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Interstate Driving Etiquette

This post has been a LONG time coming! I have made the drive between Grand Junction, CO and Denver, CO more times than I can count. Seriously. And I am always completely and totally amazed at how many people have no CLUE how to drive on the interstate! It’s bad enough to have no interstate etiquette when driving through flat states, but when you have no etiquette and decide to drive through a mountainous state, then it makes everyone around you both miserable and furious.

Let’s take a look at some simple rules for interstate driving:

1) Merging

This seems like such a simple thing, and in fact, it IS a simple thing! But when I see people attempting this important act of interstate driving, I want to bang my head against the steering wheel! I will admit I cuss a lot and come up with some really great words to call people in cases like this.

The purpose of merging is to get your vehicle up to the speed of the traffic on the interstate so that you can “merge” smoothly with the flow of cars. Simple, right? I can’t tell you how many times I get behind someone who is barely going 40 MPH when they get to the end of the merge lane. Or better yet, they have a mile of merge lane to go and insist on trying to get into traffic much too soon, causing everyone else to have to slam on their brakes because they are coming over, come hell or high water. ***slaps forehead*** I think people should have to perfect this skill before they are given a drivers license.

Now, there is also something people driving on the interstate need to do to also make merging successful and to keep from causing serious congestion. And all it entails is paying attention to the on-ramps. It’s not rocket science people! Okay, the person in the right lane (or left if the merge lane happens to be on that side but most of the time they are on the right so I’m going with that) needs to  pay close attention to the on-ramps and the cars that are making their way onto the interstate. This is especially important for large vehicles: semis, trucks hauling campers, RVs, etc. If you see someone getting ready to merge into traffic, for the love of all things holy, GET INTO THE LEFT LANE! Seriously! I can’t tell you how many times I see people stay in the right lane, even though there is no one in the left lane and they could easily get over. Their behavior and complete lack of merging etiquette causes back-ups since the person trying to merge has to slow down or the person in the right lane is forced to slam on their brakes as the pissed off driver merging into traffic has to swerve in.

So, everyone understand the concept of merging? If there is any questions and you think you may be one of the people that doesn’t know how to do this, please get help. NOW.

2) Keep Right Except to Pass

This one always kills me. I mean, there are bloody SIGNS up that say this EXACT phrase! I have often looked at the words, wondering if perhaps I am just way above average intelligence and that the sign is just too complicated for most ordinary people. The way they drive seems to support my hypothesis.

While this rule of etiquette is important for ANY highway or interstate, it becomes double important when you are driving in a state with passes do climb! The Rockies have some STEEP climbs and in order for traffic to run smoothly, people MUST learn how to obey this rule of interstate etiquette.

This one is even more simple than the merging rule: stay in the right damn lane unless you are passing someone! And before you take your vehicle into the left lane, make damn good and sure you’re actually moving faster than the vehicle you are passing.

For the love of all things HOLY! People disobeying this rule is the cause of many back-ups on I-70. And they could be so easily avoided. STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE UNLESS YOU ARE PASSING!

It’s frustrating to be blazing along, and you see a slow-going semi in the right lane heading up Eisenhower pass, and you go to move into the left lane to have some lame ass in a car that isn’t going any faster than the semi move into the left lane RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! GAAHHHHHHH! This also causes issues with an important physical concept that we will discuss in rule 3.  If you are not actually going faster than the semi, then stay you ASS in the right lane!!!

If you are someone who has no idea how to figure out if you are moving at a speed that is faster than the car in front then follow this one simple rule: if you stay the same distance, then you are going the same speed and need to stay the hell in the right lane. If you find that your vehicle is getting closer to the vehicle in front, then it’s probably a good idea to begin moving over to the left lane to pass.

Now, when you are passing, it’s important to SPEED up! Passing means hitting the damn gas, getting around the vehicle, and once you are a safe distance in  front, move back to the right lane. And please, DON’T slow down so that the car in front of you is forced to pass you. Seriously. Pick a damn speed and drive it.

3) Momentum

I want everyone to say this with me just so we don’t ever forget this word. Ready?

Mo-MEN-tum! Great job!

This is a very important rule and again, doesn’t apply to those in flat states. Momentum can help you get over the steep mountain passes. Drivers take advantage of downhill grades to build up momentum, so that they can have an easier time cruising up the steep grades. The WORST thing a driver can do is pull out in front of someone that has built momentum when they themselves are going too slow! 😡   This rude behavior slows down the left lane, especially if the vehicle that had momentum built is a truck hauling a camper or something of that nature. Now, instead of having traffic moving smoothly past the slow-moving semi trucks, you have both lanes moving slowly because the truck/camper can’t build momentum on an uphill grade!

So please make sure that before you blithely pull in front of a vehicle that you are actually moving fast enough not to kill their momentum. If there is any question, then stay in the right hand lane until the faster cars pass you. Yeah it sucks sometimes, but if you are the one that piddled around and didn’t get around them sooner, then you kinda have to deal with that.

4) Pick and Speed and Stay There!

Now, I am one of the few people that can’t use cruise control. And it’s a control thing 😉 I can’t allow the car to drive itself; it just totally freaks me out. BUT, I have the ability to maintain speed without having to use it. It really sucks to have someone driving at 80 MPH, then slow down to 55 MPH, then speed up again to 75 MPH…GAH!!!! This is where you can get into the leapfrog crap that really sucks. And this is especially frustrating when you are passing someone because they are driving too slow, then as you are passing, they then decide to speed up!

If you have broken this rule, please use your cruise control, or better yet, take the bus or a plane 🙂

The Rocky Mountains are beautiful. I will be the first to admit it. However, this doesn’t mean that people can simply slow down and point and gesture at the scenery. This isn’t Yellowstone, people! If there is something you must get a closer look at, then PLEASE pull off on the shoulder and do what you gotta do. Don’t cause traffic jams or accidents because you decide to slam on your brakes in the middle of the interstate to see the bog horn sheep climbing the side of a hill.

If we can all obey the rules if interstate etiquette, then drivers through the Rocky Mountains will be so much happier, and make driving through the mountains safer and less frustrating for everyone (and if not everyone then at least I won’t be nearly as frustrated!)


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7 Comments on “Interstate Driving Etiquette”

  1. Jaguar San Francisco March 27, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    I’ve seen some of the lane hoggers say that they hog the fast lane on purpose in order to slow down traffic since according to them everyone is speeding. What they are doing is dangerous because they are forcing everyone to pass them on the right.

  2. Mary Rowen March 20, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I love and cringe at your comments about merging. It SHOULD be so simple, but gosh, some people have so much trouble with it. And now that my kids are gettign close to driving age…yikes. Nightmares.

  3. Dave Mac April 9, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    Wow! I thought this sort of crap only happened in Australia!! Ever noticed that when traffic in the outside lane is travelling at 10mph below the speed limit it’s usually a Toyota holding things up? Ever wonder Why? Because Toyotas are Safe and Dependable vehicles. AND PEOPLE WHO CANT DRIVE NEED A SAFE AND DEPENDABLE VEHICLE!!!

  4. Mary rauhauser February 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    I love this post. The one thing u forgot about merging is if someone gets into the left lane to let u merge please for the love of god let them back over into the right lane. do not match their speed and cause a rolling road block

    • drshaywest February 20, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      Oh my gosh, YES!! LOL That’s a good one 😀

  5. New driver Nella February 22, 2018 at 2:41 am #

    I had a good laugh reading this

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