This is going to make me sound like an aggressive driver, but I’m not. Really.
Let’s say you’re travelling along a multilane highway with your cruise control set at 110 km/h. A perfectly safe, if not technically legal speed. Now let’s suppose you’re inching up behind someone who’s got his cruise control set at 109.5 km/h. It looks like 110 to him, because speedometers vary in their accuracy. Eventually you’ll need to pass this other car, or adjust your speed. Most likely you’re quite happy with your speed, so you pull into the leftmost lane to pass and maintain your current velocity. Nothing wrong with this, right?
Not so fast, Muffy.
You’re oblivious to the fact that I’m coming up behind you at approximately 115 km/h. That’s 5km/h faster than both of you, but now you’re blocking my way around you both for the time it takes you to clear the car you’re passing.
You’re travelling only 0.5 km/h faster than the other guy. That’s 0.13 meters per second. The average car length is 5 meters, and a safe following distance at that speed is considered by some to be 6 car lengths. If you want to maintain a safe distance between you and the car you’re passing before and after your passing maneuver, you need to travel 13 car lengths in the passing lane. 13 x 5 = 65 meters relative to the other car. At 0.13 relative meters per second, it’ll take you 500 seconds to get out my way. That’s over 8 minutes.
So during that 8 minutes, I’m forced to either adjust my speed and wait, or pass both of you on the right (assuming I have the luxury of that extra lane). I’m not inclined to do either, because other drivers, more aggressive than me, have begun to come up my ass at an alarming speed, and have begun to weave around us all. A long line of cars builds up in the left lane while you hog the passing lane with no regard for others.
So don’t be shocked or angry when you see my high beams flashing in your rear view mirror, and don’t get all indignant when you hear my dorky japanese horn beeping insistently. I’m only trying to get you to wake up and realize that you share the road with me, and yes, also with the kid laying so far back in his hopped-up Civic that you can barely see his backwards baseball cap.
When you’re using the passing lane, don’t be afraid to speed up a bit so that you’re travelling at least at a walking pace relative to the car you’re passing. That’s only 4.3 km/h faster, and it’s only temporary while you occupy the passing lane. Of course, if you check your rear view mirror and notice there’s no one there for miles, I don’t mind so much if you pass slowly. Mind you, you’ll be spending a whole bunch of quality time within 6 feet of another vehicle travelling at over 100km/h, who could have to avoid a skunk or something at a split second’s notice. You’re also going to be in his blind spot for so long, he may forget you’re there when he needs to pass the car ahead of him.
So pick up the pace when you’re passing. It will help traffic move along more smoothly, make the road safer by giving faster drivers some place to go, and help prevent road rage by not frustrating anyone needlessly in the first place.
Thank you for your consideration.