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-- Question --

Does anyone have links to research indicating that:

  • impeding the flow of traffic in the left-most lane

causes more accidents than

  • speeding.

-- Context --

I want to drive at or under the maximum posted speed limit, even when passing. If, for instance, I'm driving 70 on an interstate trying to pass a semi-truck which is varying between 68 and 73 (due to hills, let's say), but averaging ~69, then I'll eventually pass him, but it might take a few minutes.

If someone rushes up on my tail at 100 and hangs out on my tailgate, I'm not sure if I should (1) speed to complete the pass, moving over to the right lane, (2) brake and move over to let the dangerous vehicle by, or (3) proceed at the posted maximum speed limit to pass the vehicle (even if it takes a few minutes) and move over ASAP.

(3) is the option I'd rather take almost all the time, though I've done (2) in practice and considered (1) several times because I don't want to incite road-rage by braking in front of an already dangerous driver.

I've heard, though, quite a few people mention un-cited research which supposedly indicates that impeding the flow of traffic is far more dangerous than speeding. I find this very hard to believe.

NHTSA publishes facts like: ~30% of traffic fatalities in the US involve someone speeding for many years. (https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812687) but they similarly recommend giving right-of-way to speeders whenever possible just to avoid getting in a wreck (a sensible, but frustrating, recommendation).

-- My search --

I've looked for a few hours already in an attempt to find such research but have only found a few dead links to papers that are no longer found on websites which previously hosted them.

I thought that maybe this kind of research might be used as supporting evidence for passing many of the (I believe) new-ish laws regarding left-lane passing in all the states. I'm not sure how I'd find such research (possibly from the proceedings of the chambers of one of the legislatures during discussions on these laws???) so I'm really hoping that someone might have it to hand quickly here to save me a few hours or days of research.

--Conclusion--

These left lane passing laws seem to cause a lot of confusion and encourage people to break the law by speeding. The supposedly extant research might further encourage people to choose to speed rather than possibly endanger others by following the posted limits.

I wonder, personally, if it might be better for states to focus on enforcing the posted speed limits and making the left-lane laws a rule of thumb to encourage people to drive safely (like all the other defensive driving things one can do to avoid collisions, accidents, loss of control, etc), while not encouraging people to do (1) or (2) above or copping out completely and just always speeding (and relying on the defense of "I followed the flow of traffic so that I wouldn't be endangered by others' speed." vs a possible traffic violation ticket).

I feel like the effects of the passed laws might have simply been that people are now choosing to always speed (endangering themselves and others while simultaneously breaking the law) rather than possibly deal with a ticket for impeding the flow -- which would mean that these laws are actually making public safety worse.

Thus, I'm really interested to see if this research exists somewhere so I can better inform myself.

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a question about demographics and statistics, not the law or legal process. – Nij Feb 3 at 7:19
  • 1
    @Nij That would be okay. Do you know where I might start to look for something like proceedings from legislatures for when these laws were passed? I'm pretty clueless. – Chris Curry Feb 3 at 7:41
  • I would try Open Data. – Libra Feb 3 at 19:58

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