Friday, 3 October 2014

The Fast Lane - a Matter of Semantics

An emotional debate rages on our radio waves concerning the use of the 'Fast' lane on our highways. Our speed limit is theoretically about 90 m.p.h. and there are many of our drivers who therefore feel justified in remaining in the 'fast' lane and turn a deaf ear to anyone wishing to pass. They are sticking to the letter of the law. They won't move over. Two or the results of this attitude are road-rage incidents, crashes and deaths. I feel a large part of the problem is that although we are a very large country, many of our highways have only two lanes each way. In England for example, there are I think 3 or sometimes 4 lanes and so the outside one is for 'Overtaking' only.  There is room for everyone and no-one blocks the outside lane. Ditto in Germany.  In Australia, with its famous Gestapo policing system, no-one dares disobey any road law. I don't know anything about America except for the car chases I see in the movies. So in South Africa we are stuck with 'Slow' and 'Fast' because we don't have the luxury of choice.  Unless they make all the roads wider and that's not gonna happen anytime soon. We could however, do something about the television advert re buying our annual TV licence:  this is quite cheap - only about $35 and less for pensioners.  However the voice-over on the ad is pleading and hesitant.  "Pay your TV licence - it's right thing to do"  - as if there is a choice not to pay! Granted our local programs are pretty dreadful but they can only get worse if we don't pay. Meanwhile we have only about 10% local content:  favorites for me are on our Satellite channels  (about $70 per month).  Satellite dishes are ubiquitous here - even perched shakily on the shacks in our slums. They should leave the advertising to me:  "Pay your licence or face a jail sentence!" That would bother no-one: murderers walk here.


  1. We have the same road problems here. No doubt the addition of a third lane helps, providing the density of the traffic is low. High density traffic just fills up the third as well.

    The one that gets me are the trucks. Why it is that the 18 wheelers feel entitled to pass another vehicle at .000000000000000000000000000001 mph faster than the vehicle in the slow lane is beyond me.

    I have found in the US that it is generally impossible to go the speed that I want to travel on the interstates. I like traveling about 5 mph over the speed limit. You get there a bit faster and the cops don't trouble you. What I have found is that there are two speeds. The fast one is about 15 mph over the speed limit and the slow one is about 5 to 10 under. Every trip I go on, I pledge that I am not going to go over 72 mph (or 75 in the 70 mph zones). Every trip I find myself routinely driving faster than 80 or stuck at 54! Actually on routine trips, I prefer driving at night for the traffic, but the damned head lights are brighter now and beat the hell out of me.

    There is an interesting phenomena that occurs with people going slow in the fast lane. Have you ever noticed in heavy holiday traffic (holiday as in day of special significance...Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc not the holiday that we in the US would call vacations) that suddenly you have to put on the brakes and then you end up sitting for a while. Then off you go again like mad men then wham you have to slam on the brakes again. You think for sure that you will see an accident or construction and there is nothing. It turns out that the problem is wave mechanics just like ocean waves. When the traffic is of sufficient density and one of these slow moving vehicles gets into the fast lane and takes a long time to pass a vehicle in the slow lane, it sets up a wave. People have to step on the brake. This braking wave travels down the road for miles and if it builds in magnitude it can result in one of these panic stops. The wave length is long enough that it can only be seen with satellites. For the most part this does not occur normally because the traffic density is low enough that the wave diminishes before it can go very far. But with very high density traffic, there are no gaps for the wave to diminish. It builds up as it travels down the road. The result is that some of these people who are sticklers for driving what ever speed they see fit can cause a possibly fatal mulit-car pile-up 30 miles behind them. The lesson, if you are in heavy traffic and choose to pass, speed up to the traffic in the fast lane to pass then slow back down when you can get into the slow lane.

    One can make all sorts of moral argument about not exceeding the speed limit and so forth. But the fact of the matter is, if everyone else is violating the speed limit and the traffic if heavy, a self righteous speed enforcer can end up killing people. The other lesson that I try to follow is not travel during holidays. I wasn't always successful with my business trips, but when I could, I chose to travel at night.

  2. In Washington state there was a law passed that you are not to sit in the left lane but its for passing. Most people have been obeying it, surprisingly.

    1. It must be wonderful to live in a really civilized part of the world.