Are fast or slow drivers more likely to be in a "pack" on the highway?

As I was zipping along an open highway, I saw ahead a pack of cars that would take awhile to maneuver through before reaching open road again. I cursed the slow car or cars leading the pack for causing this traffic.

Then it occurred to me that if it weren’t for the faster cars piling up behind them, the slow cars would be on the open road. I was unsure whether the fast or slow cars were more to blame for the problem - in most cases, you need both.

However, it occurs to me that one way to assess the blame is to compare how often a faster vs a slower can is stuck in a pack. As for defining the fast and slow categories, I haven’t thought that through yet.

I can’t help answer your question other than to help define terms. Around here, “slow” means anyone driving less than 10 miles over the speed limit. As I tend to drive the speed limit, I qualify as “handicapped.”

Strictly speaking, the slow-poke at the front isn’t really stuck in the pack.

A number of times on my recent trip I would see a pack of cars go roaring past me, only to get stuck behind a bunch of slowpokes. Me, I would typically be 100 yards behind the pileup content as a clam while they jockeyed to get around the rolling chicane. Never understood why some drivers always need to be in such a hurry

Using cruse control a lot I have noticed a trend, someone will be approaching from behind, perhaps 5 mph faster then myself, sometimes more, whatever you get the idea. Then they will just level off to my speed when behind me instead of just pulling into the left lane and passing (which is what I want them to do). Some will eventually pass, some just hang there.

Try these two sites:

I am a fast driver (minimum of 10 over on an open highway, usually more like 15 though) and I am rarely surrounded by other such fast drivers. I get passed once in awhile, but for the most part I am the one doing most of the passing.

Selection Bias?

Once in awhile I get stuck in a pack, but I get around them sooner or later and I am off again. You only see people in general getting caught in the pack, but you don’t see how often an individual person gets caught. I would say 1 out 10 times, though that is pretty meaningless. Needless to say, much more often am I able to pass unhindered and only once in awhile do I get stuck behind traffic.

Same goes with traffic lights. Sometimes I pass you, only to have to stop, but more often than not, I make the light, and you (generic you) get stuck at the light.

Why am I in a hurry? I’m not, not really. I don’t drive super fast, just 5-7 mph over the limit, but I really hate going under the limit, and I would rather pass people than have to deal with them slowing down or stopping randomly and irrationally, and I don’t have to deal with them driving at inconsistent speeds.

On the highway I also hate driving next to Semi trucks, as they make me nervous and I feel they are dangerous to drive next to (how many times have I been almost run off the road because they didn’t see me in their rearview mirror), and slower traffic takes like 5+ minutes to pass a semi. If I get in front of you, pass the semi and slow back down a bit, I feel that I am in a safer situation. You may think it is irrational, but generally a person has a reason. (though sometimes it IS because they are a moron, or talking on a cell phone or something)

“Don’t hang out in the ‘No-Zone’!”

Also… “If you can’t see my mirror, I can’t see you!” (Another classic)

This raises an interesting point about the psycology of driving. I’ve noticed this phenomenum from the other persepective - on an open road i’ll drive faster but when i reach a car going at or slightly above the speed limit i’ll just speed match feeling like there is no need to overtake. The way i see it is that the act of overtaking is a much more concious decsion to speed than just allowing your speed to creep up on an open road.

What you are probably seeing IMO is people who are basically reminding themselves that they have no need to be going as fast as they were.

As to the OP, i’m not sure i really understand the question. Surely ‘packs’ such as you describe are due to the front driver driving slower than those behind him would like to? Is the cause not so much speed as a drivers refusal to return to the inside lane after overtaking? I’ve never driven in the US so maybe it’s different there but over here you are supposed to only ever use the left (your right) lane unless you are actually overtaking a vehicle.

Is suspect that a critical piece of info is needed to answer the OP: How fast is the pack going?

If the pack is going at a speed which you consider slow, then it is the fault of the slowpokes in front. If the pack is going at a speed which you consider fast, it is the fault of the nutcases in back.

Drivers will always be going different speeds; to each his own. However, only oblivious, idiotic or passive/aggressive drivers will hang out in the left lane right beside cars in the right lane, making it impossible for other drivers to pass. It’s not about the speed, it’s about the position relative to other cars. I reckon that there are a lot of people who just don’t understand or believe that you shouldn’t be in other people’s way if you can help it.

For this very reason I often find myself going slower – at least more tranquilly – on the open road with no other traffic. As soon as there’s some light traffic, I just can’t stand the risk of being behind someone that’s going to vary their speed, stay in the left lane, or other nonsense, and so I’m prone to going faster that I really want to (but not faster than I’m comfortable driving!), just to get around people. No other traffic in sight? Set the cruise control to 78 and just coast comfortabll to where I’m going.

I have a couple rules regarding big trucks:

If traffic is fast, twitchy, and close, I’d rather have the truck in front of me than behind me.

If a truck wants to get in, I’ll slow down a little to create a space and let it in. I do this for most people anyway. It’s an easy courtesy and it staves off desperation moves.

I never travel beside a truck. I either pass quickly and decisively or hang back.

That’s the rule in the US too but for various reasons some people stay in the passing lane longer than they should (if I can just get by this next car…).

Fast drivers are the only ones in the pack,and slow drivers are the only ones who cause it.

Really fast drivers are usually not in the pack, since they will swerve three lanes cross-traffic into the slow lane to avoid slowing down.

I saw this software running at a GIS show recently, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Green cars are moving fast, yellow cars are slower, and red are slowest or stopped. The guy clicked on a car and changed it’s status to “stalled” and you could watch the yellow and red pile up behind as cars had to change lanes to get around. Some started taking the exits to reroute around the stalled car.

I’d love to play with this software but it costs $10,000. Will somebody buy it for me?
From everything I’ve read a lot of traffic problems could be solved with rules like these:

  1. Stay out of the left lane except to pass.
  2. Don’t tailgate, if you brake the guy behind you brakes, etc.
  3. Combined entry/exit merge lanes are a bad thing.
  4. Don’t take away our lanes, try to keep 2 particular lanes for through traffic

I’ve noticed something common to pretty much any major trucking artery: there is a No Man’s Land, about 5-10mph either side of the posted limit, where you effectively cannot cruise. You either have to hang back at 50 with the lame and halt or jack it up to 75 and risk a cop stop. Go the limit and you will be forced into a constant cycle of pass and hang back.

I suspect the big rigs enforce this, perhaps without intending to.

It’d make a lot of sense. Around these parts through what we call “downtown” number 1, 2, and 4 get screwed up all at the same time due to some damn idiot’s brilliant idea of having left lane exit and entrance lanes! We can shoot for a 100% violation of all of these where one must exit from one freeway on the right, enter the next freeway on the right, and cross three lanes of traffic within 1/4 of a mile in order to exit on the left to yet a third freeway. Whew!

There are also a lot of people who do not acknowledge this rule and feel it is their right to use that lane whether they’re passing or not. This isn’t a Pit thread, so I’ll keep my opinion of those people to myself. Note also that the weight of this rule varies greatly from state to state, with it being merely polite convention in some states, an unenforced law in some, and an enforced law in others.

And absolutely meaningless in others. I mean, if people didn’t use the left lane for travel around here, the other lanes would have too many cars and everyone would end up going much slower. The capacity of the road includes that lane.