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Thread: If Only Clover Would Move Over

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    If Only Clover Would Move Over

    Moving over to allow faster-moving traffic to get by is a wonderful concept.But I'd take it a step farther: If you're not passing, you should not be in the left lane at all.

    That, at any rate, is the way it's done in Germany. There is a reason why. It is called closing speed. If a Porsche turbo doing 140 is bearing down on a Fiat 500 doing 70, the Fiat driver had better notice the headlights getting much larger, much faster in his rearview - and get the hell out of the way in time.

    Which he usually does. Which is why the German Autobahn is a safer place - without speed limits - than U.S. highways are with speed limits.

    German drivers are taught to use the passing lane only to pass. They don't set the cruise control and zone out or gabble on their cell phones like so many American drivers unfortunately do. Instead, they use scan their rearview and side mirrors so that they are always aware of the ebb and flow of traffic around them. They anticipate the need to yield to a faster-moving vehicle such that the faster moving vehicle's driver does not have to abruptly slow then maneuver to get around a dawdler. Traffic thus flows. And, high-speed traffic can mingle with lower-speed traffic safely.

    U.S. highways (most of them) could safely support much higher speeds than are currently permitted. Even the national high of 80 MPH in a few rural areas of Texas is absurd when put into context. That context being, the designed-for speeds of the U.S. Interstate Highway System - updated to reflect the advances in vehicle design over the past 60 years.

    The starting point is 70-75 MPH. That is the average, routine speed of traffic envisioned by the Interstate system' designers ... back in the late 1950s. Curves, lines-of-sight, merge areas and so on were laid out on that assumption. Implicit in this is that maximum safe speeds were considerably higher. Pre-PC, a "speed limit" was precisely that: The maximum safe speed for the typical driver in the typical car on a given stretch of road.

    A speed limit was not supposed to be synonymous with average, cruising along speeds - as they are today.

    At any rate, the point is that 60 years ago - when the typical car rode on balloon-sidewalled, bias-ply whitewalls, had drum brakes at all four corners, farm tractor-esque leaf spring suspensions and nothing in the way of electronic safety systems - the engineers who laid out the Interstate system deemed 70-75 MPH average speeds well within the design parameters of the road, of the cars of the era - and the average driver of the era.

    The Interstate System's designers were not speed freaks or maniacs. They were crew-cut '50s men - responsible men, who came to their decisions and recommendations only after excruciating (and math-based) careful analysis of all the factors. And they considered 70-75 to be a reasonable, safe speed.

    We've only recently seen speed limits go back up to about what they recommended - and posted - 60 years ago.
    If you were to factor in the galloping technical advances in everything from tire design to high-capacity four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and passenger cabins built to withstand impacts better than the race cars of the not-to-distant past 70-75 seems awfully slow.

    If a 1958 Chrysler was deemed capable of safe operation at 70 then surely a 2014 Chrysler can handle 80 or 90 just as safely. Probably, in fact the 2014 Chrysler is safer at 80 or 90 than the 1960 Chrysler was at 70.

    It's modern drivers that can't handle 80 or 90.

    Modern drivers who don't move over. Who squat in the left lane with the cruise control on. Who either don't use their mirrors - or don't care about overtaking traffic. Who consider it their American Idol watching, Football-worshipping, god-given right to park their car in the left lane, set the cruise control and ignore whatever's going behind them.

    And so, we have the problem of speed variance - and more dangerous highways than the German Autobahn.

    Cars are traveling at higher rates of speed than others isn't a problem if slower cars defer to faster moving ones and do so pre-emptively, so that flow is maintained (and so that sudden panic braking is rarely necessary).

    But when the drivers of slower-moving cars refuse to yield, they force faster-moving traffic to decelerate rapidly or take evasive action to get around them. This interrupts the flow of traffic. Cars slowing and then speeding up, jockeying for position, is what creates the safety hazard - not some cars moving at a higher rate of speed than others.

    If the left lane was understood to be for passing only . .. if American drivers could be taught to reflexively defer to overtaking traffic in an anticipatory fashion rather than viewing such as a threat to their personal space and doing all in their power to impede it ... then U.S. highways could dispense with speed limits entirely and people could drive as fast as folks did back in 1960, except without having to worry about getting a ticket for "speeding."

    Throw it in the Woods?

  2. #2
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    You can blame the car companies for making cars too easy to drive. This lets drivers get in the habit of doing other stuff, that they should park to do, while driving. Yesterday, a kid on a motorcycle stopped in traffic on a highway to pick up his cell phone. Guess what happened. I drive that highway often. Plenty of shoulder room. He should have had the phone in his pocket but instead he tried to text while riding, dropped his phone and ended up as a hood ornament.

    Watch recent car commercials. They are touting blind spot warnings for lane changes and backing up. The driver doesn't look backward but relies on technology to take care of his laziness. When I learned to drive, outside rear view mirrors were an option and if you got one, you got ONE on the drivers door. I remember marveling how a kid at school had two mirrors. I look over my shoulder when I change lanes. Due to back problems it's painful, but I do it so I don't hit someone.

    I work on a shipping dock around really BIG lift trucks. If I catch one of the guys on my crew backing up without looking, I'm on him like stink on a backed up toilet. We even have handles to hold onto when backing up with an extra horn button on it. Backup cameras, blind spot warnings, tire pressure monitors, no transmission dipsticks make drivers lazy and inattentive.

    Eric, do you really want todays drivers running as fast as you say? I bought a GOPRO camera the other day and am waiting to catch some of the clovers around here in their glory. Then again, I asked when I bought it if I needed to buy anything else or was it ready to go out of the box. I was told it was ready. It isn't. I have to get a memory card. I bought one of GOPROs web site but I haven't seen it yet.
    Honk if you love Jesus.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    I have traveled above 100mph on occasion. I never felt comfortable for long at those speeds due to Johnny Law. Even if J Law was not an issue, I probably would not travel that fast. For general highway travel I am comfortable between 65-80mph. KRETP (Keep Right Except to Pass) is easy to follow and considerate for all on the road.

    Not observing KRETP is similar to plaque build up in an artery. It does not take much to clog the smooth flow of blood in an artery.

    'Many are my names in many countries,' he said. 'Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Drarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not.' Faramir

    What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation? Cicero (106BC-43BC)

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Win32, for it is subtle, and quick to anger. -D. Martinez

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    I've held driver licenses from four US states over the years.
    ISTR the licensure examination documents all stated that KRETP is the law.
    Said states' highways also bear prominent signs stating the same thing, as do those of many other states.

    I don't recall _ever_ seeing it enforced. Not even in Virginia.

    So I'd have to assert that America's drivers _were_ taught to keep right, when they started driving.
    ... and were then taught to do otherwise, by apparent indifference of the police.

  5. #5
    Senior Member BrentP's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
    IMO It's not about cars being too easy to drive. It's about the Puritan like zeal that we are not allowed to enjoy driving and driving must be done slowly that drives people to distraction and gadgets. It's entirely cultural as far as I am concerned. In Germany and other places where it is the culture to pay attention to one's driving it isn't like this.

    In the book "American Autobahn" it describes the imposition of a speed limit on the PA turnpike. Basically the government office holder joked that the toll booths should give out coffee so people don't fall asleep at the PSL. I found very much the same when driving the PSL on interstates. Where's a TV? Where's some web access? I needed something to kill the mind numbing boredom.

    Then again, the automatic transmission is the root of all automotive evil

  6. #6
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    The worst state is Illinois. I live near the state line and Illinois plates usually mean someojne driving slow in the left lane. They even enacted a law requiring you to stay out of the left lane unless passing. It didn't work. I'm not saying Indiana or Kntucky drivers don't do it. They do. Just not as bad as the Lincoln State cars. Illinois also requires you to tunr on the headlights when the wipers are going.

    I was going to work once and driving a '98 Crown Victoria I bought from the original owner. (A Sheriffs department.) I had painted it black and was following a car from Illinois in the rain. When they saw the spot light on a Ford behind them, they got over fast. Until then, they weren't moving.
    Honk if you love Jesus.

    Text if you want to meet him.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    May 2013
    Southside, Virginia, way out in the sticks.
    Quote Originally Posted by BrentP View Post

    Then again, the automatic transmission is the root of all automotive evil
    Too true. The automatic has made it possible for many who have no talent for driving to get onto the roads. Imagine teenage girls not being able to text because they were too busy shifting gears. ;-)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Arizona, USA
    Excellent point. I learned how to ride a bike about 2.5 years ago. I had only driven automatic transmission vehicles before that. Simply knowing how to drive a manual makes me appreciate the automatic transmission and that appreciation has made me a much better driver. I think the same would apply to most people.

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