Driving lessons: Six lane highways

Complaining about other peoples’ driving, like complaining about the weather, seems to be ubiquitous to the human condition (at least in the modern age).

Everyone thinks that they understand the rules of driving and the conventions of traffic, and that they drive in the most common-sense way. If only everyone else drove like them, traffic would flow smoothly.

I am no exception.

Now, let me clarify. My husband and I are what you could call aggressive drivers (which is not the same thing as bad drivers, family-of-mine). I am aware that not all people have the, er, gonads to drive like we do. They are easily frightened by changing lanes or taking left turns.

Other people drive differently than we because they have different levels of experience. Many residents of our hometown, Lincoln Nebraska, have no reason to regularly drive a six lane highway. It makes sense that they would have a lower level of comfort as well as a lower level of understanding of how to properly drive on a six-lane highway.

But Wichitans, who drive on a six lane highway on a daily (or at least weekly) basis, should have a basic understanding of how to drive when they have three lanes all going the same direction.

Alas, they do not.

In case you were taught by a Wichitan, or were never taught, how to drive on a six-lane highway, allow me to educate you.

A six-lane highway has three lanes going in each direction. Each of those lanes has a different function.

It would behoove you to think of the outermost lane as the “merging” lane, the middle lane as the “driving” lane, and the innermost lane as the “passing” lane.

Functionally, this means that you should only be in the outermost lane if you are getting onto or off of the highway. You merge onto this lane when you enter the highway, after which you should be looking for the first opportunity to move into the middle “driving” lane. When you want to get off the highway, you merge back from the middle lane into the outermost lane and then to your off-ramp. Getting into the “merging” lane should happen no more than 2 exits from your off ramp. Ideally, you should never pass more than one exit at a time in the outer lane.

Why is this?

Lots of people are getting onto and off of the highway at any given exit. They HAVE to travel through the outermost lane to drive on the highway. If someone is just hanging out in this outermost lane, access onto and off of the highway is impeded, resulting in traffic snarls on and off the highway.

The innermost lane should be reserved for passing and should only be used if you are going faster than the traffic in the center lane. It amazes me that people don’t understand this particular convention.

If you are going at the same speed or more slowly than the driver to your right, that means that anyone who comes up behind you is forced to either slow down or to switch into the (already busy by necessity) outermost lane in order to pass. The more people that are popping in and out of that outermost lane, the more likely it will be for accidents to occur. So, to keep traffic moving and to avoid dangerous snarls, you should only drive in the innermost lane if you are going faster than the traffic in the middle “driving” lane (and if someone comes up behind you going faster than you? You should move into the middle “driving” lane to allow them to pass before moving back to the innermost “passing” lane to pass those who are going even slower in the “driving” lane.)

THAT, my friends, is how you should drive on a six-lane highway.

1 thought on “Driving lessons: Six lane highways”

  1. Yes to this! Here in Okinawa, the expressway (one 4 lane “highway” with 10 exits) actually has signs periodically stating that the driving lane is the left lane, and the passing lane is the right one. It flows pretty well actually and proves to be the fastest way to go anywhere of distance.


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