Leaving Lawrence after a KU basketball game I entered the Kansas Turnpike at the Lecompton entrance and headed for Topeka. Sliding into the right lane, I set my cruise control, turned up the volume on the radio and cruised right along.
Many states use HOV lanes. These “high occupancy vehicle” lanes were created to promote carpooling and ease congested freeways by awarding the use of a swift and relatively traffic-free lane. We don’t have HOV lanes in Kansas as far as I know. However, along the short strip of six-lane Turnpike between the Lecompton terminal and the east Topeka terminal, KDOT might as well paint the right lane with HAV. That would stand for “HARDLY ANY VEHICLES” lane.
The ride home from the basketball game meant never having to leave the right lane. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pass cars. I counted 19. Yes, I am aware it is not the best to pass on the right, but it is hard to resist. I can do this often because obviously very few know how to drive wisely or legally. Very few care that in July Kansas passed a “Right Lane Law.”
Here are exact changes:
● It amends existing law to require vehicles to be driven in the right lane when two lanes of traffic are going in the same direction on a highway outside of any city. It also requires vehicles on highways with three or more lanes proceeding in the same direction not to be driven in the far left lane. Exceptions apply to both cases:
● When overtaking and passing another vehicle;
● When preparing to make a proper left turn;
● As otherwise directed by official traffic-control devices; or
● As otherwise required by other provisions of law.
It is important to remember this applies to all multi-lane roads, not just the six-lane stretch of the Turnpike. I once followed a girlfriend to her family home outside Abilene. The moment she drove onto I-70 heading west, she planted her car in the left lane and never gave thought to moving over for any oncoming traffic. In times before cell phones, I had no way of contacting her and asking her to pull over. When we arrived in Abilene, I asked why? She calmly said because the road was smoother.
In 1972, friends Mark Nordstrom and Ron Torrence joined me for a four-month journey through Europe in a used car bought in Luxembourg. There were many lessons in life learned during our travels, but one of the biggest was to make sure we drove in the proper lanes on the Autobahn, Germany’s super high-speed interstate.
We never forgot the first time we saw blinking headlights in our rear view mirror. This feature hadn’t yet come to American cars of the time. Even though the lights were blinking far in the distance, it took only once for us to realize the time to get over to the right was NOW for in just seconds a blazing Porsche or some other exotic auto would streak past. We quickly learned the etiquette of the six lanes. Trucks stayed right moving only into the center lane to pass. Once completed, the trucks quickly move back right. Cars drove in the center lane using the left lane only to pass. Passing on the right was illegal and heavily fined.
It was amazing how smoothly the traffic moved unlike the frustration everyone faces driving in the States and Kansas. Here trucks have, for the most part, planted themselves in the center lane. Cars cruise along in the left lane oblivious to any other traffic. The weekend of the big NASCAR race in Kansas City, a rented RV in the left lane stumbled along barely going 60 mph. As many drivers offered the universal signal of friendship while struggling to pass, the drunken passenger in the right lane proudly held his beer can out the window in his own defiant sign of ignorance. No wonder the words “road rage” is mentioned by the Kansas Highway Patrol in this statement.
“Kansas’ new ‘Right Lane Law,’ which went into effect July 1, makes it illegal to drive in the far left lane of multi-lane highways except when passing or turning left or when instructed to do so by traffic-control devices or officers. The law is designed to reduce road rage and prevent motorists from trying risky maneuvers,” says Trooper Mark Engholm of the Kansas Highway Patrol.
What a shame it is that no one cares and nothing is being done to improve the safety on our roads. I have no trouble with people driving fast. My problem is when the selfish driving of others puts all of us, fast and slow, into jeopardy.
Until there are real changes and real enforcement, look for an old black Honda Civic in the right lane just cruising along enjoying what has become the HAV lane.