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January 06, 2009


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You speak the real truth here. What these idiots that run our roads (MTO, the police, JPs) don't actually understand is that by doing this they WOULD in fact GREATLY reduce "irritation, lane-swapping, tailgating, road rage and other driving irritants" on our roads.

There is nothing worse than when you're in the left lane driving behind some tool doing 103km/h in a big truck/SUV and then a couple flicks of the high-beams does nothing but cause them to slam on the brakes or do nothing. Then, when you proceed to pass them on the right, and accelerate past them, they will match your speed or exceed it ever so slightly, so that when you need to get back into the left lane, you have 3 options: either cut into the left lane, coming extremely close to the idiot, slam on the brakes to not hit the car in front, or move into the right lane, causing an even more dangerous situation. Had some police officer given that idiot a ticket for not wanting to get out of the left lane, then maybe he wouldn't behave like such a moron.

Unfortunately, until someone who actually DRIVES in Toronto, and doesn't get taxied around everywhere or actually enjoys driving properly, gets into a position where they could propose laws that would NORMALIZE driving in Ontario, we won't get any laws of the sort. :(

Oh, and there's also that whole problem of driver education in Ontario. Teaching a new student to do 100 on the highway does not make them feel safe at 100. Teaching a student to do 120-130 on the highway will make them feel safe at 100. But of course, no driving instructor wants to lose his teaching license or risk getting a ticket to actually teach their students how to drive well. You know how they teach people to drive safely at 150km/h on the Autobahn in Germany? The driving instructors explicitly make you drive at 200km/h. And yes, it's in the curriculum.

Driving perception difference between here and Europe
Here (Ontario, probably some other provinces and states in the US as well)
Driving is a RIGHT and everyone has the RIGHT to drive if they're even remotely apt enough to operate a moving vehicle under stupidly easy government standards. A new driver can take the G1-exit course after their G1 for a mere $300 which at minimum wage would be some 40 hours of work; essentially a week or two or work. What this means, is that it is relatively easily accessible to anyone. And with the 20 hour in-class portion and the pathetic 10-hour in-car portion, if you have enough free time, you can get this all done in less than a month. Did I happen to mention that this course is NOT mandatory to be allowed to drive on our roads? You only have to take it if you want to get out on the road SOONER. See how pitifully easy that is?

Driving is a PRIVILEGE and you are only allowed to drive on the road if your tester believes you can move along with traffic in a safe and efficient manner. Meaning, you have to be GOOD enough to drive to be allowed to drive. A new driver can usually only be allowed to drive if they pass a rigorous knowledge test (unlike our crappy G1 test), and has to pay several THOUSAND Euros (roughly twice that in Canadian dollars) to be taught how to drive by a driving instructor (who actually knows how to drive). At minimum wage (say the price is $4000 Canadian), you would have to work for approximately 500 hours (12-13 weeks full-time) before making that amount, which is already a hugely significant investment of time. After that you have to take in-class time, which should roughly be the same as ours, AND another 50-100 hours (depending on the country) of driving lessons. Provided you could drive all day, every day, you could get through the course in a minimum of 3 weeks. See the difference? In Europe, it's a sizable investment of your time (and money), to learn how to drive, and if taken at a normal pace, takes close to a year to fully complete. Which means you have the time to adjust your MIND to driving.

I know it's a lot to understand, but I only wish we did follow Europe near exactly in our driving laws and practices.

Mike T.

Jim, of course, again, you're right. I travel the Woodstock-London stretch of the 401 weekly and probably 90% of all drivers use the center lane for all their driving. I can't speak for them but I'll assume they think that if they sit there they will suffer less inconveniences than if they use any other lane. I'm always in the Jim lane (the right hand one and it should be renamed "the Jim & Mike lane") and as the 401 isn't always too busy down here, I have it all to myself quite often. I do 90% of my passing there. This, of course, is quite legal under HTA 150 (1).

Let's see what the Driver's Handbook says about the center lane bandits - "Traffic should keep to the right, using the left lanes for passing......Drive in the right-hand lane when possible.....Get into the habit of driving in the right lane, leaving the other lanes clear for passing."

Maybe it should tell all drivers that it's an offence NOT to do this (HTA 147(1) and 148(2)).

One only has to read the Letters section in last weekend's Wheels newspaper section to realize that probably most drivers think that the center lane is the better lane of choice. Don't these self-professed experts ever read ANYTHING about the driving rules? Of course they don't and never will.

Unless the MTO and the cops start to enforce HTA 147(1) then nothing will change. The roads will continue to be unnecessarily plugged up, tempers will flare, truckers will rage (after all this is their ONLY passing lane!) and the morons will cruise the center lane in bliss.

Maybe Julian should take this up as his cause - it would be far more useful than the last couple of boondoggles he's been grandstanding over.


It may not be rocket surgery but driving in general, for the majority of the population, certainly seems to be brain science.

I am a former 115Km/h 400 series driver. For the past year I have stuck to driving the speed limit in the Kenzie lane, changing lanes only to pass slower moving traffic.

I can't count the number of vehicles I pass on the right as they putt putt along in the middle or left lanes. I can certainly see how somebody driving 120+ could get extremely frustrated trying to get from point A to B.

Perhaps we need a driving lockout (similar to the hockey lockout). It certainly worked for the NHL. They came back with the exact same product but they started actually enforcing the rules and all of a sudden everybody's calling it the new NHL. Why can't we do that with drivers? Make everybody take a driving test again. Fail & you don't get your license back. Think of the jobs created at the ministry of transportation when everybody in Ontario is forced into retesting. Not to mention all the painters that will be needed from Windsor to Quebec.

Chris F

I completely agree with your article, particularly that the key is better enforcement.
Recently I had the pleasure of driving in Europe for a week. A relative who is notorious for driving in whatever lane they please went to great lengths to notify me beforehand to be really careful in this particular country, as they were very strict in enforcing a "left for passing only" rule there. I told this person that I was well aware of this rule, as this behaviour is expected in Ontario as well. The response was complete shock that Ontario had such a rule. So perhaps better driver education in Ontario would help a bit as well.

A few further observations:
Traffic moved much more efficiently in Europe, and at a much higher pace, and I am convinced this was partly due to the fact that drivers were MUCH more aware of their surroundings while driving (perhaps this is related to not driving automatics...but that is a conversation for another day). It was also partly likely due to officers there being more concerned about real highway hazards (driving in whatever lane at whatever speed, never yielding, etc.), then simply policing high speed.

Geoff (Vancouver)

Great message. I agree whole-heartedly. Around Vancouver the least crowed lane is the right one and the most crowded, ..... the left. Somehow we have to get the message out there to keep right &/or move right when being passed. It boils down to consideration, something society seems to have lost sight of.


Jim, I agree that the lanes need to be remarked. That is the biggest problem.
In Nova Scotia the passing lane is on the left (at least it was years ago) and when the road narrows it is the left lane that disappears. It is up to the maniacs to merge back in and not the civilized people who can simply remain in the right hand lane until their exit.
Having said that the right hand lane on 400 series and similar highways (especially in urban areas) is the scariest lane to drive in because of those who do not just merge, but immediately cut across several lanes to get to the left lane, and then at the last moment cut back across several lanes to catch their exit, often crossing the median. Add to that the wannabe race car drivers who weave in and out of merging traffic to save a few seconds.
It is also frustrating (and dangerous) to have to keep changing lanes because the right lane disappears and reappears so often.
By the way, increasing speed, does not increase capacity. The legal limit is one car every two seconds (actually three is recommended.)


Jim, looks like "your lane" is wide open in the photo... Thanks for continuing to push on this issue.

Your paragraph:
"Passing lanes? Well, you add them on the left when you need them; when you don't need them any more, then THEY should disappear, FROM the left."
Reminded me when 401 East somewhere around Markham/Morningside had a left lane that ended (merging right). This was before the express/collectors were brought out east. In my years of driving through that stretch, this always seemed to work great, and was a much smoother merge than typically occurs on the right. Probably related to the car moving FASTER doing the merging. Whodathunkit?


I'm a daily driver of the 400 series highways, QEW included, and it's pretty bad. My fear is it's only going to get even worse when they put in the HOV lanes on the QEW between Burlington and Oakville, the stretch of highway I drive constantly.

Sean McConnell

No addition to this excellent article is necessary.... BUT (if I may) one more tidbit of information could be valuable to the "centre-laner's" out there. The centre lane is the TRUCKERS PASSING LANE! They are not allowed to use the far left lane AT ALL.

Every time someone recites some story about having a transport truck mere inches off their rear bumper, I say, "I bet you were cruisin' in the centre lane, eh?" Of course I am quickly dismissed as some kind of freak for seemingly justifying WHY a trucker would "rage" like that. After all, cars are allowed to pick any lane they want, right? Wrong!

I butt heads now and then with a friend of mine (a 30-year traffic cop - now retired) and even HE prefers the centre lane. He went so far as to dispute my claim that it was illegal. So if the police don't even recognize the importance of "keep-right-except-to-pass" we conscientious drivers don't stand a chance!

Sean McConnell

Jim Kenzie

Hi Sean:

Just a wee point of clarification - the far left lane (if there are three or more) on freeways is prohibited to large trucks only in certain defined urban areas.

But otherwise, you're right.

And the police's unfamiliarity with the HTA and their often blatant disregard for it in their own driving sure don't help matters.

Jim Kenzie


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