Indiana Driving Plus & Minus

On my way home from Fort Wayne tonight I ran into an awkward driving situation.
A police car with its lights on
I was on I-69 and near my exit, a police car had pulled someone over. Just as I was passing them, they took off. I ended up being in the left lane with the pullee ahead of me on the right and the puller right behind me in my blind spot. I was exiting the interstate in about a mile, so I needed to switch lanes.

It was very uncomfortable because I didn’t know how trigger-happy the police officer was. So, gulp, I turned on my right turn signal and accelerated above the speed limit so that I wouldn’t cut off the police car while I was changing lanes. Of course, the pullee was accelerating conservatively, making the merge even more awkward. Anyway, nothing bad happened.

So, this is where Indiana driving gets a ‘plus’. About a dozen years ago on the toll road I-80/90 across the north edge of the state, there was an accident where someone got killed by a truck passing too close to a stopped vehicle. (I remember that it was the man who had been principal of my high school.) The legislature passed a law that says that if an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, you need to either pull over to the other lane or slow down.

In practice, 95% of the time that means that drivers pull into the next lane. The behavior has generalized to other situations where someone is on the side of the road. I think this improves safety by reducing the situations that traffic passes too close to a stopped vehicle.

Indiana gets a ‘minus’ for a law that just started in 2015: If you are in the passing lane and someone comes up behind you, you have to get into the right lane. That sounded good (to someone), but it comes with a $500 fine and just to be perverse, the fact that the person coming behind you was speeding is not a defense.

The effect of this is to create a lot more tailgating on the highway. People get rude when they think the car in front of them isn’t getting out of the way fast enough. Lately, I’ve seen plenty of examples of 7 or 8 cars scrunched together in a space that probably should only have two. In addition, some people take the get out of the way edict too seriously and pull back out of the passing lane less than a car length ahead of the slower car. All in all, lots more tailgating to prevent a situation that is not very common.

I think this law is making things less safe, not more safe because of the increased possibility of chain-reaction accidents.

Original image: Police Car Lights. By Scott Davidson [Image license]

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