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road sage

Dear Elon Musk,

Your conquest of Twitter for US$44-billion was as flashy and controversial as the world could expect from the founder of Tesla. Some have quit Twitter in protest. Full disclosure: I’m no longer on Twitter, but not because I’m protesting. I’m not on Twitter because nobody knows who I am, and nobody cares what I have to say.

Which brings me to the reason I am writing you.

I’m reaching out to see if you can apply your edgy, forward-looking billionaire vision to remedy a problem that besets the driving world. Critics can assail you (some think you are a right-wing menace), but they can’t dispute the impact you’ve made on how we drive. I recall the first time I sat in the driver’s seat of a Tesla. It was October, 2011. You’d opened your eighteenth Tesla showroom on Santana Row, San Jose’s posh open-air retail district. I waited my turn with other curious onlookers, as we lined up for a chance to sit in a floor model and take photos. The rest is history. EVs are the accepted future and Teslas are ubiquitous. You changed the way people think about driving and inspired and outraged a lot of people while doing it.

Elon – can you spend a few billon dollars to stop people driving slow in the passing lane?

Before you dismiss the notion, consider the benefits to mankind. Motorists who drive slowly in the passing lane are a blight, a pestilence. It’s against every highway code. In my province, Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act stipulates that the left lane be kept open for passing. If an automobile is driving below “the normal speed of traffic” it should stay in the right lane. The left lane is for passing.

Left Lane Hogs are dangerous. They force faster drivers to bob and weave back and forth to pass. The more lane changes there are, the more chances for an accident. Did you know that a car travelling eight kilometres an hour less than the limit is more likely to cause an accident than a car going eight kilometres an hour above the speed limit?

In the past, I’ve suggested the use of cruise missile technology. This troubled some readers. Provincial and state governments have tried fining Left Lane Hogs. Georgia’s “House Bill 459″ penalizes “left lane lingerers” with a US$100 fine. In 2015, British Columbia made failing to keep right except when passing an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act with its “Keep Right. Let Others Pass” law. In 2018, 699 Left Lane Hogs received $167 tickets.

Can you give Left Lane Hogs the Twitter treatment? When your takeover was announced, many were thrilled. Many were dismayed. Critics worried the world’s richest man would ruin the social media platform.

That’s the beautiful part of my suggestion. That’s what Twitter and Left Lane Hogs have in common – they both couldn’t be any worse.

How do you ruin something that is already filled with hate and negativity? A 2019 study by researchers at NYU examined 532 million tweets published between 2011 and 2016. They “found that cities with a higher incidence of a certain kind of racist tweets reported more actual hate crimes related to race, ethnicity, and national origin.” Negativity appears to thrive on Twitter, and on other social media platforms. In 2021, researchers at the Harvard Business School led by Professor Amit Goldenberg released the findings of a study that found negativity on Twitter was 15 per cent more prevalent and more likely to trigger engagement.

“People’s emotions toward their own group have stayed constant over the last 50 years, whereas people’s negative emotions toward the other side have increased,” said Goldenberg. “In the last five years, it’s the first time in U.S. history that negativity toward one’s out-group is stronger than positivity toward one’s in-group.”

The same can be said of Left Lane Hogs, who are selfish, ignorant, vehicular snails who clog up our left lanes and put others at risk.

You own SpaceX, the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. To date, you’ve had 154 launches and 116 landings. Can we use SpaceX to launch Left Lane Hogs into space (you wouldn’t have to worry about the landings)?

I know what you’re thinking, you’re going to say, “Everyone should buy a Tesla and there won’t be any more Left Lane Hogs.” Perhaps, but do we have that kind of time?

Elon, it may not seem it on the surface, but fixing Left Lane Hogs is tailor-made for you. It’s sure to be controversial. What’s a little more outrage? You believe in free speech. So do I. Let’s use our shared love of expression to tell the world how wrong it is to drive slowly in the passing lane. When you own Twitter, you could decree that one out of every hundred tweets, users must post an anti-Left-Lane-Hog tweet.

You once said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour.”

Elon, that’s Left Lane Hogs. The odds are against us, but – darn it – it’s important, let’s get this done. With your brains and billions and my whatever-it-is-I-bring, we can’t lose.