When The Left Lane Is The Right Lane

A new scheme on the M62 has been announced, with a one-mile lane dedicated for use by High Occupancy Vehicle (HOVs).

The scheme means that you will only be able to use that particular lane if you have on board more than two people in your vehicle.

The idea is to reduce congestion and needless car use by encouraging car sharing and this kind of initiative could start to make a difference. The Department for Transport hopes that such car sharing initiatives could produce a five per cent reduction in car use. Typically 84 per cent of traffic at this point has just one occupant.

This initiative is good because it shows that the Highways Agency is prepared to think of new ways to maximise use of the network.

There are some things though that drivers can do themselves to ease journeys. A key one is to use lane discipline on the motorway. A lot of tarmac is wasted as a result of "middle lane hogs" - those drivers who habitually use lane two or even three, when lane one is available to them.

Quite often the so-called middle lane owners club are driving at speeds below the national limit - which would be fine if they moved over to the nearside lane. As it is, they tend to cause a mini tailback in their wake. Other drivers don’t "undertake" to get past them - and so have to wait for lane three in order that they can overtake them properly. This leads to the situation where lane one may be empty for approaching a mile, with vehicles bunching in lanes two, waiting to get into lane three.

Worse still, it encourages "weaving" - cars changing lanes to get past the vehicle in lane two, then cutting into lane two or even one in order to "teach them a lesson".

Part of the problem is the language: we still hear people talking about the "fast lane" and the "slow lane". In fact of course the same speed limits apply to all three lanes.

The Highway Code is quite clear on this: you should use the left hand lane if the road ahead is clear. Better lane discipline will enable all road users to make good progress, particularly at peak times.

17 April 2006 Staff

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