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This really is one thing on the road that drives me crazy. I may be young, I might drive a car that people consider too powerful for a 21 year old, but at least I know which lane I should be in. The sheer number of drivers, who I’m sure, consider themselves to be safe, that consistently drive in the wrong lane is worrying.
We all sat our driving tests to pretty much the same standard, so why is it that so many people fail to observe lane disciplines? I’ll start off by describing what I think are the main situations where lane discipline is severely lacking and then what problems these cause.
This must be the one that springs to most people’s minds when the term “lane discipline” is mentioned. So how is it that we should be driving on a motorway?? The first clue as to why people get it wrong is by the common definition of lanes. Let me explain further…….. how often do you hear police referring to the outside lane as “the fast lane”? They will refer to it as “Lane 3”. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the lanes described as the slow, middle and fast lane, I’d be a very rich man. I am of the belief that this is where the problem is occurring.
The lane that you should be driving in on a motorway is lane 1 (the inside lane). If there is a vehicle preventing you from making progress, you should move into lane 2 to overtake. Again, if this is blocked by a vehicle travelling slower, then lane 3 should be used to pass.
How often does it happen like this? My guess is very rarely! How often do you encounter the sales rep in his/her Vectra or Omega who thinks that lane 3 has his/her name on it, and that they must stay in it for their whole journey? I see it every time I travel on a motorway. What about the sidetracked parent who is doing 70mph in lane 3? They have a queue of traffic behind them, who can’t (technically) undertake, and they are oblivious to the mayhem they are causing. This applies again to the dreaded middle lane drivers! They aren’t driving slowly, but they aren’t comfortable with the pace of lane 3, so they opt to conduct their 240-mile journey at 70mph in the middle lane. Never mind that the traffic in lane 1 has cleared and that they could move back in for a while. Instead they force everyone into lane 3 to overtake them.
This has to be my personal bugbear. I abhor people who fail to keep to the correct lane at roundabouts. It is a simple rule, and again, one that we all learned from the Highway Code. Yet there is an array of people that are either too arrogant or oblivious to bother keeping the correct lane.
There are many different sizes of roundabouts……some have 2 lanes, many have 3. So who are the offenders and why do they do it?
First, we have Mr Aggressive!! Usually in a company car, and always in a rush. He thinks that by getting 3 cars in front, he will get somewhere much quicker. Hence, he always opts for the lane approaching the roundabout, with the least number of cars in it. He will then proceed to out accelerate the others and turn off where he wants to. Problem number one occurs when he fails to out accelerate someone, and there is an inevitable meeting of cars at the exit point, or a situation where he has to cut someone up to get where he wants.
Next we have the clueless driver. This person isn’t sure where they are going, and instead of going all the way round if they miss their exit, they choose the more dangerous option of cutting everyone up. Linked to the clueless driver is the unobservant or distracted driver – usually a mother in a people carrier and a car full of kids, or Doris and Gerald in the Austin Maestro. They are as bad as each other! The mother is distracted by the kids, and inexorably has an erratic style, including but not limited to, hesitancy (waits for a 14 mile gap before pulling out) and erratic lane changing. The elderly are often as bad. Doris and Gerald are oblivious to every car on the road except theirs. They are susceptible to the same traits, as the distracted mother, but they master the arts with more panache – beeping horns and burning rubber are common after this pair have negotiated a roundabout!
***One way systems***
Found and loathed within large towns and cities. There is only one direction and there are quite often two or three lanes in which to choose. These are often linked to the end destination, and it’s best to be in the lane closest to your turnoff, otherwise the unavoidable last minute lane change will have to occur. These one-way systems are busy enough without everyone having to stop to let someone change lane. The main offenders here tend to be people of my generation. You can’t miss them in their tacky Nova’s with big bore exhausts, racing stripes, and a car full of baseball capped 17 year olds. Unfortunately their cars quite often only have one-litre engines. Couple that with an extra 350kg in passenger weight (add 50kg for the stereo system) and you have a car that doesn’t pull away well. This is a recipe for disaster as the inexperienced driver canes the car to within an inch of its life, trying to get in as many different lanes as possible to impress their friends. Obviously, all the “types” of driver previously mentioned are all offenders in one-way system as well.
So what problems do a lack of lane discipline on motorways cause? I would say that in the main, the problem here is traffic. How many times have you suddenly had to slow down on a motorway, only to start again within 20 seconds, for no apparent reason? My money is on last minute lane changes, and people blocking lanes! If we revert to “The middle lane driver” for a moment and consider the consequences of this. Ideally, to prevent traffic, there would be an equal spread of traffic in all lanes. If someone is sticking in the middle lane at 70mph, and someone in the first lane encounters a slow moving coach at 60mph, they have to move to the middle lane to overtake. Thanks to the middle lane driver, they, and other people are all forced into the 3rd lane. This is a lane that they are not happy in, and they will usually travel at about 75-80mph in it. Now, enter the rep doing 95mph in that lane. He and others are all forced to slow down whilst everyone overtakes the driver in the middle lane. Now, we have all 3 lanes moving at about the same speed. The other issue is with lane changes. There are an alarming number of people who decide to move from lane 3 into lane 1 to get off at a junction, just 100 yards before it. This can cause accidents and cause traffic to occur. Why don’t they get into lane in plenty of time, when they see their turn off sign?
The problem at roundabouts is mainly accidents. There are a lot of cars around, and people aren’t paying as much attention as they could. All it takes is for someone to change lane, or cut another driver up, and an accident is inevitable.
One-way systems can cause accidents and traffic. There is such a lot of unnecessary lane changing, that traffic is rife. When crawling along, a lot of drivers are in such a hurry that they will move from lane to lane, according to which is moving the fastest. What they fail to realise is that every time one of them changes lane, someone has to stop to let them in. If 30 cars are doing this over a mile stretch then it causes MORE traffic! Then we have the situation where someone pushes their way in without the other driver realising, and we end up with a shunt – which causes more delays.
I’m not really sure there is any way to improve the situation. Drivers are often set in their ways and aren’t aware of the ramifications of their actions. Hopefully (if you hadn’t already considered it in as much detail as I have) what I’ve said may have made some sense. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to drive, but if you fall into one of the stereotypes I’ve mentioned, you could be one of the people causing accidents and traffic jams – quite ironic when it’s probably these people that moan about the traffic!!