Dave Deslauriers /

Little Known Rules of the Road

Nearly everyone is at least generally aware of the rules of the road and does their best to follow them. However, there are some little known facts about driving that most people are unaware of. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of those hidden secrets to help you become a more informed driver.

Each Highway Lane Has a Specific Use

Many people are unaware that each lane on a multi-lane highway has a specific purpose. Do you think of the left-hand lane as the “fast lane”? Most people do, but that actually isn’t the case. The left-most lane is actually the “passing-lane” and should only be utilized when passing vehicles (with exceptions for left-hand exits). In fact, in some states it is illegal to “camp” in the left-hand lane and law enforcement officers could issue a citation.

The middle lane or lanes are designated as the “travel lanes.” These are the lanes that drivers should be spending the majority of their time in. If you’re cruising along with no need to pass and no plans to exit, this is where you should be located.

The right hand lane, commonly referred to as the “slow lane,” has two purposes. It is the lane that you’ll want to position yourself in when approaching your exit, and it is also the lane that you’ll want to utilize in situations where you’re going to be traveling slower than the other traffic.

Passing on the Right is Dangerous and Possibly Illegal

This falls into the category of something many people have heard before, but don’t actually understand the reasoning behind. First we should understand why the left-hand lanes are generally designated for faster traffic and passing. In the United States, the vast majority of exit and on-ramps are located on the right-hand side. As a result, traffic on the right side is generally moving slower than that on the left.

When someone drives slowly on the left-hand side of a highway, faster traffic that wants to overtake those slower vehicles may be tempted to pass them on the right. This results in high-speed traffic being diverted into slower lanes. The difference in speed between the fast moving traffic, and the slow moving traffic poses a serious risk of a collision.

It’s for that reason that most states have actually made passing on the right an illegal maneuver called “improper passing”. However, there are a few scenarios where passing on the right is permissible. According to Nolo.com, “The laws in most states prohibit passing on the right, except under the following circumstances:

  • The passed vehicle is about to turn left. (You still can’t drive onto the unpaved shoulder of the road.)
  • The street or road is wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic.

Even if passing on the right is allowed under one of the above exceptions, you must do so “under conditions permitting such movement in safety.”

Highway Numbers Tell You Where You’re Headed

Have you ever wondered if the numbers of highways have any meaning behind them? Well they actually do. Highway numbering is actually designed to tell a driver where they’re headed. Lifehacker.com elaborates, “If the highway has an odd number, it’s traveling north-south and the numbers increase from the West Coast (I-5) to the East Coast (I-95). If the highway is even, it’s traveling east-west, and the numbers should increase from south (I-10) to north (I-94).

And then there are three-digit interstate highways. The numbers in a three-digit highway generally tell you a few things:

If the first digit is even, the highway usually connects to another interstate at both ends, meaning it’s a loop.

If the first digit is odd, the highway is typically a “spur” route.

The last two numbers usually tell you which interstate the route spurs off from. For example: I-210 in California branches off of I-10. Houston’s I-610 loop branches off of I-10, too.

Again, these rules are typically the case, but there are always a few exceptions. As Snopes points out, I-238 in California doesn’t spur off of Interstate 38, as Interstate 38 doesn’t exist.”


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