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Keeping Up with the Traffic Flow

On which part of the roadway and at what speed you may drive your car are legally defined in sections 145 to 160 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. A number of these sections address particular roads and particularly designated lanes, but most set out the basic rules that all licensed drivers must obey: drive on the right side of the road and if safe to do so, at the posted speed limit.

These sections address what to do when you are overtaking a vehicle in front of you driving at a slower speed, namely pass to the left of the slower vehicle at a safe distance, and return to the right side of the highway only when safely clear. In turn, they also say that the driver of the overtaken vehicle on “hearing an audible signal given by the driver of the overtaking vehicle” must cause the vehicle to give way to the right, and must not increase the speed of the vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

On multi-lane roadways, the rules say you cannot pass on the right of another vehicle, except when the other vehicle is left turning or when “there is one or more than one unobstructed lane on the side of the roadway on which the driver is permitted to drive.” These days most roads are multi-laned. On most major highways the right lanes are enter and exit lanes and the left lanes are ‘express’ lanes in which the drivers are expecting the traffic flow to be steady, unimpeded, and more or less continuously moving at the posted speed limit.

On urban arteries with many controlled intersections, the center lanes are more like express lanes but all drivers need to be alert to higher levels of lane changing in the traffic flow than generally occur on major highways.

Traffic volume is the most common impediment to traffic flow. More vehicles entering and exiting the flow and more vehicles travelling through controlled intersections along an urban artery tend to reduce the overall average speed of the flow. But certain individual driving behaviours have a disproportionate impact, namely drivers who, for whatever reason, drive more slowly than the average flow speed and who, for whatever reason, do not move into the slower moving part of that stream, namely to the right.

Most experienced drivers have encountered other drivers who are driving at a leisurely pace—the driver un-affectionately known as a ‘left lane hog’ —further complicating what is already enough of a challenge in getting from point A to point B.

New rules are in the works, however, to counter traffic impeding behaviour. British Columbia’s Transport Minister, Todd Stone, recently announced that legislation will soon be introduced to give police more power to stop and penalize such inconsiderate and unaware drivers. He explained that while the police already ticket ‘lane hogs’, “the way that the legislation is currently written, … does not provide [the police] with the tools that give them the high degree of confidence that actually pulling someone over and giving them the ticket will stand up in court.”

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