For a while I thought this could be filed in the “unwritten rules that should be written somewhere” category, but then I realized they are written somewhere and people just choose to blatantly disregard them.
What the hell am I talking about?
People don’t know how to merge onto the freeway.
No, no they don’t. This probably includes you. I tell people I’m riding with about these rules and they don’t believe me, but they’re there. I think the rules are pretty clear, so I’ll let them speak for themselves. I’ve pulled the appropriate text from the Oregon Driver Manual, published by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. They even have a Spanish version there, if you don’t understand what is written there in English.
What rules? Well, let’s see. How about this one:
If you use an acceleration or merging lane to enter a freeway or other highway, you must give the right of way to vehicles already on the freeway or road. (p. 36)
Or, under the section marked Entering a Freeway (I’ll highlight the good parts, just for you)…
In most driving situations, you slow down or stop before you enter a busy road, but when entering a freeway you do the opposite. Use the merging or acceleration lane to speed up and merge with fast-moving traffic already on the road. Try to reach freeway speed by the time you start merging. Keep moving if at all possible. A stop might mean a slow and dangerous start into fast traffic. Even slowing down as you approach an entrance can result in a rear end collision with a driver behind who expected you to pick up speed, not slow down.
If a freeway has an entry ramp with a red-and-green signal to regulate traffic entering the freeway, obey the signal. Stop and go with the light. Then speed up in the acceleration lane to merge with traffic on the freeway.
If you are entering a freeway from a merging lane, you must yield to traffic already on the freeway. If you already are on the freeway, you are obligated to help merging traffic. Adjust your speed to permit a safe, smooth merge. (p. 57-58)
Now, it does say there that you are obligated to help merging traffic. That part is true. But what it implies is that if you see someone coming onto the freeway, not only do you (as the traffic already on the freeway) have the right of way, but you shouldn’t change speeds erratically and confuse the person merging. Which boils down to this: Just because someone is merging into your lane does not mean you have to fucking stop.
That is directed at all the idiots who migrate up here from California or come down from Washington and decide that traffic here needs to be as bad as it is in LA or Seattle. Learn to merge. It’s in the driver’s manual.
To drive home that point:
A slowpoke on a freeway can be as dangerous as a speeder. Remember, if you drive at a speed below the flow of traffic, you must use the right lane.
Freeways often have several lanes in each direction. On these roads, you should leave the extreme left lane for faster traffic. If you drive at an even speed, you will have less need to change lanes. Remember, lane-hopping any time is dangerous, annoys other drivers, increases the risk of collision and seldom saves time. Sudden bursts of speed also waste gasoline. If you are traveling in the left lane and someone comes up behind you at a faster speed, move one lane to your right. Do not tie up traffic in the left lane. (p. 58)
Slow people - get the hell out of the damn fast lane. If you’re not going to drive the speed limit, get over.
I think Paul Reiser said it best in one of his stand-up routines: “The only reason we have traffic is your failure to go.”
While we’re on the subject, here’s a little anecdote from yesterday:
I’m driving down the street near my house on the way home and make a right turn behind this Ford Taurus. Whatever, right? Well, the speed limit on this street is 25 miles per hour. It’s fairly light out, there are no other cars on the street, and there are no people walking around. And yet the chick driving the Taurus decides to go 15 mph the whole way. Of course, it’s a no-passing zone, so I’m screwed.
Folks, if the speed limit’s 25 and there’s not even another car on the road, go the whole damn 25 miles per hour. If you want to know why road rage exists, it’s because fucking idiots like that drive around among the rest of us.
I hope everyone has learned something valuable today. That is, how to merge onto the freeway correctly. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll put forth another public safety announcement on how to properly use the left-hand-turn lanes that run down the center of some streets.
And now back to your regularly scheduled program.