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


Driver etiquette lacking

I could easily relate to a reader’s recent note.  Within it, P.Z. pointed out a couple of pet peeves that bother him, me, and many other drivers.

The first gripe described a typical, annoying and unsafe driver habit:  the inability to make an expeditious pass.  P.Z. wrote, “People on cruise control, in the left [lane], passing another vehicle in the right lane.  It takes them a mile (and much more at times!) hogging the passing lane.  I believe that if a driver intends to pass another vehicle, he should punch the gas pedal - so to speak - so the passing is quick and efficient even if it means a temporary [moment] over the speed limit.”

I’ve written of the “forever” pass before.  In fact, I once relayed the record 19+ minutes it took for a driver to pass me while travelling through Montana.  I’m not biased against fleet drivers, smoking or women, but this smoking woman, driving a sedan with wholesale auction numbers still painted on the glass, actually spent that whole time gleefully riding just off my vehicle’s left rear quarter panel while effectively thwarting anyone else’s wish to pass me.

To me, such behavior represents an oblivious, indifferent or spiteful driver.  Okay, I know that if you are making a pass and going the speed limit, you have a right to occupy the left lane of a freeway.  But that requires actually making a pass, not pretending to make one by taking the left lane and matching the speed of the “passee.”

And why does their speed suddenly change?  The offending Montana driver was evidently going faster than me in order to catch me, so why did her accelerator foot get so fatigued when attempting to get by?

Sometimes, the vehicle being passed will speed up a bit, creating this scenario.  But as P.Z. suggests, a momentary depression of the gas pedal will expedite things.  If the passee continues to speed up, one can always retreat behind them in the right hand lane.

Hanging out unduly in that “blind spot” is not only an irritant and a lane blocker, but downright unsafe for all vehicles in the vicinity.  If you’ve caught another vehicle on the highway, pull out and pass them at that same speed.  If they speed up, either elect to go faster for the pass or get back in the right hand lane behind them.

Even while on cruise control, one can momentarily speed up by depressing the accelerator pedal without upsetting the preset speed.  As soon as you slow back down to the preset speed, the cruise control will automatically resume.

For his second peeve, P.Z. wrote, “The other freeway gripe is those who pass, have an unrestricted open lane ahead of them, yet jump right back into the right lane within 20 feet in front of you!  You can hear the rocks and sand accumulated near the white lining pelting your car and windshield.  If the road is wet, you get blinded with mud and have to 'hold back' and spray wipe your windshield!”

I once wrote of an episode occurring during a spring road trip that involved being sandblasted by Suburban and its quick-to-get-back-in-the-right-hand-lane driver.  It was worse than normal, since the remains of winter sanding were still heavily built-up between lanes and the driver kept the vehicle on the sand strip for an undue length of time.  And yes, P.K., a spray of rain or mud compromises safety even more so!

It seems that these two poor driving habits should not be so prevalent.  The driving basics of proper, efficient passing should not be that hard to grasp.  The commonness of driving errors always leaves me in wonderment.  P.Z. wonders too, asking, “What does it take for people to learn these minimum driving basics?”

If drivers afford due attention to the task at hand, I believe that the lack of etiquette depicted in the above scenarios would not occur.  When making a pass, for example, be aware of and monitor your speed and the speed of the other vehicle rather than talking with your passenger or daydreaming at that moment.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at