Picture yourself on one of our winding two-lane roads through the hills, and for some reason yours is not the only vehicle on the road. OK, so maybe it is a nice afternoon, and lots of other people are driving home from the beach. The weather is good and the pavement dry, so why is that guy in front driving no more than 40 miles an hour, and why does he get on the brakes for every gentle curve?
You are asking yourself this because you know that for the next 30 miles or so, there’s an unbroken double yellow line down the middle of the road. Which means you are going to be stuck in this caravan of road turtles for the foreseeable future. And you wish you could remember if there’s a section of the motor vehicle code that requires drivers to pull over once they have acquired a tail consisting of a certain number of vehicles.
From when you learned to drive in the mountains of Southern California — in the middle of the century before this — you vaguely recall that the rule used to be “five.” You see five cars trailing you on a two-lane, you’re supposed to get out of the way and let them go by. No such rule seems to be in force on this particular road on this particular afternoon, or if it does the leader of our parade has not heard of it or is choosing to ignore it.
Weeks later, you are looking for vindication in the DMV’s Oregon driver’s manual. And yes, there it is: “Watch for congestion behind you if you drive slower than the designated speed,” the manual says. “Pull off the road at the first area where it is safe to turn out and let the traffic behind you pass. The overtaking driver must obey the speed law.”
The admonition is welcome, but it is weak because it is vague. “Congestion? What congestion?” you can picture the guy in front saying to himself. “I look in the mirror and see six or seven cars, tops. Big deal.”
The good thing is that despite poking along at 40 mph, even a long drive eventually ends. But it sure would be nice if on the subject of slow drivers giving way to those behind them on two-lane roads, the DMV was more precise. (hh)