With summer just around the corner and visions of vacations dominating Americans' thoughts, our highways will experience a dramatic increase in traffic. To enhance the travel experience for motorists, the National Motorists Association (NMA) has designated June as Lane Courtesy Month and is kicking off the campaign with the slogan "Do the RIGHT Thing!"
Lane Courtesy, also called Lane Discipline, has a powerful influence on highway safety, traffic flow, and congestion. Arguably, its effect is more important than speed limits, traffic enforcement, or any other attempt to control driver behavior. Ask almost any motorist what most raises their ire when using major highways and the answer will be "failure of slower traffic to keep right or yield to the right when faster traffic approaches."
The concept, or ethic, of lane courtesy evolved in the United States with the development of the Interstate System. However, the concept of slower traffic yielding to the right for faster traffic has its origins in the older system of two lane highways. Almost all states have a provision in their traffic law that requires slower traffic, upon being signaled by a following vehicle, to pull to the right to allow the faster traffic to pass.
Prior to 1973, rural speed limits reflected typical travel speeds. Consequently, slower vehicles were not driving the speed limit and there was no rationale for deliberately blocking the progress of faster traffic. The 55 MPH National Maximum Speed Limit changed all that.
After 1973, there was a serious disconnect between speed limits and the actual speed of traffic. There was also a total breakdown in lane courtesy. The slower traffic that would normally stay in the right hand lane could now linger anywhere on the highway, in any lane, and still be traveling at the legal maximum speed of 55 miles per hour. This counter productive process was reinforced over a period of 21 years, influencing a whole generation of new drivers.
In 1995 the 55 MPH National Maximum Speed Limit was repealed and several states raised speed limits to put the limits more in concert with the reality of highway travel. However, the almost quarter century habit of wallowing anywhere on the highway did not disappear with the advent of new speed limit signs.
The lane courtesy ethic must be reinvigorated, promoted, and recognized for the contribution it can make toward safer, faster and more enjoyable travel. We hope the NMA's "Do the RIGHT Thing!" campaign and declaring June as "Lane Courtesy Month" will reawaken interest and support for this incredibly important and positive traffic safety concept.