Highway Etiquette–Slower Traffic Keep Right



If you normally find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic on one of the four series highways such as the 400, 401, 403 or any other divided, closed access highway, I’m sure you’ll agree that there should be some basic rules of etiquette. Suppressing the urge to rant on and on about this I’ll try to summarize the main points.

You shouldn’t be in the left lane if:

  1. there is no one in front of you,
  2. people are passing you on the right or
  3. you travel there because you know that you will have an open road with no care in the world and you can go as slowly as you want.

If no one is in front of you it is because they are all going so much faster that they have pulled away. The signs all say, “slower traffic keep right”. That is a relative term. Even if you are going ever so slightly faster than the vehicle to your right, you may still be “slower” traffic. If there are many, many cars behind you and no one in front of you GET OVER as soon as possible.

If you have ever thought to yourself, “That crazy person just crossed over two lanes to the right and sped way up and now they are in front of Me,” please consider that the person likely got frustrated because you are blocking the left hand lane and in order to pass you they had to do that maneuver.

If you want a quiet, slow drive during which you don’t have to pay attention to other traffic; you can enjoy the scenery and get lost in conversation; get off of the divided highways, or at least travel in the right hand lane.

Changing lanes is for passing, entering and leaving the highway, only.


Especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the person changing lanes slows everyone down.


There are at least three reasons for this:

  1. When you change lanes, everyone that is behind you, in the new lane, has to slow down to make room for your car and re-establish the safe stopping distance in front of them.
  2. Pulling into the small space between two cars means that the car you are in front of can no longer go as fast as they could before. I’ve seen cars actually pull closer to the car in front of them because they are getting frustrated with a frequent lane changer and do not want that person pulling in front of them. A certain amount of space is necessary before you can safely go fast. If a car pulls into the safe stopping space in front of you, the fastest you can go is about 5 km/hr. Most of us want to go faster than that on a four-lane highway.
  3. When a high strung person is behaving as though they are thinking, “ooh, that lane is going faster than this one, I think I’ll change lanes!!” and then they realize, their initial lane is now moving faster and they think, “ooh, that lane is going faster than this one, I think I’ll change lanes!!” Many people behind them realize that they are dealing with at worst, a crazy person and at best (if there is in this case) a very impatient person. So, everyone around this person will slow down in case the repeat lane changer causes a car accident.

When multiple people are doing this on the same highway, no one can go very fast. This is why there will be slow, congested traffic and no apparent cause other than volume.

Moving to the left to let a person into the right lane from an on-ramp slows everyone down.

Remember, if you are in the right hand lane, you are there because you are driving slower than everyone else. It may seem polite and helpful to move to the left to let incoming traffic merge, but it is impolite to everyone in the middle lane. It means that suddenly, a slower car is right in front of them.

This is why we get congestion at each interchange. If people stopped moving over to accommodate traffic we wouldn’t get the slowdowns that we do now. It is possible to slow down or speed up if you are trying to help someone enter the highway and you happen to be in their way.

If someone is incapable of accelerating and merging into traffic, I believe they should be encouraged to take another route. Call me crazy, but I think it would be better for there to be a back-up down the on-ramp than having the entire highway come to a stop because everyone is moving over to the left to make room for the merging traffic.

Next time, why transport trucks should have to stay off of the main highways during rush hour….

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