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Running on Fumes

Rechtsfahrgebot for the USA

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Last week I drew driving duties for what we here in the Oregon HQ of Motorcycle USA like to call an “LA Run.” Being based out of Medford, Oregon, each and every editor is quite familiar with the tedious 750-mile journey to Los Angeles and Orange County to attend media events and pickup test units. With gas stops and meals, it’s easily 12 hours minimum, and if you’re pulling a trailer and sticking anywhere near the 55 mph limit… Forget about it, you’re never getting there!

Anyways, the point… As I returned on the final homestretch of my latest LA Run, I saw the tripmeter click past 1800 miles after five days of hectic, but fun, testing and errand running. Only a couple more miles and I’d be home, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I was absolutely convinced that if mile 1801 was stuck behind another slow driver in the fast lane my mind would finally start bubbling.

I know, I know, it’s the subject matter of hack writers and comedians, but seriously (cue Jerry Seinfield voice) “What’s the deal with driving slow in the fast lane?”

Rechtsfahrgebot
Three lanes to choose from... So why park it in the fast lane going five below the speed limit? To inspire this blog post it would seem.
It’s infuriating to the extreme, doubly so because it’s entirely unnecessary. This is particularly bad on I-5, which is two lanes most of the way, only switching to three or four lanes in larger metro areas or steep mountain passes – but even there the fast lane is not safe! All it takes is one slow poke to hold up a mile-long caravan of faster drivers.

While stuck behind yet another slow fast-lane driver on the home stretch, instead of internalizing and growing an ulcer, I got to thinking. While there are without question innumerable obstinent pricks on American roadways, it seems that many or most slow fast-laners are just plain lackadaisical or lazy behind the wheel. Some, it would seem, are genuinely surprised to see 10 cars packed up behind them on the road and get over immediately, once they actually notice that is...

One solution I’ve heard of are drivers that apply a decal on their windshield that says “revO evoM,” so that slow drivers ahead look in rearview mirrors to see “Move Over.” Travelers who have booked around at triple-digit MPH on the European Autobahns know an even better solution is the Rechtsfahrgebot.

As I understand it, the Rechtsfahrgebot is one of the few rules on “no-speed-limit” Autobahns. It means that you must use the right lane except to pass. The immediate result, except in areas where intense congestion makes it impractical, is the left lane is always open – just waiting for high-speed drivers to take the initiative.

I’m not advocating for abolishing speed limits on US freeways, but how about implementing and enforcing a left lane for passing only – our own Rechtsfahrgebot. I remember vaguely being told such things as “left lane for passing only” in Driver’s Ed, but it certainly isn’t practiced in America!

Here are the potential benefits of such a policy, as I see them: 

  • More conscientious drivers. Trust me, I tested it out myself and not parking it in the fast lane with frequent lane changes really does keep you from day-dreaming on those long hauls.
  • Less passive/aggressive jerks. Actually, there won’t be less of them, but they won’t clog things up as bad. It seems, and this is pure conjecture, that some of the pissy slow fast-laners are trying to self-police people they see as going too fast. The logic being: “Hey, I’m going 70 mph in a 70 mph zone and you’re going faster than me, ergo YOU’RE SPEEDING!” If the rule is you must move to the right immediately after a pass, well, that’s the rule and Mr. Rule-keeper will move to the right letting you take your chances.
  • It’s Safer. Of course, there will be a lot more lane changes, so maybe I’m crazy, but it seems that slow drivers impeding traffic are as dangerous as mild speeders.
  • It’s more courteous. Granted this is a little out there… but acknowledging right of way is one of those tiny cornerstones that keeps civilization from falling into apocalyptic chaos. Don’t cut in line, don’t steal stuff, don’t revert to cannibalism until well after the food and water supplies have been exhausted and DON’T GO SLOW IN THE FAST LANE!

Can I get an Amen here?

Rechtsfahregbot for the US!

Post Tags: Rechtsfahrgebot, Slow in Fast Lane
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Comments
Avi -Jawohl! June 3, 2010 11:58 AM
AMEN, absolutely! You'd love this similar blog post about just that on the american interstate: http://sentientprimate.blogspot.com/2010/05/from-road-things-that-piss-me-off.html
mark -Closer than you think... August 27, 2009 09:13 AM
Many states already have regulations on the books that drivers are to keep right except when passing. The problem is that they're rarely enforced. I'd much rather see cops enforcing these rules than ticketing people for going 15mph over the speed limit in the middle of nowhere.
steve -no speed limit. August 26, 2009 10:04 AM
I only agree with this if the speed limits are taken away. And all the "traffic cops" are sent off to do something real with tax money. You know like stop drug dealers.
Louise -Yes!! August 26, 2009 08:49 AM
AMEN!!!
adam -preach on brother August 25, 2009 11:18 PM
preach on brother bart