It should have been a routine driving manoeuvre. I was making a left into a gas station. The way, however, was blocked. An exiting vehicle was perched in the middle, straddling both lanes. So, I waited until he finally turned. I had fallen victim to a "lane robber," to a driver who opts to drive on the left-hand side of the road whenever it's convenient.
The fellow at the gas station was not even the first lane robber I'd encountered that day. An optimist would chalk this behaviour to unintentional carelessness. We all drift now and then.
I'm not in this camp. Lane robbing is a willful act. It's a bid to usurp the rules of the road in order to avoid minor inconvenience. The lane robber philosophy is: "I could exit this parking lot from the right lane, but that would require a little care and cost me 15 seconds. So instead, I'm going to straddle the entire road like it's my personal fiefdom."
It's not as if there's any ambiguity about the correct side of the road to drive on. In North America and most of the non-Marmite-eating world, cars are driven on the right side of the road. Lane robbers don't flaunt the rules on highways and major roads; it's on the side streets and parking lots that they give their left-lane tendencies free reign. Whenever the driving gets a little tough, they simply move to the left.
Here's how "lane robbers" solve driving dilemmas:
Problem: Your destination is half a block up on a one-way street, but you're going to have to circle the entire block to get there.
Solution: Simply drive a half a block the wrong way. If you meet any cars going the correct way or almost hit a pedestrian or cyclist, just shrug and pretend you're a tourist.
Parking at the mall
Problem: The space is snug and you should back in.
Solution: Drive as far on the left side as you can (almost grazing parked cars) and then swing your car into the space with a large looping front park.
Exiting any parking lot
Problem: You need to exit the parking lot.
Solution: Drive your car on a diagonal (maybe even jumping a curb) so that your vehicle blocks both lanes entirely. Sit there in a stunned state as if, until this moment, you were convinced that you were destined to live forever, but now you recognize your frailty and become painfully aware how much time has already gone by – and then make a right turn.
Problem: You're driving the wrong way to get to the free pump.
Solution: Drive anyway you please and almost cause multiple fender benders. If you were a chess piece, you'd be the queen.
Making a left turn from a one-way street
Problem: So confused! What side of the street should you turn from?
Solution: Don't commit. Turn from the middle of the road and prevent other drivers from passing or turning right.
Lane robbers are more of an irritant than a dire threat. They thrive where the speed limit isn't posted and there are no painted lines to hem them in. Then again, the road to hell is paved with irritants. Today's motorists are already some of the most distracted, ignorant under-achievers in automotive history. We know less about our cars while expecting them to do more. We drive faster, with less skill, and we do it on a daily basis. With that in mind, let's all do our best to curb our own lane-robbing tendencies. It starts with a little casual lane robbing in the parking lot and, pretty soon, you're tearing the wrong way down Highway 401 while posting the video on YouTube.
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