In addition to being national Rivers, Safety, Rose and Dairy month as well as international “people skills” month, June also happens to be Lane Courtesy Month, sponsored by the National Motorists Association, to remind folks out on the highways and byways that the left lane is for passing and that keeping the left lane clear is essential to reducing congestion, road rage and accidents as well as saving gas by maintaining an even pace.
I remember riding in a group van on the Autobahn a few years back. Most drivers, like us, were doing 70 or 80mph and keeping to the right, while the left lane was used sparingly for passing and by the few cars which were traveling at speeds in excess of 95mph. The system worked very well because everyone kept to the proper lane while using the highway. I’m not suggesting that we implement a costly and time-consuming European-style licensing regime. [In fact, I really see no purpose in having the state license drivers at all. Rather, it could be part of your insurance package or a separate firm could train and approve drivers and use such approval to negotiate their auto insurance coverage and/or rates.] However, the safety training of European drivers is a noticeable difference between them and their relatively unsafe US counterparts.
Here’s a letter of mine on the topic that the Birmingham News published on June 23rd of last year (though, for some reason, the News removed any reference to Lane Courtesy Month and the NMA):
Discourteous driving more dangerous:
The New’ focus on speeding as the reason for highway accidents is misplaced (“Speeding along life’s highway,” May 19). Studies show most highway motorists safely gauge their speed by the flow of traffic, regardless of the posted limit. Certainly, speeding can play a role in accidents, as does consistently maintaining speeds below the flow of traffic.
Other behaviors on the highway are far more dangerous than driving above the posted limit. Drivers who fail to signal while changing lanes, change lanes excessively and tailgate those traveling too slowly in th passing lane–rather than flashing their headlights–cause far more accidents than people who exceed the speed limit in order to keep pace with the natural traffic flow.
Another major problem behavior is drivers traveling in the left lane for long periods of time. The left lane is reserved for passing. Using it as the primary traveling lane not only frustrates other drivers, but also leads to the tailgating behavior noted above and encourages passing on the right, which is far more dangerous.
Though speeding tickets are far more lucrative for the state, highway traffic law enforcement ought to focus on the behaviors listed above. Correcting these problems would do far more to increase safety and promote the efficient flow of traffic on Alabama’s highways than ticketing drivers for traveling with the flow of traffic.