Why are so many Malaysian drivers so reluctant in taking the left lane, even though it’s completely empty? It’s one of the tough questions of life I can’t seem to find the answer, even after 16 years of driving.
Get on any of the 3-lane highways (especially the PLUS, being the favourite), and we’ll see hordes of vehicles occupying the middle lane, even though numerous sign boards along the highway are saying: ‘Ikut kiri kecuali memotong’ (Use the left lane except when overtaking).
Come to think of it, are the authorities really serious in enforcing this rule? Because I have never heard of someone in Malaysia being fined for ‘not taking the left lane when not overtaking’. For ‘overtaking’ from the left, yes, but not this one. One thing that looks extremely weird to me is a rule that is only said but not enforced. You say something is not allowed but when people do it nothing happens.
If not using the left lane when not overtaking is not an offence, then the authorities should change these signboards. They should say something like, ‘It’s optional to use the left lane when not overtaking’, or ‘Use ANY lane you wish when not overtaking’. Or maybe ‘You may use the left lane when not overtaking, but it’s also OK if you don’t’.
I was once in a car driven by a friend along M1 in the UK, and we were stopped by a traffic police. My friend got out of the car, had some conversation with the police, and we were allowed to continue our journey. He was not fined, but the police advised him to stay on the left lane. Even though it was night time and there were few other cars on the road.
They are serious in enforcing this rule.
I will always grumble when seeing the left lane is left empty (no pun intended) while people are occupying the middle and even the right lanes.
‘Left lane, oh the unwanted left lane’ I said once, and my wife quickly said, ‘You should write a poem, that makes a good title.’
Maybe I should.
Why am I complaining?
Let me tell you why:
1. It brings dilemma and unsafe conditions to good drivers like me (haha). Imagine yours truly is driving along a clear left lane, and then there’s a car (a left-lane avoider) in the middle lane, slower than I am. The dilemma is, should I: i. Carry on with my speed and my lane, in which case would I be considered overtaking from the left, which is an offence? Or: ii. Pass him using the super-fast lane (as I call it, normally occupied by Bimmers or Singaporeans or turbocharged Satrias/Wiras), using the notorious passing-two-lanes-at-one-go manouvre? Or worse: iii. Join behind him in the middle lane (and become another left-lane avoider).
I admit that I occasionally have to overtake these left-lane-avoiders, FROM THE LEFT, but that is becaused I’m forced to do so. Otherwise I would have to go the right lane where super-fast cars are zipping by (or another Avoider is hogging it).
2. This behaviour effectively converts a 3-lane highway into a 2-lane, as it causes other drivers to avoid the left lane (to avoid the ‘no overtaking from the left’ offence).
3. It makes the road authority looks stupid. As if these drivers are saying, ‘Yes I know it’s the wrong thing to do, but what are you gonna do with me?’
I did try to put myself in their shoes, I tried to think of possible explanation for this behaviour:
1. Maybe the condition of the left lane is bad.
This is quite true, I observe, but only on occasional parts of the highway. The road conditions are also getting better nowadays, I think, with so many improvement work (even some seemingly unnecessary ones) along the road all year long. Therefore no, not an acceptable excuse.
2. Maybe they think the middle lane is the safest. Maybe for them the logic is: Taking the middle lane gives me the biggest safety cushion, both on the right and the left. Both the right and the left lane are quite close to the highway barriers, which is bad in case I drift off my lane.
Well, what causes you to drift off then? I ask. If you can’t maintain your lane properly then you shouldn’t be driving in the first place. If you feel like dozing off in the middle of driving, then go have a rest. That’s what R&R is for, you dimwit.
3. Maybe they think the left lane is only for the slow lorries and trucks, not for them.
Is there a written law or regulation that says so? NO. The law is simple: If you are not overtaking, use the left lane. Period. Yes the slow lorries and trucks should be on the left, but after you’re done overtaking them, return to the left lane!
I was thinking of finishing this observation with something like: ‘Go away, you left-lane avoiders!’ But then it occurred to me that probably more than half who read this are Malaysian drivers, and that probably more than half of Malaysian drivers are Left-Lane Avoiders. So I better spare it unless I want my homepage hacked or something.
Now, how should I start my highway poem? What about, “O’ lonely lane”? Um, no. “Who are the Avoiders?” Definitely no. “When is a rule not a rule?” No! “As I ride along the highway, Dragging along yet another day.” Duh, I’m not good at this, am I..?