The Son of Blood (Boils) On The Highway

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:59 am

Have you heard about Florida’s new ordinance regarding driving slow in the passing lane? The Road Rage Reduction Act would make it a non-criminal offense to drive in the left hand lane except when attempting to pass other vehicles.

This is nothing new, really; Washington State has had its own law of this type on the books for a couple of years now. Our police force and State Patrol has so far failed to enforce the law in any recorded instance that I could find. Perhaps this might be due to the fact that our law enforcement officers have far better things to do with their time than busting people for doing the speed limit, regardless of the lane in which they are doing it.

Look, let me be the first to agree: people ought to tailor their driving to the conditions around them. That means—among other things—that you should drive in the lane that is most closely matching your own preferred speed, and that lanes should be populated left to right, fastest to slowest.

Are we all clear on this? Great. Glad to hear it.

Now, would someone please show me a roadway in this state that actually enjoys this kind of hierarchical organization?

Having driven extensively in only two states (Washington and Hawaii), I can’t speak for most other communities. But here in the Puget Sound region, it’s anything goes: not only are those lousy slow drivers snailing along in the passing lane, the fast drivers are passing in the middle lane, and the semis are passing in every lane (until they get to a hill, anyway, at which point they’re slowing down and jamming up traffic in every lane). Meanwhile, the insane drivers are passing in the far-right lane, the middle lane, the breakdown lane, the on-ramp lane, and the 10-Items-Or-Less lane at the Safeway. No one drives where they’re “supposed” to; just because you take the high road and pull over to the right to let others pass doesn’t mean that you won’t have some other asshole pull up on your rear bumper, flashing his brights at you until you either pull yet another lane to the right or he loses patience and blazes by on either side, offering you an upraised finger by way of comment on your driving skills. Trying to maintain the legal stopping distance between yourself and the car in front of you is an exercise in futility, as motorists cut in to occupy the safety buffer you have created in front of you. The only way to insure sufficient space in front of you is to come to a dead stop—preferably in the breakdown lane—and even then someone would probably exit the flow of traffic to stop directly in front of you, just to show you they still have the upper hand. You just can’t win.

Is it any wonder then that certain people get fed up, and opt to exercise their right to travel at the posted speed limit?

There’s a term that is bandied about a lot when conversation turns to Puget Sound drivers: “passive-aggressive”. People who get out their antisocial tendencies in ways that are tailored to operate just under the threshold that would initiate open conflict. There’s even a sort of mental picture that comes with it: an undernourished little guy or frumpy, mousy-haired woman in a tatty wool sweater, putt-putting their aging Volvo 240 DL (with the license plate frame reading, “THE CLOSER YOU GET, THE SLOWER I GO”) up Interstate 5 in the passing lane at a stately 53 miles per hour. Whenever another motorist pulls up behind them and patiently waits for them to reach the speed limit, the passive-aggressive driver’s mouth curls into a rodent-like sneer, and (s)he begins to slow the vehicle, almost imperceptibly, from 53 to 48 mph, savoring the look of frustration on the other driver’s face visible in the rearview mirror.

The passive-aggressive motorist is the bane of Washington roadways, according to some. Local talk-radio host Dori Monson derided the slow drivers for making their self-righteous stand on the highway, smugly forcing those around them to obey the speed limit. He laid responsibility for a good portion of our traffic problems on them, claiming that their failure to yield their lane was forcing the faster drivers to change lanes too often, resulting in more collisions that jam up our public thoroughfares.

Darn those speed-limit-obeying pansies! If it weren’t for them, the rest of us could break the law in peace and relative safety. One wonders whether such standards should also be applied to those who try to prevent others from littering in public parks or breaking into houses. After all, who are they to try to force others to conform to their own social model, just because it also happens to be the law?

Much is made here about the detrimental effect of passive-aggressive drivers on the condition of our traffic. No one seems to be concerned about the detrimental effect of aggressive-aggressive drivers.

I really get a guffaw out of the name of the Florida law for just this reason. “The Road Rage Reduction Act”. Puh-leeze. Hyper-aggressive people do not suddenly become non-aggressive because the targets of their focus give in to their ire. Like dogs with fear, assholes can smell passivity, a desire to avoid conflict, and tend to push their agenda upon others as far as circumstances will allow.

And perhaps someone can tell me: since when did passive submission become the only legitimate response to aggression? I can only assume that the Florida Legislature will follow this up with the Bullying Reduction Act, wherein it will be made a punishable offense for kids to fail to surrender their lunch money in the schoolyard.

Imagine the benefit to the rest of the drivers out there if the resources were given to state and local law enforcement to punish those who speed, who weave in and out of traffic, who cut people off and dynamite their brakes, who ignore the line of folks waiting their turn at exit ramps and cut in at the front of the line, who run red lights, who drive while intoxicated, who let unsecured trash fly out of the beds of their pickup trucks, who can’t control their vehicle and change their radio station at the same time, who eat a sandwich while putting on makeup while reading the newspaper while driving?

Can anyone really support the assertion that the primary cause of problems on the road today is people who obey the speed limit? At least, anyone who doesn’t also receive encoded messages in their Cream of Wheat?

I can only hope that the Florida PD will follow Seattle’s lead in largely ignoring this new law.

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