One of these lanes is just like the other

We could probably call this “Pergiel’s Law of Traffic Equalization”:

I have noticed a couple of things while driving on Highway 26 during rush hour. The left hand lane (the “fast” lane) attracts those who will leap ahead at the slightest opportunity and then jam on their brakes when they run into a clog. People in the next to fast lane maintain a more even pace that is much calmer and does not deliver as much wear and tear to the car. Both lanes travel at about the same rate. If two cars start evenly in the two lanes, one will soon pull ahead for a moment, but then will run into a jam and the car in the slower lane will overtake them. Then the jam will evaporate and the fast lane will take off and the car in the left lane will once again retake the lead, momentarily. By the time they get to the end neither one will be more than a few seconds ahead of the other.

There is, of course, a potential Unequalizer:

[J]ams generally seem to be caused by exit ramps filling up. Even if they aren’t full, people start slowing down before they get to them, which causes people behind them to slow down. So it isn’t that the freeway doesn’t have the capacity, it’s the exit ramps that can’t handle [the] traffic that is using them.

Interstate 35 northbound beyond downtown Oklahoma City could be the poster child for either of these descriptions.





7 comments

  1. fillyjonk »

    2 August 2016 · 2:12 pm

    ” Both lanes travel at about the same rate. If two cars start evenly in the two lanes, one will soon pull ahead for a moment, but then will run into a jam and the car in the slower lane will overtake them. ”

    Ah yes, how many times have I had someone roar up behind me, pass with all due impatience, and then, at the next crossing/exit/light/whatever, there we are, neck and neck.

    I am too much of a lady to make the gesture I might want to make at some of these drivers.

  2. Lorna »

    2 August 2016 · 4:36 pm

    Since I’m in the UK, the driving here is completely different, but it sounds hectic and crazy there!

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  3. McG »

    3 August 2016 · 7:30 am

    High exit density, seemingly random assignment of exit-only lanes, poor interchange design, and lax traffic enforcement can all conspire to make driving chaotic and dangerous in crowded urban areas. Yet the slalom involved in trans-navigating Nashville on I-24 is nowhere near as unnerving as the long, more or less straight stretch of I-24 on Nashville’s south side — reminds me too much of Atlanta’s I-285 Perimeter Freeway.

    Though to be fair, I’ve long found drivers here in the South to be impatient, unpredictable (when they’re not being stubborn about their wrong behavior), and seemingly too tunnel-visioned to survive — regardless of the driving environment. If carpetbaggers brought this behavior down from the Northeast, the locals have adopted and embraced it.

  4. fillyjonk »

    3 August 2016 · 10:28 am

    “Though to be fair, I’ve long found drivers here in the South to be impatient, unpredictable (when they’re not being stubborn about their wrong behavior), and seemingly too tunnel-visioned to survive”

    THANK YOU. I thought it was just me noticing that. (And technically, I am in the “South,” given where most of the settlers of my area were from).

    I regularly grumble about how the other drivers seem to have not forgotten their “stupid pills” that day.

    the thing that makes me go “WTH?” is the person who pulls ON TO the interstate from the “access road” and then gets off at the next exit – when they could just as easily STAYED on the access road (which parallels the interstate nearly its whole distance) and avoided what I regard as the most dangerous parts of interstate driving: getting on one and getting off it. And of course these exits are a mile or less apart.

  5. CGHill »

    3 August 2016 · 12:49 pm

    Everyday occurrence on that stretch of 35. If there’s any traffic at all, it’s actually faster to stay on the service road, but no one ever seems to think that way.

  6. fillyjonk »

    3 August 2016 · 2:37 pm

    I have been known to get off the interstate several exits before my destination and take the service road in order to avoid one particularly ugly merge-point.

  7. jsallison »

    3 August 2016 · 7:51 pm

    If I44 only had service roads south of I40, I’d be using them in a minute.

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