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California: Ain’t Nothing Free About the Freeway

Full disclosure: I love driving. I spent a good portion of my childhood on road trips. My family raised me to be comfortable with waking up at 4 in the morning and driving for long hours to get to spectacular destination. Driving = Fun.  But at some point I got tired of my short leash held by an overzealous parent determined to keep me out of trouble. I was quite ready to go on those road trips on my own. Thus, getting my driver’s license was a ticket to freedom.  

As long as I have music to soothe my mind, I can drive forever— just stay out of my way! The first lesson I learned living in an impacted beach town is how other drivers can quickly undermine my passion for driving and my intense desire to get to my destination as quickly as possible.

Even though the California freeway speed limit is 65mph, there is a unwritten rule regarding the speed limits of cars in each lane. Generally, California drivers are heavy on the skinny pedal. Further complicating the matter is not only the law but it is also common courtesy.  Courteous drivers know and respect that slower cars and trucks should stay to the right. Faster cars and trucks pass on the left. Unfortunately, most California drivers are oblivious to courteous driving etiquette.

Unless the road is a two lane road, the first lane should only be used for getting on and off the freeway. Slower trucks/trailers/slow vehicles can use this lane as well. The second lane is for drivers going 70 mph or under. Large trucks may use this lane to pass. The third lane is designated for drivers going 75mph or under. The fourth lane should be for passing only…I repeat, PASSING ONLY. The #1 reason for California traffic is the fact that people sit in the fast lane like waiting ducks.

There are three types of drivers who use the fast lane…

The first is the active driver. This driver passed drivers who are going slower than her in the third lane. She is constantly checking her mirrors to notice other drivers’ speeds. If a car does come up behind her, she is sure to migrate right to help the flow of traffic.The “active” driver is a good driver, eyes on the road, seeing the big picture, aware of her surroundings. Unfortunately, this driver is rarer to find than than locating truffles in a forest.

The next is the oblivious driver. This driver is oblivious to all things around him. He finds comfort in having a shoulder to rely on in case of trouble ahead.He is also the last guy on the road to see that trouble because is is busy daydreaming while driving. He’s lazy. He follows other lazy driver’s leads by staying the same exact speed 4 car lengths behind them. He usually is on his way home from work and wants the easiest, quickest way home. It’s a god-forsaken pony ride.

The third driver is destined to go to hell. This is your passive aggressive prick. She is a “rule follower”. A wannabe cop. This person sits in the left hand lane waiting for someone to come up behind her. She sits there, not budging, going 74 mph. Heaven forbid you flash your lights, tailgate, or even honk, she will slow down or worse…break check. You try to go around her. She speeds up. You’re going 90 mph in the 3rd lane. You know it’s not safe but this bitch won’t back down. When you finally are able to pass her and move on to your next conquest, she slows back down to 74…Don’t be this person.This person is detrimental to the flow of traffic. And most importantly, they cause accidents.

I have a friend who had a mental breakdown from moving to California. Her name is Bobby. Bobby is from New York. The New York way is getting where you want to go as quickly as possible. When Bobby moved to California she nearly about had a breakdown. She couldn’t’ believe the passive aggressive behavior. In NY, when you cause the flow of traffic to slow down you are met with honking and middle fingers. Here, a middle finger might get you sued.

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