We all learned it during driver’s ed: Slowpokes, stay to the right.
Most of us probably (and correctly) assumed this rule was put in place to let the rest of society pass slower drivers by using the left lane.
But the reason for this rule goes above and beyond just annoyance. Turns out slow drivers, particularly those who hang out in the left lane, can cause more accidents.
This video from Vox, explains why driving in the left lane is so dangerous and can lead to real traffic problems. When a car going slower than the speed of traffic is hanging out in the left lane, faster drivers have to slow down and weave back and forth to pass—forcing them to make more dangerous moves. And it’s this variance in speed, not the speeding itself, that has been shown to increase accidents.
In addition, research shows that traffic problems result from a surprisingly small number of slow cars blocking traffic. The ripple effect caused by cars that can’t pass because someone is driving slowly in the left lane—right next to someone driving slow in the right lane—can lead to traffic mayhem.
Every state has some type of law regarding left-lane driving. Some states, particularly Ohio, Texas and Washington, are even cracking down on left lane “campers.” Know the law in your state, and when in doubt, get to the right.
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We all know that texting while driving is dangerous. But it’s actually not texting that causes the most distraction on the road.
A 2017 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that entering a destination into a navigation system is actually the most time-consuming, and therefore distracting, task that drivers perform behind the wheel. It takes an average of 40 seconds to put an address into your navigation system, while texting causes an average of 30 seconds of distracted driving. We don’t recommend you do either, however!
The study found that using your car’s “center stack,” the touchscreen, knobs and buttons built into the dashboard, causes the least amount of distraction. In fact, using those controls requires even less time than voice commands, which may be hands-free, but are more distracting to drivers because they take longer to complete.
If you need any motivation to keep your eyes on the road, consider this: Almost 3,500 people died in the U.S. in 2015 as a result of distracted driving. That’s why the AAA researchers say that infotainment systems in vehicles could be made safer by locking out text, social media and navigation inputs while the car is moving.
“(Automakers should) use the results of this study to isolate the most significant sources of demand on drivers, and focus their efforts to remedy those design challenges first (e.g., simply blocking driver access to texting and navigation destination entry while driving would be a huge step forward),” the report reads.
As for phones, check whether yours has a safe-driving mode that mutes notifications while you’re on the road. If it doesn’t, simply place it in the backseat of the car or in a closed purse or bag to avoid the temptation to check your messages while you’re driving.
The moral of the story? Put your phone down, map your route before you leave and drive in the correct lane for your speed!