High­way con­fu­sion

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - OPINION | LETTERS -

I would like to take is­sue with cer­tain as­ser­tions made in D.C. Hynes’s De­cem­ber 1 let­ter to the ed­i­tor “The Outer Ring Road is not the TCH,” namely that: (1) the Outer Ring Road (ORR) is not a “high­way” (sic), (2) the ORR’S left lane is not an over­tak­ing lane, and (3) the left lane is the cor­rect lane to oc­cupy if the over­head sign lists your even­tual exit. The let­ter ex­poses a need for bet­ter driver ed­u­ca­tion and high­way sig­nage.

The as­ser­tion that the ORR is not a “high­way” is wrong; it is a part of the Trans-canada High­way (Route 1), and a “con­trolled ac­cess high­way” un­der the High­way Traf­fic Act (HTA).

D.C. Hynes’s as­ser­tion that there is no “fast” lane on the ORR is an am­bigu­ous col­lo­qui­al­ism that has no real mean­ing. The safest high­way is one where traf­fic flows smoothly and ef­fi­ciently. High­way rules seek to fa­cil­i­tate this, as should driv­ing be­hav­iors. The uni­ver­sal rule on multi-lane high­ways is keep right ex­cept to pass. This rule is clear and un­am­bigu­ous, which equates to safety. While it is cor­rect that there is no “fast” lane on the ORR, it’s be­cause there is no such thing as a “fast” or “slow” lane.

The keep right ex­cept to pass rule should al­ways be fol­lowed on con­trolled ac­cess mul­ti­lane high­ways, per the “drive to the right” pro­vi­sions of the HTA. The rule is el­e­gant in its sim­plic­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness; it fa­cil­i­tates the smooth and or­derly flow of traf­fic at vary­ing speeds, re­duces traf­fic crowd­ing be­hind slower drivers thereby in­creas­ing ve­hi­cle spac­ing, and re­duces driver frus­tra­tion and pass­ing to the right. That’s why most ju­ris­dic­tions fol­low the keep right ex­cept to pass rule in the in­ter­ests of safety and high­way ef­fi­ciency. Drivers who are not spa­tially aware or do not feel com­fort­able chang­ing lanes to adapt to the traf­fic mov­ing around them should re­main in the right lane, or per­haps avoid high­way driv­ing al­to­gether.

Con­trary to what D. C. Hynes states, just be­cause a sign over the ORR’S left lane lists your even­tual exit many miles down the high­way, it does not mean you must drive in that lane – in fact if you do, and there are cars be­hind you wish­ing to pass, you are im­ped­ing the flow and cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary dan­ger. These over­head signs sim­ply pro­vide drivers with ad­vance no­tice of up­com­ing ex­its, that’s all (es­pe­cially for peo­ple who are not fa­mil­iar with the area, think tourists).

There is noth­ing to gain by driv­ing in the over­tak­ing lane if there is no need to be there? Be­yond the fact that the HTA re­quires one to “drive to the right”, it is sim­ply cour­te­ous to keep right and fa­cil­i­tate traf­fic flow if a driver be­hind you wants to pass. Af­ter all, as D.C. Hynes states, “it’s not a com­pe­ti­tion.” We should all work to­gether to cre­ate or­derly traf­fic flow. Keep­ing with the sports anal­ogy, high­way driv­ing is like a team sport, where we all must co­op­er­ate to achieve har­mo­nious, safe and ef­fi­cient high­ways.

P. Fitzpatrick St. John’s

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