Left Lane Bandits do not own the moral high ground, speed limit or no speed limit

Following this week’s announcement by MOTI Minister Todd Stone, that the BC Government plans to go ahead with long-awaited Keep Right Except to Pass legislation, Transit Police Chief and Chair of the BC Association of Chiefs of Police traffic subcommittee Neil Dubord was quoted in The Vancouver Sun on Wednesday, doing a back pedal of sorts. On one hand he admitted that the chiefs have asked for the legislation in the past, and they have – going back 20 years or more; but then he said some confusing things which make one wonder if people like him aren’t part of the problem on BC roads.

The Vancouver Sun reported, “Police waded into the debate Tuesday, saying drivers are still expected to follow the speed limit and officers are only interested in ticketing motorists whose speed falls below the limit and who impede the movement of traffic in the left passing lane.” Dubord added, “…speed kills.”

A few things come to mind:

  • Saying that officers won’t be ticketing those motorists (Dubord was later heard on CBC radio saying just that), who occupy the PASSING lanes unnecessarily if they happen to be doing the speed limit, is in direct contradiction to the announcement by the Minister. The issue with the current keep right legislation is that it’s unenforceable if the motorist is in the passing lane going travelling with the flow. “Flow” happens to usually be over the limit so to announce that you wanted the legislation more specific so you could charge left lane loafers and then say that it’s ok to be there if they’re doing the limit is just plain dumb. The operative verb, by the way, is “PASSING”.
  • While we understand the conundrum that Keep Right Except to Pass presents for law enforcement types in Dubord’s position who’ve spent years justifying their livelihoods, with the simplistic phrase “speed kills”; it’s not helpful to be contradicting the minister and going lame when you are about to get what you claim you’ve been asking for.
  • While highway speed limits are improperly set in BC, in some cases with high numbers of noncompliance, it follows logically that those doing the speed limit in the left hand lane will interrupt traffic flow which is dangerous.

While we understand the nuances Dubord’s getting at in the article, he cannot ignore the massive support of this legislation.  A CBC poll (CBC radio listeners usually aren’t fans of SENSE BC, so this is even more surprising) has support at 81% (5600 out of 7005 votes, and some 992 total comments).  We would not have been surprised to find support in the ~40% range given the “speed kills” message we’ve all heard for years, but 81% is an overwhelming number.

This story has been picked up nationally and we’ve done numerous interviews across the country.  Interest nationally for Keep Right Except to Pass rules echoes these results.

Ultimately though, the issue goes back to the flow of traffic – not the posted speed limit.  If the majority of traffic is moving at a given speed, one who is at or below that speed shouldn’t be in the left lane.

In fact, there is no excuse for left lane occupation on a multi-lane highway unless:

  1. There is unusual congestion necessitating use of the passing lane,
  2. The user is or is in the process of passing vehicle(s) on the right, or,
  3. The user is about to execute a left hand turn (within a reasonable distance).

Although this is anecdotal, one doesn’t need to look far to see examples of why left lane occupation is dangerous. We recently heard a doctor on the radio who regularly transports patients code-3 between hospitals in the Fraser Valley and he had numerous issues of left-lane-blockers refusing to move or being unaware of the emergency vehicle. Tacitly encouraging drivers to be self enforcers of the speed limit surely contributes to this sort of behavior and adds to the potential for road rage.

NorthCowichan

Click to enlarge

It goes without saying that Chief Dubord doesn’t want to or can’t condone speeding, but the fact is many roads have the majority of traffic technically speeding and we know most people either aren’t aware of it or won’t admit it. For example, this data for Hwy 1 near Cowichan: ONLY 4% of traffic was below the speed limit of 90 km/h. The median (middle) speed was 16 km/h ABOVE posted (106 vs. 90) and the biggest group of drivers was going 110-120.  Anyone in the left lane at the speed limit is going to be an issue.  Whether they are responsible or not is of little consolation to an innocent person injured or killed as a result of an incident caused by another’s mistake or irrational behaviour.

Just as good drivers always signal their intention to turn, good drivers should obey the keep right rule. Raise your driving bar and make it a habit. The attitude of drivers who maintain the left lane despite all the traffic backing up behind them is that they own the moral high ground and THEIR driving is a right, not a privilege as “speeders” are often told.  This surely does not add up.

People who park themselves in one lane are all-to-often not actively driving, rather they are on auto pilot. They don’t need to be aware of their surroundings, they don’t need to know what is going on except in the lane in front of them: 30 degrees of vision, not 360 degrees. These types of drivers are not good drivers and they shouldn’t be told they are doing the right thing.  This is why they are blocking ambulances going code-3.

Unless you are a police officer, it is not your job to enforce the limit. Parking yourself in the left lane to enforce your perception of the speed limit isn’t the solution, rather it is the problem. You don’t own the moral high ground, if you are doing this.  It is all of our jobs to be courteous, cooperative, and – above all – engaged while driving.

Raise your driving game, help other drivers including those who may be going slower (even including heavy vehicles who need to pass slower heavy vehicles, and drivers who are obviously less competent) and Keep Right Except to Pass.

Our congratulations to Minister Todd Stone for doing the right thing for drivers by understanding a problem which affects most of us on the roadways (81% it seems) and for keeping his promise to act on it.

Comments

  1. Roey

    May 17, 2016

    All it’ll take is a lunatic going on a shooting spree on left lane retarted drivers doing the speed limit, for the police to wake up and start bring some sense to our roads.
    After years of driving in Europe, I find BC drivers to be the worst in the western world, full of sense of entitlement, lacking courtesy and simply dangerous.
    I obviously generelize, but untill something radical happens, I suspect we’re in this for the long slow haul… In the left lane.

  2. Niles

    March 31, 2016

    Ian – How about you learn some road rules before trying to quote me about evidence for using the left lane to speed.

    1. Emergency vehicles – Regardless of where they are on the road, if they have lights and sirens ON, all motorists are required by law to pull off the road ASAP and stop until the emergency vehicle has past them. Yes, while they have lights and/or sirens, they are legally allowed to break some of the rules of the road (Speed limit, driving on the opposite side of the road, run red lights with caution)

    So answer me this: When have you seen 100%, even 30% of the motorists in Vancouver pull completely off the road and FULLY stop???
    So stop quoting me scenario’s for what might happen, when my ‘logic’ according to you is flawed because you don’t even know the roads rules yourself. I cannot be holding emergency vehicles from passing when I’m already pulled off the road and stopped and every car behind me SHOULD also have done the same thing!!!!

    NO-ONE HAS THE LEGAL DEFENSE TO SPEED REGARDLESS OF THE SITUATION You cannot be excused from speeding because of a medical emergency!!! Thats why we pay for emergency services!!! Call 911, don’t jump into the car and do 200 km/h because your wife is giving birth!!!

    Your just making excuses for people to speed, break the law and KILL PEOPLE!!!
    I only agree to this law if your travelling in the left lane and doing a speed under the limit. This is not the case in this city as less than 10% of the drivers in the lower mainland are doing the speed limit anyway!!!

  3. James

    October 1, 2015

    I currently live in a country where the posted speed limit on the highway (5+ lanes) is 100 km/hr with the radar cameras set at +21 KM/HR. I do 120, just below the camera threshold. Most of the cars I see on a daily commute are going between 90 and 110 with a few like me just under the limit and a few doing considerable slower. The biggest issue I face is someone that refuses to cede the passing lane and forces the faster drivers to go around in the next lane where we regularly encounter cars at 90 km/hr. This disparity is a greater risk than vehicles safely travelling in our lane at speed. While the damage to vehicles and risk of death are greater the faster you travel, inattentive or distracted drivers pose a bigger risk than people who are aware of what is in front and behind them.

  4. James C. Walker

    March 5, 2015

    This is why Keep Right Except to Pass rules should NEVER be contingent on the speed limit, which may or may not be established for safety reasons. In a 120 zone, a driver at 140 kph in the left lane should yield to the upcoming driver at 150. Always.

    An emphasis for the National Motorists Association in 2015 is a campaign to:
    Do the RIGHT Thing YIELD to Faster Traffic
    See: http://www.motorists.org/lane-courtesy

    This behavior improves safety, reduces congestion, improves total traffic flow and capacity, and is a key courtesy that is expected in Europe.

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

    • Niles Broadhurst

      July 9, 2015

      BS!! You are condoning SPEEDING!!!! In what country/planet/species do you NEED to be doing a speed greater than the SPEED LIMIT!!! There is nothing you can say that is moral/logical/common sense to tell me that you need to be doing 140 km/h when the speed limit is 100 km/h. You don’t need to do 140 km/h, you WANT to do it. This has nothing to do with congestion, traffic flow or ANY OTHER REASON YOU CAN GIVE for not doing the speed limit!!!!!!!! It’s not a limit for communist control!!! travelling at 140 km/h in a 100 km/h zone IS NOT safer!!! Raise the speed limit and people will only GO FASTER AND FASTER UNTIL SOMEONE DIES!! This crap about cars being safer is a load of bollocks!! hit a sharp object on the highway at 100, 140, 160, 200 km/h and your tire blows, YOU NOT GOING TO SAFELY SLOW DOWN to avoid an accident!!! The greater the speed, the exponentially greater chance you will have an accident!! ABS, DSC, lane assist, collision avoidance, airbags, seat belts, crumple zones are not going to prevent the accident or death of people in the vehicle or other people around your vehicle!!! WHY IS THIS SOOO HARD FOR YOU TO COMPREHEND!!!

      This mindset and behavior absolutely blows my mind!!!

      • Ian

        November 27, 2015

        Wrong post Niles. This one’s about the left lane for passing. There are plenty of reasons why people need to use the left lane other than the need to speed. Your desire to stop them is not a good enough reason to thwart safe driving practice.

        • Niles

          December 14, 2015

          BS!! Left lane for passing when SAFE to do so and AT THE SPEED LIMIT!!!

          Every one of your reasons (Except for emergency vehicles, clearly with lights and sound on) is an excuse to break the law, not do anything safely.

          TAILGATING is safe in your books because the person in front is doing the speed limit and you DON”T want to? That’s right, DON’T WANT TO……….no other reason than to do what you want, when you want it on your own terms, not what is the LAW, is right and safe!!!

          I suppose you think people should have the right to shoot people in the leg now huh? It won’t kill them, so that perfectly acceptable??? Use your head man!!!

          • Ian

            February 8, 2016

            How about an emergency vehicle stuck several cars back who cannot get by for a few seconds to even a few minutes because the selfish sociopath at the front of the line cannot or will not get out of the way because of whatever reason? Or someone having a medical emergency who has a defense of necessity for speeding? Do either of these work for you? Regardless, your “logic” for occupying a left lane and excuses which appear to be based solely on “two wrongs don’t make a right” are now illegal and not only is left lane occupation for other than passing considered by the majority of motorists to be the most supreme form of assholish behaviour (because it’s dangerous as well as annoying), but it will be subject to ticketing from law enforcement who notice it.

      • Luke

        May 12, 2016

        Niles, your argument is based on the assumption that the posted speed limits are sensible and reasonable. But in fact most speed limits are not. Imagine a highway with speed limit of 100 km/h and people are doing on average 120 km/h. What this means is that the public is generally capable of doing 120 km/h on this stretch of road despite the speed limit.

        Similarly, on the same stretch, if it is raining heavily or snowing, people will automatically slow down due to bad conditions. What this means is, how fast the majority of people drive, has very little to do with the speed limit. That is why it is impossible to pass someone in the left lane doing the speed limit. You’re likely to impede traffic if you are doing the speed limit in the left lane.

        So what is the deal? Are those people passing in the left lane with speeds above the limit breaking the law? Yes, they are and you are right for saying that. But what you do not understand is, perhaps the law is wrong, and it needs to be changed. And I’d like to say that laws have always been changing.

Reply to Niles Broadhurst

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