The overwhelming majority of people who drive on paved, lined thoroughfares have no difficulty staying on “their” side of the road… drunks, student drivers and the chronically distracted are exceptions, of course. However, I have been noticing a phenomenon near our home that has baffled me for years. The street one takes to access our neighborhood is a wide UNLINED street. About half of the people I have followed down this street as I am heading home drift over to the left side of the street and drive straight toward oncoming traffic as if they are totally unaware how far afield they really are. They are always at least half-way across the “imaginary line” that should be painted on the street… some are very near the left-hand curbing. (Alas, I have riden with my fiancee when he has done the same thing, and he is normally an absolute safety Nazi!!!)
Anyone have ANY idea what elicits this type of carelessness in people who are (I’m sure) probably otherwise safe drivers?
When I was first learning to drive, I was concerned because I couldn’t figure out how to tell if I was in the center of the lane, not being able to judge distances on the passenger side of the vehicle. My dad gave me a clue: Don’t try to judge distances on that side, just see if you’re the proper distance on the driver’s side. You can trust the lane to be the proper width, so you don’t need to worry about being centered.
If a driver is using this philosophy, but there’s no line on the driver side, it would easily explain why he would drift toward the middle, since he would not be checking the passenger-side distance.
We have a weird street like that by our house. It is a hill, and right on the downside of the hill it curves slightly - so slightly that most drivers don’t notice until they are partway down the hill and in the middle of the lane. I come up the hill from my house and turn onto this street hoping that nobody is coming over the hill at a fast rate of speed - it is truly scary.
In my neighborhood, all the streets are unlined and all are about three lanes wide. Parking laws are not enforced so there is usually the occasional car parked at random along either side of the street. Therefore it is easier to drive down the middle rather than weave to one side or the other as the parked cars dictate. I don’t often see cars drift all the way over to the left, though.
Is this a residential street? I always drive in the middle of the street. Line or no line, I’m paranoid about kids (or dogs) coming out between parked cars. If I meet a car coming the other way, I move over.
On dirt country roads in Australia, I’ll drive right in the middle unless I’m approaching a blind bend or crest. These roads are narrow, and tend to have a heavy camber. There is loose dirt and gravel to the sides (often with a ditch), so the centre is the safest place. When passing an oncoming car, not only do we both pull left, but we also slow right down. On bitumen roads though, I always stay left, and haven’t noticed the “centre creeping” phenomenon.
I’ve noticed a similar thing wherein many people drive the 2 lane with a left turn lane in the middle traffic arteries with their left wheels in the left turn lane. I don’t understand that.
friedo, some cop memoir I read once mentioned the cops being aware that new drivers often stayed too far to the left, the apparent feeling being that they were unused to judging where the right side of the car was.
If the road is cambered (arched), there’s place at the center of the arch where the pull on the steering from the lefthand slope and the righthand slope cancel each other. That makes it easy to drive along the center. Once all your tires are on one side of the centerline or the other, they’ll all pull the same way, and you’ll tend to drift toward the road’s edge.
The street in question is as flat as a pancake. I drive it nearly every day and there is no pull in one direction or another. I have also noticed that it doesn’t seem to matter whether there are cars parked on either side or not. A few days ago, I had followed a guy (not stalking, just following as we were going the same way) for a few miles. He was conscientious about turn signals, safe distances, and staying in his own lane… until we got on 17th Avenue. Within one block, he was 3/4 of the way into the left lane and nearly hit an oncoming car. This near-accident did not shake him back into reality… he continued down the left side of the street past my turn-off. Scary stuff!