Taking a Break from Politics: How to Drive in the Left Lane

The good people at VOX have done America another service by explaining why it’s a bad idea to drive slowly in the left lane and make faster driver go around you (which I’m going to quote in full because of the importance of the topic):

You can basically split highway drivers into two groups: those who get really upset about people driving in the left lane, and those who do it all the time and have no idea what the problem is.

Every state has some kind of law restricting the use of the left lane on multi-lane roads and highways. That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to use the left lane at all — it just means you should generally use it only to pass cars in the right lane.

Why is that the case? Even if you’re driving fast, there’s almost always someone going faster than you. So if you get back over to the right immediately after passing, that car will be able to pass you, which lets everybody to get to their destination more quickly. Otherwise, traffic builds up, raising safety risks.

The autobahn is a living testament to what our road could look like if everyone followed this rule. The German highway system boasts lower accident and fatality rates even though it has higher (and sometimes nonexistent) speed limits. It isn’t just a matter of courtesy to the people driving behind you — it’s a real question of safety.

I’ll add that it’s also a real question of reducing other drivers’ blood pressure and incidents of road rage. This isn’t to defend drivers who go way too fast or who weave in and out of traffic in order to pick up a few seconds here and there. But getting out of the left lane when you’re holding up traffic is a rule of the road we should all obey.

Plus, unless you’re extraordinarily oblivious to the world around you, following this rule will make your highway driving much more pleasurable. If you don’t believe me, here’s testimony from a real-life person (I can vouch for her trustworthiness):

This “don’t go in the far left lane unless your passing” thing has changed. My. Life.

On my morning commute, I’d usually drive in the far left lane. I’d be going pretty fast but there’d always be someone going faster, so they’d zip around me like is shown in the video.

So I started driving in the second to left lane and only getting in the left lane to pass slow people ahead of me.

What a difference! I feel like I’m better inhabiting the flow of traffic… like I’m one with the road or something.

In conclusion, here’s the brief, excellent and entertaining VOX video that’s totally changing people’s lives all across America:

But seriously, shouldn’t the Democratic platform have included a plank on how to drive in the left lane? Hillary would have picked up tons of votes from the professional truck drivers of America, as well as other concerned citizens. I’ve searched through the document (55 pages!) and there’s not one mention of traffic safety or being kind to other drivers!!!

The Great Knee Defender Controversy

There are some issues on which everyone thinks they’re an expert. This explains why today’s New York Times article in defense of the Knee Defender has a couple hundred comments so far.

The Knee Defender was invented by a guy who was tired of people in front of him reclining their airline seats so far back that they made uncomfortable contact with his knees. You attach the thing to the tray table and it stops the seat in front of you from reclining. This made the news recently when a one passenger (a man, presumably tall) used the Knee Defender and another passenger (a woman, presumably not so tall) retaliated with a cup of water. The flight was diverted and both passengers were kicked off the plane.

Speaking as someone who is taller than average and has avoided coach only two or three times in his life, I can understand the motivation behind the Knee Defender. It’s bad enough with the limited legroom in coach without the person in front of you reducing your space even more. I’d never use the Knee Defender, however, because a more civilized approach is to communicate one’s discomfort to the reclining passenger in front of you, hoping thereby to evoke a sympathetic response. Also, life is too short.

Speaking as someone who doesn’t run an airline, I can also understand the motivation behind cramming as many passengers as possible into an airplane. There is efficiency (mostly $$$) at stake.

Nevertheless, if airlines are going to limit legroom, they need to limit how far back seats can recline. Otherwise they’re inviting conflict between their customers. Seats that can recline way back are an obsolete technology from a time when flying was one of those enjoyable experiences relatively few people ever had.

Of course, the airlines could simply rely on the common sense and common decency of their passengers. There are people who ask the person behind them if their reclined seat is causing a problem. There are other people who tell the person in front of them in a nice way that their reclined seat is too far back. People do these things.

But then there are other people who shouldn’t be allowed out in public. Many who responded to the Times article argued that they have a right to recline their seats as far back as they will go. If they’ve paid good money for a seat that can recline 30 degrees, they are damn well entitled to recline their seats 30 degrees, no matter what effect it has on the person sitting behind them. In effect, people (some of whom used their real names) made this claim: If an airline has given me the ability to do X, I have the right to do X.

Of course, most of us understand that “can” does not imply “should”. Airlines make it possible for passengers to throw water on other passengers, but passengers shouldn’t do that. Airlines also make it possible for their customers to lock restroom doors and occupy those rooms for hours at a time, but their customers shouldn’t do that either.

To be fair, the Times article these readers were responding to was a defense of the Knee Defender. So maybe they got carried away and went overboard when they wrote their unthinking responses. It’s clear, however, that although everyone may think they’re an expert on a topic like this, that isn’t really true.