normally 72-78mph. Finally, the far left lane is for those who are in the most hurry and plan on driving 80mph +. Of course, anything above the speed limit is against the law and I'm in no way encouraging anyone to speed...just letting you know how traffic normally flows in three lanes, based on a 70mph speed limit.
Now that we've established the purpose of each lane, let's talk about another wonderful invention no one uses anymore...cruise control.
Cruise control has a couple of different purposes: 1. to reduce foot fatigue, but more importantly, 2. to maintain a steady, consistent speed. If everyone on the interstate kept their same speed as much as possible, surely there'd be less accidents and traffic jams. What does it accomplish to pass everyone, darting in and out of traffic, just to slow down and have everyone pass you five miles up the road?
Traffic gets slowed down mostly because drivers aren't aware of the other drivers around them. Let's say you've got two cars driving 72mph, one is in the right lane, the other in the left. You already have a potential for a traffic jam because instead of having three different lanes accommodating three different speeds, you now only have two. Here, the car on the left needs to speed up a bit and move over in front of the car on the right, then continue the desired speed. The middle lane is now clear.
Here's another scenario: You're in the left lane traveling 80mph on cruise control. You see a car quickly approaching you from behind. What do you do? From my experience, most drivers these days do nothing because they either don't care, don't notice, or don't know. The correct answer is to move over as soon as it's safe to do so to let the vehicle behind you pass. "SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT." If you stay in the left hand lane and the driver passes you on the right, you're doing it wrong. Period.
If you just stay in the left lane, you've bogged down traffic. The driver behind you will slow down someone else, and so on.
Huge traffic jams also occur when a lane closes and everyone has to merge. Why is this? Multiple studies have shown that most drivers start to merge as soon as they see a sign that says "Left lane ends in 1000ft, merge right," and this is where the traffic jam starts. You shouldn't merge immediately. Wait until you're about to run out of lane then put on your turn signal and merge when it's safe. Most drivers consider this rude, as you're "cutting line" against all the cars in the lane that doesn't have to merge but that's not the case. Merging too far back slows down traffic sooner than it has to.
The final thing that I noticed was that drivers constantly rode the bumpers of the vehicles in front of them, especially in congested areas where all traffic was slowed down. Because of this, we saw three different rear-end collisions due to not having enough room to stop safely. Please keep a couple car lengths in front of you if possible. According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on U.S. roads every year, over 40% of them (2.5 million) are rear-end collisions.
Remember, "SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT." Use cruise control, be aware of all other drivers around you, use your signals, and move over to allow faster traffic around you. Oh, yeah, and PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. The NHTSA reports that drivers are four times more likely to have a serious accident when using a hand-held device while operating a vehicle.
Safe driving is still centered around courtesy and common sense. Please use them. My dad was a great interstate driver on our family trips. I'd like to think I'm following in his footsteps when I get behind the wheel. Well, all except for the part that goes, "IF I HEAR ONE MORE SOUND BACK THERE, I'LL PULL THIS THING OVER AND.........."