Dear Car Talk:
I’m from the U.S. but live in Argentina. I have a friend and co-worker with whom I frequently travel, and who always drives under the speed limit in the fast lane. People honk and make creative gestures, but he refuses to change his ways.
I have told him that the fast lane is only for passing, but I think he believes that’s an American idea that doesn’t apply here. How can I convince him that fast lane etiquette is global? — Ben
I don’t know how you can convince him, Ben. If the old ladies with the blue hair screaming rare Argentinian curses at him aren’t having any effect, he might be too far gone.
You’re absolutely right. The left lane is traditionally for passing, not cruising. If you want to bop along at 53 miles per hour, you should be using the right lane, or the center lane at a minimum.
It’s actually a much bigger social faux pas to block the passing lane in Europe, where drivers take these things very seriously. In fact, in the summer of 1938, a young Adolf Hitler got stuck behind a guy doing 40 in the left lane when he was coming home from Warsaw, and a year later he was still so steamed about it that he invaded Poland. Little known historical fact, Ben.
And I always thought that Argentina had a somewhat European influenced culture, so I would think this would be a well-established norm there, too. The honking and cursing from the old ladies is my other hint.
It’s the rule in America, too. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, the traffic has gotten so bad that etiquette has fallen by the wayside, and drivers simply use whatever lane looks less crowded at that moment. In order for there to be a “passing lane,” there has to be enough capacity in the other lanes for people who are not passing. And that’s not always the case. Still, it’s unfortunate to get stuck behind someone poking along in the passing lane who is either oblivious, inconsiderate, or both.
If you’re driving in the left lane, you should constantly stay aware of who is in your rear-view mirror, and if someone is coming up on you, and traveling faster than you, be polite and get out of the way as quickly and as safely as you can.
In terms of your friend, Ben, I don’t know what else to tell you. You can try telling him that he’s making you uncomfortable and stressed out by creating all that havoc on the road. And ask him, as a friend, if he’ll help you feel better by driving in the right lane. If he still refuses, then he’s just inconsiderate, and those old ladies are right in what they’re shouting about him, whatever those words mean.