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The nerve of that driver: there's no room for remorse on our roads

I wrote about my distaste for drivers who crawl along below the speed limit in the passing lane a few weeks ago.

These guys, I suggested, belong in the right lane, the lane for people who are not passing. I vented my spleen and felt relief. Many readers agreed. It was gratifying.

All in all, it was a positive experience, but despite the good vibrations, it got me thinking – thinking about life in the right lane and my attitude toward it. While most rational people were in my corner, the right lane gang were sore. They felt singled out for scorn (probably because they had been). Still, perhaps they had a point. I had been a bit harsh.

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So this week, I'm here to state that I'm not against the right lane. I use it (when I'm not passing) and find the climate there can be pleasant. In fact, since I'm being so candid, I have to admit that I've come to discover more and more conflicted feelings.

Hello. My name is Road Sage and I suffer from "right lane guilt."

You may too.

Here are the signs:

  • When approaching a red light, do you switch from the centre lane to the right lane to avoid being stuck behind a car that’s going to turning left when the light alternates to green? Do you find yourself the first car in the right lane waiting for the change so you can proceed forward?
  • Do you feel contrition creeping up the back of your neck, a nagging sense that you’re inconveniencing others for your own benefit? After all you’re not turning right – when the light changes you’re going to drive straight ahead – but you are in the right lane. There are drivers behind you who want to turn right on this red light. If you weren’t in front of them, they’d be able to do so. In a strange way, you’re now doing in the right lane what left lane hoggers do in the passing lane. Do you imagine those other drivers are cursing you? Even though you’re completely within your rights to be there? Do you feel uneasy?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you are suffering from right lane guilt. Take heart, while you can't erase right lane guilt, you can find ways to cope with it.

What can you do?

For starters, acknowledge that you're projecting your own impatience on to other drivers. Accept that just because you would be irritated by another driver doing something completely legal and acceptable does not mean other drivers are (okay, you're right, they probably are). Take action. If it's safe, inch forward a bit to let the other motorist complete the right turn they are longing to execute but don't go into a shame spiral if there still isn't enough space. Just sit there and block the lane. That's the way of the world.

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It's important to also acknowledge that if you suffer from right lane guilt, you may also be suffering from "left lane remorse." It's what psychiatrists and others in the mental health field would call "comorbidity."

Left lane remorse occurs when a driver is at a red light and intends to make a left turn, but that driver has forgotten to put on his turn signal. Other drivers, thinking he means to drive forward, line up behind him while the right lane fills up with other motorists. Awesome, the other drivers are thinking, we'll get to drive straight ahead while those guys in the right lane will get stuck behind a guy making a right turn. Good move by us, they're thinking.

At this point, the driver remembers he's going to turn left and finally puts on his turn signal.

What? The other drivers think. What? What the Stephen Harper are you doing? You are supposed to just drive straight! Now we will be stuck behind you! Why didn't you signal earlier! It all could have been avoided!

It's at this point the driver in question experiences left lane remorse: a sensation that one is universally reviled and being held in low esteem.

There is only one known way to avoid both right lane guilt and left lane remorse: don't have a conscience.

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This may sound extreme, but if you look around, you will see thousands, nay millions, of motorists who have done just that. They drive like maniacs and endanger others. They treat operating several tons of rolling steel with careless disregard and, if they manage to inconvenience a few dozen fellow drivers in the course of an average day, well, that's just the cherry on top of their narcissistic ego-maniacal hot fudge sundae.

If, however, you're one of the conscience-laden unlucky few, give yourself a break, remember you're human, what goes around comes around and, when it comes to driving, any day we all get home safe is a good one.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More


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