Just what is it that makes drivers 'sit' in the left lane?


DOUG DRIBBEN responded to comments in last week's column that flashing your lights at another driver was meant to be an act of courtesy, not a pre-emptory demand to get out of the way.

"In most countries (and here in the United States as well), flashing one's lights when overtaking a slower vehicle (especially in the left, or passing lane, which to many Marylanders is the slow lane) has always been a courteous way of saying 'you are about to be overtaken; please move to the right.' In Germany, where the autobahn is famous as a high-speed highway, a driver who fails to move to the right when flashed by an overtaking vehicle may actually receive a traffic ticket for obstructing traffic," he said.

But, he wonders, "What is it about Maryland that makes drivers 'sit' in the left lane in front of faster traffic? Even Maryland traffic law recognizes this, by allowing one to pass on the right legally. In many states, passing on the right is illegal, as the left lane is used for passing - of course, that requires drivers to conform to the age-old axiom that the right lane is for driving and the left for passing only. Maryland drivers need to learn to drive. I hesitate to think of how they would respond in any other country's highway systems."

And to Bill Perigo goes the final word on this topic: "Well, the comment by Broughton Spence is incorrect," he said. In last week's column, Mr. Spence said he has no obligation to move to the right to allow faster (especially speeding) vehicles to pass.

"It is against the law if you do not move over!" Mr. Perigo wrote. "If that person is speeding and you are doing the speed limit, [staying put] is still illegal. The law does not take the speed of the vehicles under consideration, only the fact that the vehicle approaching from the rear has the right of way. True, this is rarely ever cited, and often misunderstood."

Mr. Perigo cites Maryland Transportation Article Title 21, section 303, which describes rules for passing traffic when traveling in the same direction, regardless of the number of lanes. "21-303 (d) requires that if Mr. Spence is in the left lane of U.S. 29, if a vehicle going 75 mph comes up behind him in the left lane and honks his horn (audible signal), Mr. Spence is required to move to the right."

So who knew? Honking your horn at the slow-pokes in front of you is the way to get ahead, not flashing your headlights! The continuing discussion of courtesy on the roads prompted Diana Coyle to wonder if perhaps turn signals should become optional. "I do not claim to be the most considerate driver on the road, but I do try. I use my turn signal to indicate that I am switching lanes and my blinkers to indicate that other drivers need to go around me. Is it too much to ask other drivers to do the same? If these extra lights are superfluous, then car companies should save the consumer money by not including them on the car!" she said.

Gassed up

Are the rising gas prices getting you down? Here are tips for saving money at the gas pump, courtesy of AAA Mid-Atlantic:

Shop with your steering wheel. Compare prices, and remember that areas with many competing gas stations may have cheaper prices. Off-brand gas can often be 10 cents to 15 cents cheaper.

Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires cut fuel economy by as much as a penny per pound of pressure below the recommended level.

Easy does it. Accelerate gently, brake gradually and avoid hard stops. (Good advice even if you're not worried about gas prices.)

Check your tank. Do not purchase mid-grade or premium gas unless it is specifically recommended by your car's manufacturer or is needed to prevent knocking in an older vehicle. Filling up a 12-gallon tank with regular rather than premium will save between $1.50 and $2 per fill-up. Ignore oil company advertising claims that premium is better for your car's engine.

Keep it slow. Obeying the speed limit saves gas. As you drive faster, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance increase. As a result, at speeds above 55 mph, fuel economy decreases rapidly.

Keep it together. Combine errands into one trip or go to one location to take care of as many errands as possible.

And, I would add, trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for one of those cool, fuel-efficient Mini Coopers!

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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