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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Rambling road report

The 40-plus hours spent in my vehicle during a recent round trip to San Diego allowed my thoughts to meander much like the roadway.  As with driving near home, topics of thought are often initiated by the behavior of other drivers.

Upon return, an email received from reader R.W. hit upon one such topic.  While relaying some driving complaints, he wrote, “I think my number one is the passing lane mystery.  I drive 395 from Colville to Spokane and back on a very frequent basis.  I don’t get it when people all speed up in the passing lanes and then slow down again as soon as they end. Yes I may push a couple mph over 60, but am not really aggravated by people going just 60.  It’s the drivers that drive under 60 until we get to a passing lane or
sometimes even to a passing approved area, that are the ones that frustrate me the most.  I actually feel when I start to pass someone they either wake up or just want a good old fashion road race.  Is this a medical condition or is it the car manufacturers’ mistake, making cars that automatically speed up in these areas?”

After a couple more rants, R.W. closed by writing, “It seems all of us you quote or write about seem to be perfect drivers, so I am not really sure who the drivers are we get frustrated with.”

Luckily, R.W. has a sense of humor about driver shortcomings — that’s a good way to cope.

I’ve said before that no drivers I know or speak with appreciate being tailgated or receiving door dings in a parking lot, so who the heck are the perpetrators?  I guess we sometimes scrutinize others more than ourselves.  It reminds me of comedian George Carlin’s quote about drivers:  “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”  But I digress.

I saw the phenomenon R.W. described regularly on Oregon’s Highway 97, where there are multiple passing lanes along the route.  Like him, I have no answer for such behavior.  I even experienced the inverse of his complaint a couple of times:  Vehicles that had caught me and were following closely until the passing lane pulled out and rode beside me for the full length of the dual-lane, then wildly accelerated barely in time to pass before the road narrowed.  And no, I did not have the “speed-up disease” on those passing lanes, as I was using cruise control at those times.

The danger inherent in another driving maneuver was evidenced on California’s multi-lane freeways.  When returning to “slower,” right-hand lanes, a full head-turning look is mandatory.  Often in So Cal, an ever-lane-changing driver going 90 to 100 mph is momentarily occupying the lane to the right that you want to return to which was vacant just prior.  It served as a good reminder to double-check around here too — though the incidence of ubiquitous speed and lane changing is less in our region, it does exist.

R.W. also mentioned one other questionable behavior I witnessed on my trip, wondering about, “…the rolling stops when pulling onto a major highway.  I read your May 25th column about time.  Maybe it’s a time saving thing.  I have found in most cases to wait for one car or even a line of cars before pulling onto a major highway rarely causes more than a 10 or 15 second delay.  Yes there is the occasion I may be delayed a whole 30 seconds, but is it worth pulling out in 60 mph traffic and putting ones life in danger to save those few seconds?”

On that 300-mile stretch of Highway 97 through Oregon, a few drivers demonstrated the frantic, no-full-stop perpendicular entrance to the highway in front of me in the middle of nowhere, only to proceed below the speed limit and/or turn off the road within a mile or so.

It seems that much driving behavior is based on drivers not wanting to have others in front of them — please try to avoid having that as a goal.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at