I Thought I Was The Only Curmudgeon Who Obsessed Over This

Via TJIC, I meet this guy on every long distance trip.

Apparently, there are some people who: A) Cannot judge their own speed except in relation to the vehicle directly in front of them, and B) Cannot hold a steady pedal for love nor money. So there we'll be, in the agrarian hinterlands of Indiana or Kentucky; me rolling along in the left lane and passing the occasional car on the right when I notice Mr. Wobbly Throttle a'creepin' up in my mirrors. When he gets close enough I'll signal right and let him pass, which he does, after a fashion, but sort of bogs down once he's just off the port bow. We'll roll in formation like that, me starting to fume, until we come upon a car in the right lane that forces me to turn off the cruise and tuck in behind Wobbly.

As we pass the slower traffic, Mr. Wobbly Throttle, now bereft of vehicles to overtake, starts to slow down. He notices me in his mirror and sometimes darts right, sometimes slows down further and gets passed on the right (traffic gods, forgive me!) I'll hit "Resume" on the cruise control in the left lane, but a mile down the road, sure as God made little green apples, here comes Wobbly again, as though drawn to a magnet in my back bumper. This dance can go on for over a hundred miles, and is pretty well guaranteed to have me chewing the steering wheel in frustration in only a fraction of that distance. For Vishnu's sake, man, pick a speed and hold it!

  • alanstorm

    No, you're not the only one. I refer to such people as "followers", since they appear to be unable to drive at all without another car to follow.

  • Danny

    You have no idea the number of weapon ideas I have engineered in my head during times like these.

  • http://thereisnoevidence.com/ Mickey Langan

    I don't particularly like Mr. Wobbly Throttle either. I can't stand people who tailgate but will not pass.

    But I wonder what Mr. Complainant is doing in the left lane on a routine basis. Is he under the misapprehension that they call it the "cruising lane"?

  • Donald Anderson

    Some flocks of those birds ("Tail-Gaiting Lane-Lurchers") migrate to Arizona for the winter, but you can find them most anywhere all year round.

    Remember, fully half of those other drivers are below average.

  • Roy

    Signs. There's gotta be a huge market for some kind of clever signage applicable to this and a host of other traffic situations. Something that has a sense of humor and works to get all involved chuckling at human foibles, including one's own. Egs: 1) A sign that confessed one's own error, in essence asking forgiveness for a blunder (perhaps the word "dummy" with an arrow next to it that one could point at oneself, or a picture of a dunce cap one could hold over one's head). 2) A sign that would urge Wobbly Throttle to pick a speed, any speed, and stick to it, with the offer that you'd pick a slightly different speed (maybe an illustrated cruise control, with cardboard disc with numbers, such that one could dial in a number to make an offer).

  • Allen

    Too funny! Having made a few 900 mile drives recently, I've ran into far too many of those people. The most entertaining one was at night between Omaha and Des Moines. I didn't even notice it right away as this person tended to go really fast, like 80 or so and get ahead a good stretch. I'd have the cruise control on at 75mph. Sure enough 5 minutes later I'd be passing them.

  • Bobby L
  • http://hodarreport.blogspot.com/ Jody Wilson

    I don't tolerate a tailgater for more than a few minutes. My solution is to whip into the LEFT lane and slam on the brakes, letting the tailgater zoom ahead so far that he'll latch on to another car. (Make sure the left lane is clear behind you first!)

  • greg

    You're the blocker!!

    They guy will drive behind you at your speed because if a cop should spot you, he'll usually nail the lead car. As soon as you let him around, he doesn't want caught so he slows down until you jump back in the lead.
    Call it a blocker, bait car, whatever you want....either way, he's using you to keep from getting a speeding ticket!!

    It's rather clever, in a sneaky, sleazy sort of way.

  • Not Sure

    "Call it a blocker, bait car, whatever you want….either way, he’s using you to keep from getting a speeding ticket!!" - greg

    Sounds reasonable, but that doesn't explain the guy who exhibits that particular behavior when you're not driving fast enough to get a ticket in the first place.

  • http://www.medary.com filbert

    Me, too. It's not always a Mr. either. But it usually is. They usually drive vans, mini-vans, or non-luxury sedans, and only very rarely brand new cars.

    And no, I don't buy the "radar shadow" argument in the comments at TJIC. I don't believe most people are that aware or competent, honestly . . . "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by simple incompetence" . . .

    Hmm. Was that a "Hard Pivot" into a comment on national politics?

  • Matt

    I've always wanted to get a bumper sticker that says:

    "I'm on cruise control, what's *your* problem?

  • ElamBend

    These drivers are still nothing compared to slow left-lane drivers, particularly ones who 'park' next to a car in the right lane and then travel for miles like that while people behind them grow frustrated.
    Usually, when this happens to me, there is a tractor trailer about one car length behind and I am thus stuck between Mr. Do-tee-doh and tons of momentum.

  • http://www.thundertales.blogspot.com Ed Rasimus

    When I lived in Germany for three wonderful years I learned that the Germans had a wonderful way to deal with that. On autobahns the left lane was for passing (sort of like the law we have on steroids). No matter how fast your car, it was a sure thing that someone was coming up from behind much faster. You use the left lane to pass then get back to the right. Failure to yield, failure to return to the right lane and cruising in the left lane were illegal with a fine of 2000 marks which at that time was about $1200.00. It would be one law I could support in the US.

  • Uno Hu

    I don't know if the author uses speed control or just naturally holds a steady speed. I use speed control and if some loses compression after he passes me, I will repass him and move into the right lane ahead of him. If he pulls out to pass I will add 1 mph increments on speed control till he tires of his attempt and pulls back into the right lane behind me. At that point, he usually falls back quickly and I resume my desired speed.

  • Steve

    In Texas, they started posting "left lane for passing only" signs to dissuade the slow left-lane drivers who "park" next to a right-lane driver. Prior to that, not only did we have to put up with such rudeness, but chat rooms and radio call-in shows had their share of holier-than-thou *redacted* who insisted that driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane was their duty and anyone who complained was wanting to break the law and should be punished. These *redacted* seemed to think it was their place to dole out the punishment of annoying us scofflaws.

    Now, the *redacted* can get tickets for such behavior, or so I've been told.

  • http://thereisnoevidence.com/ Mick Langan

    I have seen left-lane blockers ticketed twice. Once in Washington State (no surprise to anyone who has ever driven there) and once in Knoxville. Both times I was pumping my fist like a QB who has just thrown a touchdown pass.

  • morganovich

    i have actually found a solution to this.

    the trick is to pull right up next to him after he bogs down. once there, ease off the throttle. he'll lock on to you and slow down with you, opening up a hole for you in front of him.

    this works about 90% of the time.

  • ArtD0dger

    This is my peeve, too. Once I identify a bozo, I actively suspend certain habits of driving courtesy. If an unknown car is slowly overtaking me in the left lane, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt about their intent to pass. If he's a known bozo, I will cut in front of him to prevent him from snookering me, even if the next right lane obstacle is fairly far ahead. Probably a bad habit.

    And I tweak my speed up or down to get away from other vehicles, just on principle.

  • roger the shrubber

    greg's dead on - if you're on a highway, speeding (which is only common sense: those highways were designed for 100MPH+ speeds, and even a 4-year-old knows 65 is too damn slow), the guy behind you is using you as his "rabbit". you're the guy who's gonna get caught and eaten by the predators wearing badges up over the next curve. even if you don't get nailed, he'll see your brake lights fire up, and slow down accordingly.

    the fact he can't manage to stay a half-mile behind you, like he's supposed to - unless you're in hilly country - just means he's smart enough to find and use a rabbit, but too stupid to do it properly. in Texas, we call people like this "yankees". or "politicians", depending on one's mood.

    for some reason, i saw a LOT of left-lane blockers in minnesota/north dakota/wisconsin. it was like farmer olafsen thought enforcing the speed limit was his duty as a citizen, by golly, and if i wanted to pass him going 90, i'd by god have to do it in the right lane. but then, none of them damn fools could hold their liquor better than a 6-year-old girl, so what can you expect?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy

    "You’re the blocker!!"

    No. People (at least competent people) picking speed trap shields stand off from the shield by a considerable distance: you want to have time to observer the police react to your shield and coast down to a more reasonable speed.

    I've been know to pick up wild drivers as shields from time to time. I try for a least a quarter mile standoff. This requires skill and focused attention, and you can only manage it under good driving conditions (just as well, really).

    But it has saved me a couple of tickets and let me drive way above the speed limit for hundreds of integrated miles over the years.

  • http://dullgeek.blogspot.com dullgeek

    Oh, this drives me absolutely batty. I will frequently yell at the other driver (as if he/she could hear me), "I don't care what speed you drive. If you wanna driver faster than me, great. If you wanna drive slower than me, great. But don't drive faster then me when you're behind me only to slow down once you get in front of me! Go or get out of the way!" My wife just rolls her eyes.

  • http://www.humanadvancement.net/blog Kyle Bennett

    The problem is the law that says "don't pass on the right". As far as legal solutions go (which I am generally loathe to offer), one rule would fix a lot of this. If you *get* passed on your right, *you* get a ticket. If you are driving properly, in rural areas, it should never be possible to pass you on the right. The exception would be if traffic gets heavy enough to slow down, and occasionally on steep inclines, such that you are involuntarily slowed in the left next to a solid line of cars on the right.

  • http://islandturtle.blogspot.com Corky Boyd

    Most of these folks have vision problems, especially with depth perception. They need a "guide" to lock on to.

    When he is still behind you the easiest way to discourage it, is to jam on the brakes for half second or so and give the car a little swerve to look as if you are trying to avoid an animal or a road hazard. This will panic him/her and he won't feel comfortable following close behind and using you as a guide.

  • brotio

    I've driven over a good deal of the country, and to my knowledge, only Colorado and Texas have Keep Right Except To Pass laws on all multi-lane highways. I do not know if Texas enforces their law, but seeing how high the compliance was between Dallas and Shreveport, it appears to be enforced on that stretch of I-20. I live in Colorado, and I can state pretty conclusively that the Keep Right Except To Pass signs were a waste of money, since the State Patrol is indifferent to enforcing it, and everyone seems to know it.

    Steve:

    In Texas, they started posting “left lane for passing only” signs to dissuade the slow left-lane drivers who “park” next to a right-lane driver. Prior to that, not only did we have to put up with such rudeness, but chat rooms and radio call-in shows had their share of holier-than-thou *redacted* who insisted that driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane was their duty and anyone who complained was wanting to break the law and should be punished. These *redacted* seemed to think it was their place to dole out the punishment of annoying u

    Ed Rasimus:

    When I lived in Germany for three wonderful years I learned that the Germans had a wonderful way to deal with that. On autobahns the left lane was for passing (sort of like the law we have on steroids). No matter how fast your car, it was a sure thing that someone was coming up from behind much faster. You use the left lane to pass then get back to the right. Failure to yield, failure to return to the right lane and cruising in the left lane were illegal with a fine of 2000 marks which at that

  • brotio

    Oops! I forgot to delete after I pasted Ed's and Steve's comments for reference!

    Apologies.

  • Mike

    No one has mentioned the variant of this that I hate as well. Imagine you are on a long trip with cruise control set. You're in the right lane, and you come upon a lower speed traveler. So you move to the left to pass. But the slower traveler gradually speeds up along with you, keeping you from passing him.

    You don't want to speed, so you slow back down and get behind the fellow traveler, only to have him slow down again. But you want to make good time, so you try to pass again without speeding. Again, the lower speed traveler speeds back up. Eventually you HAVE to speed to pass this guy who doesn't seem to have, or know how to use, cruise control.

    I've had to speed up by 15 MPH just to pass this annoyance. I always fear a ticket for this. So far, I've been lucky.

  • seanooski

    Tie a low voltage wire to your brake lights (in parallel). Connect it to a toggle switch on the dash. Turn on when being tailgated and watch the fun in your rear view mirror!

  • IgotBupkis

    > These drivers are still nothing compared to slow left-lane drivers, particularly ones who ‘park’ next to a car in the right lane and then travel for miles like that while people behind them grow frustrated.

    The usual cause of this is some jackass whose love of The Rules is so much that they've elected his/her self as unofficial enforcement personnel: "The speed limit is 65, dammit, and you all are GOING to do 65 or less!"

    From what I understand, the really annoying thing is that there have been cases where cops DID pull them over for obstructing traffic and the idiot judge threw out the case.

    Personally, I think the danger of road rage should be overriding their claim on the road, but anyone who expects rational sense from judges is likely to be found buying lottery tickets.

    > I’ve had to speed up by 15 MPH just to pass this annoyance. I always fear a ticket for this. So far, I’ve been lucky.

    Mike, if you ever got a ticket for it, it would likely be particularly bad luck. There really, really aren't enough cops out there to get anyone who doesn't speed A LOT, or a least, really really stupidly.

    In the event of bad luck, though, if the cop doesn't seem the surly type, you might try to explain to him what happened. He might let you off with a warning if you're polite enough about it. Cops *can* be fairly understanding sometimes...

    ======

    As far as tailgaters go, you don't have to slam on your brakes -- this is dangerous -- and as someone who has been involved in a collision at low speeds, the cars in question can wind up totally out of control in a fraction of a second -- you REALLY don't want that to happen at high speeds, trust me.

    No, instead, just tap your brakes enough to put the lights on. If they still don't get the message, do it once more. Then, if they still don't Get It, then you start slowing down smoothly, but reasonably quickly (as in 20-30 seconds) until you're going 15 mph slower than before. Then speed back up to the previous speed. Repeat if needed.

    This either annoys said idiot enough that they'll actually pass you or gets the message across. Either way, it solves the problem more than often enough, without real danger to anyone.

  • twolaneflash

    German rules for American Autobahns!!! Studies show the slow driver in the left lane causes accidents by causing following vehicles to have to slow, change lanes, accelerate, change lanes, resume travel. Here in GA the signs are clearly posted: "Slower Traffic Keep Right". There's no mention of speed. If no one is in front of you, and someone is behind you, move right. I attribute these rolling road-blocks to illiterates who can't read the signs, drivers who can't read English, vindictive people with hostile driver syndrome, self-righteous busybodies acting as self-appointed traffic controllers, and selfish me-first drivers who cannot stand someone getting in front of them. I'm a road-warrior and over the last fifty years I've developed a "drive in the empty spaces" strategy. Sheeple cluster together and none of them will break away from the flock. When I run up behind a flock of sheeple, I patiently work my way to the front and almost invariably see an open road, into which I accelerate, leaving the sheeple flock behind. Once I get into that empty space, I moderate my speed knowing I will run up on another flock down the road. Repeat process. Arrive alive.

  • twolaneflash

    My #1 Rule of the Road is "Idiots have the right-of-way.". There are sociopaths and psychopaths on the roads and they will kill you with their behaviors. Discretion is the better part of valor. Learn to drive with a relaxed but alert mind and determine to remain calm. Know that the rage bad drivers give you is self-inflicted, harmful to your health, may give the other driver schadenfreude(pleasure over your pain), and is truly like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

    I really liked it when gas prices got so high it kept a lot of teenagers and fossils off the roads. Ten or fifteen dollars a gallon should really free up the lanes.

    Since the economy tanked, every jurisdiction I drive through, city/county/state, has the revenue confiscators working overtime to fleece the sheep. Revenue cameras have gone up all around Atlanta and in little country places that aren't even towns. Police are under job pressure to bring in the money and drivers are the easiest, fastest way to do it. In small towns around here, government growth is a career path. One town next to me got an ambitious politician elected mayor of a stop sign. The mayor hid a cop behind his stop sign, revenue flowed, more stop signs were put up, and more cops, and more revenue. Annexation laws permitted a land grab, new city taxes spread across the expanding township. More roads to patrol generated more speed-trap ticket revenue. The mayor then built a new townhall, a police station, and a firestation as monuments to himself by indebting the citizens of his newly expanded metropolis. All five towns in this county have suffered the same government cancerous growth, fed by the egos of politicians with dreams of grandeur. Most of the services, like fire and police, are duplications of what was already provided for the residents by the county government. Drivers are the most defenseless and immediate source of revenue a local government can tap, and if they are smart about it, they go after out-of-towners to keep the local citizens happy. I've had my share of speeding tickets, all deserved and many knocked down a few mph by the officer, but I know to the government officials, it's less about my speed and more about my money.

  • http://genericconfusion.blogspot.com Greg

    One of my most dangerous driving experiences was traveling at an appropriate left-lane interstate speed, coming around a corner, and finding an elderly couple driving UNDER the speed limit. I had to brake fast and move into the right lane.

    My biggest problem with interstate driving, on any two-lane interstate, is the semi passing in the left lane. It's a particular problem when the semi has a governor that prevents the driver from reaching the auto speed limit. Traffic tends to back up in the passing lane, and then idiots will drive up the right and try to cut in. (I saw a multi-car accident that was almost certainly caused by this.) For the life of me, I don't know why the driver of the semi being passed doesn't slow down to allow the other driver to pass quicker.

  • markm

    Greg, semis are usually underpowered relative to their weight (e.g., ten times the weight of a car with twice the horsepower), so it may take the semi who slows down quite a while to work his way back up to full speed. And in the meantime, often some car will pass him, pull over, and settle down to 55 or 60 in a 70 mph zone, with no breaks in the passing traffic long enough to pull out in a 60-foot long rig. (Which still can't accelerate worth a damn once he is in the passing lane.)

    But most of the time I've seen a jam up form when a semi was passing, it was some little car being passed. Truckers learn not to make things hard for other truckers...

  • Spartan79

    I used to ride occasionally on business trips with a bozo who'd run up behind semi's to within two or three car lengths and then park there for as long as he could, claiming that driving in the wind draft of a semi can boost fuel economy by one or two miles per gallon. I quit riding with him for this reason; last I heard he still hasn't run up under a semi executing a panic stop, but he's an accident waiting to happen.

    More than twenty years ago I drove a diesel auto for a few years, and learned a trick to deal with the folks who park in behind you and follow too close. I'd slow down a little, let them close up a little more, then floor the accelerator. My old diesel would take forever to gain speed, but as it did so it belched forth an impressive cloud of black, sooty exhaust smoke. One guy actually did a panic stop behind me --- I think he thought I had blown a motor or something.

  • Rick C

    @Spartan79: drafting a semi was shown to work by the Mythbusters. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

  • Walt

    Yup. A peeve of mine too. I call it the sympathetic throttle syndrome since a socially induced reaction occurs with this type. A friend of mine also calls it leap-frogging. In my opinion, this species is not clever enough to think about using bait.

    It's not as annoying to me as the semi drivers who on long grades like we have here in the west, pull into the left lane and block dozens of drivers so that their 45mph vehicle can overtake the semi in front of them who is doing 42mph. When I started driving semi operators were the best on the road, now I while away the time pushing the imaginary trigger that unleashes the two .50 BMGs mounted on the hood.

  • oldf4drvr

    You may be amused to learn that the same thing happened to me some time ago while traveling I-10 from Houston to San Antonio. In my incident, the Mr. Wobbleys were an outing of a Dodge Viper club. I was attempting to maintain a 70 - 75 mph cruise control. An occasional Viper would show off his awesome acceleration and pass, the slow to wait for his comrades to catch up. I gave up and slowed until they finally exited to a secondary road. At least I never came close to highway hypnosis.

  • dan

    Reading this makes me feel bad about not having cruise, but hopefully I make up for it by trading spots with the bait car every now and then. Of all the things that bother me, though, the worst is the slow-trooper-you-pass-who-then-turns-into-dick (well, a bigger dick). Especially in the middle of the night when they're bored.