Monday, September 22, 2008

Move over, Bacon!

I hope I haven't completely dated myself with the title of this blog post. There are bound to be a few people reading this who go, "HUH?" I have one word for those people: Sizzlean.

But back to my topic, which has nothing to do with bacon. This post is about the HOV lane, otherwise known as the carpool lane. I'm going to try REALLY hard not to rant. But I might rant. Sorry.

First I ask the question to my audience, Why did they make the HOV lane? And the immediate answer would be something like "To give people incentive to carpool." "Yes, but WHY is the HOV lane an incentive?" would by my follow-up question. And the answer to that question is what clearly never occurs to the people who drive in the HOV lane SLOWER THAN the rest of traffic.

Ideally the freeway works like this: Left lane = those who are actively passing, Middle lane(s) = those who are driving faster than some others, right lane = those who are driving slower than most everyone else. If people followed this system, there would rarely be frustration on the freeway. No one would be bugged by that jerk riding their bumper or feel pressured to drive faster than they felt comfortable in order to appease someone behind them. They would just move over a lane to the right. And those who wanted to drive faster would have the middle lane to do so, and would have the left lane to pass, should they need to. But they would then need to GET BACK OVER after passing so that the left lane would remain free for others (faster others) to pass. The problem, for both faster and slower drivers, comes from not thinking about what they are doing or where they are. Most people, I think, would rather not irritate everyone else on the road. But people who are in a hurry drive right up to someone else's bumper w/o realizing that that driver is actively passing someone in the middle lane and, therefore, has every right to be in the left lane. Or they get into the left lane to pass and then get distracted and end up slowing way down and forgetting to get back over. Or they are full-time slow drivers who have no clue that the lanes on the road mean something. Just stopping to think about what you're doing every minute or two would definitely get rid of a lot of drivers' frustrations.

Living in Germany when I was 16-17 was what impressed upon me the importance of using the lanes properly, particularly leaving the left lane open for passing. Because in Germany there are designated stretches of the autobahn (freeway) which have no speed limit. On these stretches, people with Porsches, Mercedes, and BMWs really open up the throttle and get over 100 mph in only a few seconds. So while you might be driving and see no one behind you as you move drive in the left lane thinking to yourself, "Hey, I can be here. I'm driving pretty dang fast," within 2 seconds a red hot Carerra is 2 inches from your rear bumper wondering why you are trying to cause a 50 car pile-up. There is no doddling in the left lane in Germany or lots of people die.

So maybe I have become over-sensitive to poor drivers. Maybe I am a little particular about people using the lanes properly. Maybe I have unrealistically high expectations about people paying attention while they drive and not zoning out. If so, my bad.

BUT, let me return to the HOV lane topic. WHY is the HOV lane an incentive to car pool? The answer is, because you should--in theory--be able to drive faster than traffic in the HOV lane. Its lower occupancy should allow for a smooth speedy commute that is uninhibited by the entering and exiting and jockeying of other vehicles. But that only works if people in the HOV lane actually drive faster than the rest of traffic. Otherwise, why drive there? Why not just stick to the lane that is going the same speed as you? I ask you, WHY DRIVE IN THE HOV LANE IF YOU INTEND TO DRIVE SLOWER THAN TRAFFIC? My answer, when I ask myself this for the 1000th time while following someone driving 60 in the HOV lane, is usually "because they CAN. Because they actually for once have 2+ people in the car, and they are so excited to use the HOV lane that they don't think about what it is FOR." I ask that question especially when large tour buses are driving 55 in the HOV lane. Ya, we get it. You have a lot of passengers. Good for you. But why not stick to the far right lane where no one is going to be bothered by your speed?

One more thought: Did you know that no one pulling a trailer is allowed to drive in the HOV lane OR the left lane next to the HOV lane? True fact. You'll see signs saying as much every mile or two on the freeway. But people do, all the time, pull their trailers (usually slower than the flow of traffic) in the left lane. I want to pull my hair out.

So the moral of this post is,that Sizzlean is a lower fat version of bacon. So, bacon, when you see Sizzlean heading your way, move over!


Chelsea said...

Oh man, there is nothing worse than someone going slow in the HOV lane! Europeans really have a handle on the concept that the left lane (or right lane in the UK) is for PASSING!

tammy said...


And it's worse in UT. Everytime I go back and have to drive myself somewhere I fight the impulse to ram their car with mine. Which I probably shouldn't do since it's actually my mom's car.

tiburon said...

Honestly I think that nobody should drive on the freeway ever. So I can have the freeway to myself.

Anonymous said...

Where's the beef? Another reason it works in Germany and not here is that it's the law that you pas on the left and if you're not passing you will get a ticket. If you just buy the teleporter when it goes on sale you can skip driving altogether.

Christie said...

The only thing that drives me more crazy, is people who think that their kids count. I know that kids are people too, etc. . . but seriously. If the incentive of the carpool lane is to get people to carpool, then why should toting around people who cannot drive even count? End of rant

Omgirl said...

Andre, it's actually the law here too. You're not allowed to drive in the left lane unless you're passing. And I've actually been in a car that was pulled over for driving in the left lane w/o passing. But they seldom pull people over for that.

Mindi said...

okay, 1: i totally remember sizzlean

b: my older sister and i once got into a MASSIVE fight in the car when i told her to get out of the left lane cuz like twenty people were tailing her and she said that she was going the speed limit thank you very much and i flipped OUT about the "fast lane vs. slow lane" and it ended in tears, and

thirdly: i love you BECAUSE you rant.

the end

Ben Davis said...

I have probably told about 10 people in the last month to "scoot over bacon, here comes something leaner." None of them knew what I was talking about and most of them were offended.

But, more importantly... I have spent a lot of time hating people for the same reason. My personal pet peeve has always been late mergers. You know...everyone merges when they see a lane ending, and then one guy goes flying by all the way to the end. But my position on late merging changed after I heard a radio show with the author of the book: "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)". The topics discussed were fascinating, and I can't wait to read it. It is the Freakanomics of the car world. (by the way, if you haven't read Freakonomics and your IQ is over 100, you are missing out.)

I love having a sister who is as intellectual about her bacon choices as she is about good driving.

alex dumas said...

Sizzlean was pretty good.

I totally agree with your rant. Hence, I like to think of myself as a California driver, though in the winter I am a Utah driver. But being a Utah driver never really has a good feel to it, does it?

I agree with Tib's comment.