Almost nothing is more frustrating than getting trapped driving behind a slowpoke.
You know the ones I’m talking about, the timid drivers who always crawl along about five miles below the speed limit. They constantly brake for no reason and slow down for green lights.
They would rather slam on the brakes and risk being rear-ended than drive through a yellow light. And the simple making a right turn takes them an eternity.
Getting caught behind one of these human snails on the highway is even more exasperating. They plant themselves in the left lane and drive doggedly at or below the speed limit, oblivious to the fast-growing line of cars full of angry drivers behind them.
In a worst-case scenario, two of these drivers will ride along side by side, blocking both lanes for miles. The driver in the left lane refuses to either slow down a little and pull in behind the other car or just pass the car in the slow lane and provide some avenue of escape for the blocked drivers behind them.
These situations bring out the worst in me. In the enclosed capsule of my car, I can become an aggressive beast, pounding my steering wheel and saying things I wouldn’t dream of saying if anyone could hear me.
I utter terrible insults about the other driver’s parentage. I lament that he was born without the part of his brain that detects fellow drivers and the sad fact that he is afflicted with a right foot too weak to press on the gas pedal. I am alone but I don’t feel lonely; I know the many drivers lined up behind me are doing the same thing.
For all these reasons, I am a supporter of a bill filed by state Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Greenville, last week. His bill would make it illegal to drive five miles per hour below the posted speed limit in the left lane and would outlaw driving in the left lane except to pass other cars.
As a bonus, the bill also would ban drivers from using cellphones while traveling in the left lane.
Putnam sensibly has included a number of exceptions to the slow-driving ban. Emergency vehicles would not be covered by the bill, and the rules would not apply if cars are caught in a traffic jam.
But the basic premise of the bill is sound: Drivers who want to dawdle along like they’re the only ones using the road should stay in the right lane where they can easily be passed. The penalty for using a cell-phone in the left lane would be $25, while driving too slowly would cost you 2 points on your driver’s license.
This bill might be one of those “if I ruled the world” fantasies on Putnam’s part. He probably got stuck behind some tortoise on the highway one day, already late for an appointment, and said to himself, “By golly, I’m going to write a bill that will end this sort of irresponsible behavior!”
Or a similar statement to that effect.
His bill might not have a prayer in the Legislature, although Putnam says other states, including California, where you can’t get anywhere without driving, have similar laws. In any event, I hope that lawmakers at least give it serious consideration.
I know aggressive driving is dangerous. In fact, I said as much to the York County Sheriff’s Deputy who stopped me for speeding the other day. And I promised him I wouldn’t do it again as he handed me the ticket.
But I contend that bills such as Putnam’s, which would compel slow drivers to pull over or pay for their poky habits, would help reduce the frustration and aggression of other drivers. If we all were at risk of being stopped by a trooper not only for driving too fast but also too slowly, we might all be better behaved.
This bill might suffer the legislative equivalent of getting stuck behind a driver going 50 in a 70 mph zone. But, like a real driver in that situation, it deserves to pass.
James Werrell, Herald opinion page editor, can be reached at 329-4081 or, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.