Interstate passing situation - jerk, driving psychology, or physics?

I usually have this situation at least a couple of times on every lengthy interstate trip and wanted your thoughts.

I’m in the right lane with cruise control engaged. I’m approaching a vehicle, but not quickly, maybe going 1-3 mph faster. Check the mirror. Another car is coming, maybe going 1-3 mph faster than me in the left lane. It looks like this car will be either next to me or close behind when I’ll need to use the left lane to pass. My normal practice is to disengage the cruise control, let the car in the left lane pass, then accelerate, and make my pass. I don’t delay the faster car with little inconvenience to me and we both get to go on our merry little way.

What happens on occasion is that the passing car slows down when they get close, preventing my pass and slowing us both down.

My question - is the driver in the left lane being a jerk or is there some sort of driver psychology going on where they unconsciously slow down or is there something, like wind resistance, that’s slowing the car in the left lane? I realize that I will run into jerks, but driving jerks don’t typically do things to slow themselves down, so I’m thinking it’s happening for some other reason.

This situation has been around for years so there is no real answer.


Jerks, I see this a lot with a car in the left lane a few feet behind a truck, the driver of the car won’t pass the truck for quite a while backing up traffic behind them. They are just not aware of the traffic around them. If they looked in their mirror they would see others behind them, but … somehow they got a license to drive.

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I think they may be practicing defensive driving thinking you may be ready to pull into the left lane. I put on about 2000 miles in the past week and really didn’t have this happen. Usually its the folks that stay in the left lane all the time when I only go there to pass. The worst is Indiana where the trucks go slower so you are always going from lane to lane unless you just stay in the left lane.


Some drivers unconsciously slow down when passing and then speed back up once by. Bad logic, huh? Makes no sense but I see it all the time.

The flip side of the situation is right lane, cruise on, coming up on a car to pass. The guy in the left lane speeds UP effectively slamming the door on you when there was plenty of time and space for you to pass and return to the right lane without slowing the left lane at all. Conscious or not, that driver is a jerk.

Yeah, the other scenario you illustrate is consistent with a driving jerk behavior, that’s for sure!

Thoughtless boobs. It’s as if they have no idea that anyone else is on the road. I encounter a lot of them on my daily commute.

Not only is it bad logic, but this type of driving behavior is something that you are told NOT to do when you take a Defensive Driving course. Even though I have not had an accident since 1970, I take a DD driving course every 3 years in order to keep my car insurance rates as low as possible, and one of the major precepts of Defensive Driving is to get out of the blind spot of other cars as quickly as possible by passing them at a rapid rate.

However, as the OP and others have noted, a fairly large percentage of the driving public makes themselves into rolling roadblocks by driving next to other cars for extended periods of time, instead of passing them quickly. This type of behavior is illogical, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous.

As either Click or Clack used to say, it is…devoid of the thought process!

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I usually reserve the term “jerk” for those who do things intentionally. The behavior you describe is typical of someone not totally comfortable passing cars on the highway who doesn’t realize that they’re disrupting the flow of traffic. It’s simply poor driving habits.

Think of traffic flow as being analogous to water flowing in a stream. Disruptions, like stones or logs, cause turmoil in the water. The water has to find a way around them before again flowing smoothly. Traffic has to do exactly the same thing. Engineers who specialize in traffic call this “turbulence”. It’s no different from the turbulence in the stream.

All you can do is what you’re already doing, relax and be patient. :relaxed:

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Sometimes we need to put things into perspective. What really helps putting things into perspective is to quit thinking in miles per hour and start thinking in seconds per mile.
Looking at it this way, if someone slows you down from 70 to 60 mph for an entire mile, he slowed you down from 51.43 seconds per mile to 60 seconds per mile. This guy cost you a mere 8.57 seconds by being in your way.
This is why I don’t pass someone going 60 in the right lane if my exit is only one or two miles away, even if there’s nobody in the left lane. You only gain seconds by doing this, which will most likely only allow you to spend 8.57 seconds more at the red light you will run into after exiting the freeway.


In the OP’s scenario I often increase my speed significantly and then move into the left lane so as to not slow the car approaching from the rear, accelerating past the slower car then slowing to my cruising speed once in the right lane. I see no reason to allow the cruise control to determine my speed when dealing with traffic. Much of the aggravation of the situation mentioned seems to be due to drivers feeling compelled to remain at cruise control speed when one or both must deviate. But what’s the big deal with deviating for a few seconds?

In the situation you describe, I always move over and take possession of the lane. I do speed up a little in this situation so as not to be rude. If the driver in the left lane is going significantly faster, then I let them go by as they seldom slow down. However, I have found that when someone is in that blind spot and does slow down, I put on my turn signals and they will immediately either speed up and pass or they will slow down.

Once in a great while, you do run across someone who intentionally being a jerk. Maybe someone else just pissed them off and now they are taking it out on the next driver they can.

The one that kills me is miles and miles of 2 vehicles going in tandem, at a speed lower than all of us dangerous livers that would think of going 8 to 10 over. Of course there is the slow left lane driver that one has to go around, been a (please insert your personal description) at times, stacked up in the left lane and speed racer wants to pass the stacked up cars in the left lane on the right and get let in to gain a 3 or 4 car advantage, let you in in front of me, sorry (please insert your personal description).

…and, if you have ever had the “pleasure” of speaking to one of those left lane rolling roadblocks, you might hear the following:
It’s illegal to pass on the right, sonny!

Of course, that idiot was wrong, as passing on the right on a multi-lane highway is legal, and is actually the only way to get past those impediments to progress who have chosen to violate the “keep right unless passing” laws.

Yes! IN my blind spot as you mentioned, too. So many people do that and have no idea how dangerous it is.

Sorry slower traffic stay right the law in my state, and ticket them they can!

If you are driving on one of the interstate highways in NJ, just be aware that many/most of our state troopers will herd you–like sheep–to the right lane, where you belong if you insist on driving slower than everyone else on the road:

(Caution: please don’t play this video in the presence of children, as some of the language is…inappropriate)


In Arkansas, if you are passed on the right by three or more cars before you pass one on the left, it’s a $500 fine.

Did you mean going side-by-side?

@insightful Yes I mean the they we are both going 65 on both lanes locked step in step so no one can get past and that is the speed limit, so I will enforce my strict interpretation of 65mph regulation on you My thinking of their brain thought. Sorry I want to take my chances and go 8 to 10 over, like the other 15 people behind me.