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Stay in your ‘kin lane – aka the perils of unnecessary lane changing

Hot on the heels of my merging and ‘keep left’ rants, comes this week’s Tarmac Tantrum, aptly named ‘stay in your ‘kin lane!’

According to the NZTA, it’s estimated that the average Auckland commute is 11.6km (11.3km for Wellington and 9.0km for Christchurch) and for many motorists this includes a stint on the congested motorway, or the highway from hell.

SH1 on a busy workday means being stuck bumper to bumper and inching along, wasting time and fuel and generally feeling down in the dumps. The only thing that makes this monotonous situation worse, is when the car in front of you swerves into yours or the adjacent lane for no ‘kin reason. 

Ultimately, the main reason behind this move is that the ‘new’ lane is moving faster than the one they’re in – but my question is ‘is it really?’

Don’t get me wrong, 11km in slow/no moving traffic is soul destroying on the best of days, so anything that speeds this up is welcomed, but I believe that darting from lane to lane only exacerbates the congestion issue and doesn’t speed up your commute at all.

According to the book, lane changing should be a manoeuvre driven by necessity and safety. It’s meant to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, optimise safety, and reduce congestion. However, commuters changing lanes arbitrarily, without any apparent rationale, are endangering themselves and their fellow drivers.

Admittedly, when you’re in a lane that hasn’t moved for what appears to be a lifetime (and the clock is moving rapidly towards 9am), a lane moving beside you garners much appeal, and should even the smallest of gaps appear then they should be jumped on, but the ripple effect from car you have ducked in front of ‘heavily braking’ can cause a standstill way back down the line. ‘Not your problem’ I hear you say, well what about the driver doing the same ahead of you?

The consequences of unnecessary lane changing are numerous, including erratic traffic patterns, increased chances of accidents, (and therefore rubberneckers and slower moving traffic) and a more stressful and dangerous commute. Also, how many times have you jumped lanes only to find the lane you have moved to is now at a stand still?

The answer to all the above is simple, stay in your ‘kin lane (unless you really have to move). Staying in your lane and maintaining a consistent speed is the best way to ensure a safe and efficient commute. The time saved (if at all) by unnecessary lane changes is often negligible compared to the potential risks and stress they introduce.

Top tip ‘Practise patience’ – remember that your fellow drivers are stuck just like you are. They aren’t your competition. They’re fellow victims.

Don’t believe me? Then this week please do the following exercise. Each day pick one vehicle in the lane beside you (brightly coloured, performance, a truck) when you first get onto the motorway and see where it is when you exit the highway. I would suggest that more often than not it will still be within eye-shot, meaning that the ‘faster moving lane’ wasn’t that fast after all – feel free to comment on your results.  

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