For my lib friends ready to pounce, take it easy: this is not a column encouraging conservative politics. No, this is my contribution to TownSquareDelaware’s series on education and I am using this space to take on a matter of paramount importance in our schooling that no one has yet had the courage to discuss: Driver’s Ed!
Like many Delawareans, I recently have had the good fortune to make several trips up and down our wonderful Rte 1, a splendid stretch of asphalt for those of us who remember the joys of navigating Rte. 13/Rte. 9 to/fro the beach. During these travels, I was struck by the complete and utter lack of adherence to a basic tenet of highway driving: the left lane is for passing!
It is galling and vexing to see so many highway-goers blissfully slugging along in the left lane at 52 mph or so when this beautiful autobahn of ours was built to accommodate jaunts of up to 65 (ahem). On my most recent trek down to Sussex County, driver after driver were cooling their jets in the left lane, apparently totally unaware that they should be moving over to help promote the good and natural flow of traffic (and drivers that know what the heck they are doing).
Their ignorance is not protected by law: As we all know, Title 21, Chapter 41 (Rules of the Road), Subchapter III (“Driving on Right Side of Roadway; Overtaking and Passing, etc.”) clearly states:
(a) Upon all roadways of sufficient width a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows: (1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement….
(b) Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
And there it is: “…except when overtaking and passing another vehicle…”
The “keep right” law isn’t limited to Delaware and sadly, neither is the scourge of left-lane-loping. Oh no. Try leaving our state going north or south on I-95 and you’ll quickly encounter scofflaws of all ages and ethnic types, clunking along in the sacred passing lane at speeds their forefathers would have derided from their horse and buggies.
This atrocious lack of road etiquette can only be chalked up to a failure in our education system. After all, most people learn to drive in school, don’t they? That’s taxpayer money going right down the drain. And it is more than a public nuisance: the bottleneck traffic situations created by left-lane-cloggers are an economic impediment (think of all the people late for work!), an environmental threat (all that unnecessary braking by competent license holders can’t be energy efficient) and downright dangerous (I’ve personally witnessed episodes of road rage).
The solution? I propose a special task force to study this issue (representatives would naturally come from all 19 school districts and Departments of Education, Public Safety and Transportation) and produce new standards and curriculum for our drivers ed teachers, post haste. Who knows, we may learn that narrow federal mandates have left proctors teaching to the test.
In the meantime, for all students taking Drivers Ed this year, if there is one thing you learn, when you get those precious keys to your parent’s car, please: Keep to the right!