We’re surrounded by systems. Our every day life relies on them.
These systems only work if everyone acknowledges them and follows them. And we don’t respond well when someone breaks the rules and creates their own system. Take queues for example – it takes a very brave man to jump a queue in England. It’s a serious crime in most people’s eyes.
Motorway driving is similar.
It takes a ridiculously dangerous idea – thousands of cars travelling at high speed, usually while drivers simultaneously listen to music, talk on their phones, chat with passengers, eat, drink, or smoke – and creates a system that allows this to happen in relative safety.
It only works when people follow the rules.
Drive the right way. Most – but not all – people manage this.
And stick to the speed limit.
This is the one people struggle with the most. I see them all the time and I know you do too. But there’s a reason the motorway speed limit is 70mph. (It was trialled in 1965 and, as it reduced casualties by 20%, was made permanent.) The speed limit itself actually isn’t important for this particular argument; the requirement is just that drivers stick to the speed limit.
Whether drivers are going excessively fast or slow, there are consequences for other drivers. If you are driving at 100mph or faster, there will come a point where all motorway lanes are taken by vehicles driving slower than you. Your skill as a driver and the level of attention you are paying to the road, together with road conditions and visibility will all affect how well you are able to brake before reaching the slower-moving vehicles. If you don’t quite brake enough in time, you become the driver who is driving aggressively close to the car in front, forcing another driver to make a decision they shouldn’t have to. Do they speed up and then get back into the 3rd lane (assuming there are 4), or ignore you? If they’re having a bad day, or like a bit of drama, they might ignore you… they might even slow down just to annoy you even more. Now, you have a road rage situation.
Or, maybe the driver is nervous, more easily intimidated, and they just want to get out of your way. So they speed up, maybe going to a speed they are unconfident and unused to driving at, while you press along behind them, no doubt accelerating again now you can see that they are speeding up.
And then there are the slow ones. The drivers who, despite not daring to go above 50mph, somehow find their way into the 2nd or 3rd lanes, causing mayhem for the vehicles around them. These middle lane hoggers not only irritate the people stuck behind them, they create a risk of collision. As you drive along the motorway at 70mph, you expect the other vehicles to do the same. A slow-moving vehicle becomes close quickly as you approach it faster than you expected, again causing you to rely on your skills and concentration, and traffic levels, to allow you to either brake or move out into the next lane.
These drivers are typically under confident, and middle lane hoggers stay out there when they should arguably be in the 1st lane with HGVs and caravans precisely because they don’t like to have to keep overtaking these other vehicles and then pulling back in. The second lane is safe, they think – the HGVs can stay in the 1st lane, they don’t have to move over to let cars weave in at junctions, and if anyone is being held up by their speed they can just hop into the 3rd lane. It’s a flawed theory anyway, but add to that the frequent overtaking that HGVs and caravans do, and these huggers often end out in the 3rd lane driving at 50mph. It’s a complete pain on a 4 lane motorway, but on a 3 lane motorway the cars following the speed limit are effectively boxed in behind a trio of sloths. Cue anger, annoyance, aggressive driving, road rage, and increased risk.
This is why the system is there; it only works if it’s followed.