For reasons I’ve yet to completely understand, drivers in the States of Washington and Oregon have no understanding of one of the basic tenets of driving in the rest of the country: The left lane on any road that has more than one lane is the passing lane. You only drive in it if you’re passing others.
I drive the highways of Seattle nearly every day, and I’ve done plenty of driving in the Pacific Northwest – Washington and Oregon, specifically. For some reason, the native drivers of these two states can’t follow this one basic law.
Instead, when you drive on the highways, you see cars traveling at various speeds in every lane, all the time. And it’s not because the roads are so crowded.
This problem is exacerbated by the odd propensity of the area’s native drivers to insist on driving 5 mph under the speed limit, at all times, in all lanes, under any circumstances. I’ve never driven in a city in this entire country that didn’t drive 10 to 15 mph faster than the posted speed limit, except for around Seattle and Portland.
If you’ve got a desire to pass in this state, good luck. You can hang out in the left lane and find that drivers in the right lanes are traveling faster than you. If you sit behind them, it’ll make no difference. They’re deaf to the sign that they’re in a passing lane. In fact, I’ve found that one of the secrets to passing slower drivers is to move to the far right lane.
The rest of the country generally follows the convention of the left-hand passing lane. What makes it stranger is that people in the Pacific Northwest are normally militant about following laws and ordinances. They are more embracing of the police state than probably any other area of the country.
What’s more confounding is by not following this basic tenet, it creates more chaos and dangerous situations on the highway. It causes more drivers to make many more and abrupt lane changes, unpredictably darting in and out of traffic.
It’s common to find a driver traveling behind two others to shift lanes and then maintain the same speed. In the rest of the country, if you’re moving out from behind other drivers, it’s to travel faster. Here, lane shifting is more of an absent-minded activity – like they don’t even know they’re doing it. This makes it really difficult to predict what anyone is going to do, which runs counter to the Pacific Northwest’s otherwise strong desire for order and rule-abiding.
So, my cause: I’m going to get enough signatures to create a ballot initiative that would mandate the posting of more “Slower traffic keep right” signs – maybe about every 15 or 20 feet on all roads.
Until we raise awareness of the affliction, we may never solve this, one of our most commonly irritating problems in the Pacific Northwest. Please join me. Together, we can introduce order and decent driving to this area of the country.