Road Rage 2.0

What is proper driving etiquette when two lanes turn into one on Route 422?

I always have to laugh when I read the letters to Dear Abby that begin: “Dear Abby: Please settle an argument between me and my husband.” I laugh because no matter what Abby says, it won’t settle the argument between the writer and her husband. It will just cause the writer’s husband to switch from saying, “You’re an idiot” to saying “Dear Abby is an idiot.” No self-respecting American has ever been swayed by an expert opinion, or even a battery of expert opinions. It’s the anti-authority streak in us; we don’t care what the experts say.

Still, we seek out expert opinions. And that’s what I did after a Philly Post item I wrote earlier this week, about the behavior of drivers on Route 422, resulted in a bunch of comments calling me an idiot. In the post, I bemoaned the behavior of drivers who, in the recent flurry of bridge-construction lane closings on the road in question, don’t try to sidle into the slow-moving, non-closing left lane as soon as signs announce RIGHT LANE CLOSED 1 MILE AHEAD, but instead gun it down that right lane all the way to the big blinking yellow arrow. The commenters told me I was the problem, not the solution — that good driving DEMANDS you roar up that right lane all the way to the arrow — and that I should, more or less, get the hell off the road.[SIGNUP]

I’m a fairly decent driver, I think, but under the onslaught of criticism, I became uncertain: What is the accepted protocol for that situation? Should I merge as soon as I’m able, or should I ride the clearer right-hand lane as long as I can? What’s best, not just for me, but for all the drivers on the road? So I turned to the experts. Specifically, I called the Blue Bell Driving School, where I posed my question to owner and driving instructor Bob Campbell, who promptly responded: “Get into the lane that continues as early as possible.” Yeah, Bob!

But — what if Bob was a maverick? Just to be sure I’d been doing the right thing, I checked with Meg Kramer, owner of the StreetSafe Driving Academy in Bryn Mawr, who’s also a certified driving instructor. “That is correct,” Meg said of my merge-early instinct, noting that my question drove at the heart of a bigger problem: the anonymity people feel behind the wheel, that makes us behave in ways we wouldn’t ordinarily. “We deal with this every day when we’re teaching drivers. It’s infinitely worse out there than it used to be.”

I wasn’t sure, though, that Meg’s and Bob’s opinions would be enough to sway the minds of my commenter-critics. So when Meg offered me the opportunity to speak with another of her driving instructors, John Tucci, I jumped at the chance. John, you see, is no ordinary driving instructor; he’s also a Lower Merion cop. And while John acknowledged there’s no law governing merge etiquette, he told me I’d touched on one of his pet peeves. “You should get over into the other lane as soon as you see the sign,” he said — because that makes traffic flow more smoothly, which is what’s best for everyone involved.

So there. And while I’m perfectly aware that you, 422Bob and Harris and the rest, are busy saying, “Well, Meg and Bob are idiots,” I bet you wouldn’t call John an idiot—at least, not to his face. Not in Lower Merion, anyway.