Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Middle Lane Muse

What do they mean, hogging the middle lane? I set the cruise control to an indicated 80mph, that is 70mph plus the 10 per cent or so the law allows. At this speed the middle lane of the motorway is perfectly agreeable. Flyers fly by on the outside, trucks trundle along on the inside; everybody, you would think, would be happy.

But no. Self-appointed Guardians Of The Highway Code, which says in effect you should always pull to the left, come up behind at 85 or 90mph and make a great display of swerving out as they overtake. They flash indicators and point leftwards in rebuke. I am too old and dignified for road rage and let them get on their high-blood-pressure way.

Smooth consistent and predictable behaviour is far better than dashing from lane to lane. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) manual says: "Return to the left when you can, but do not do this over-zealously so that you end up constantly skipping from one lane to another. Far too often on motorways you see strings of cars bunched needlessly in the right hand lane queuing up to pass a few people drifting along in the centre lane."

Drifting along in the centre lane seems to exclude those, like me, going about their lawful affairs at around the statutory speed limit. Driving experts disapprove of Slow Lane, Middle Lane, and Fast Lane; the outside one is the Overtaking Lane but in theory if the Middle Lane is occupied by 70mph traffic nobody should be overtaking anyway.

The safest roads are those on which all the traffic is doing the same speed. If everybody is bowling along at 60 or 70 nobody is going to be taken by surprise. Consistency, changing lane as seldom as possible, and constant monitoring of what is behind are best. Yes of course I look in the mirror and pull over if there’s nothing in the leftist lane, but now I fear those Guardianistas will think the traffic plods are on their side and hector even more.

(top) Bugatti Type 57S Atalante. (below) Bentley blower by Amherst Villiers.

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