Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Tailgating saga
generates a convoy
of angry e-mails

In Wednesday's (Nov. 14) "Kokua Line," a man complained about being tailgated and cut off by another driver while driving 52 mph in the left lane of the H-1 freeway. A dozen readers (all male) responded, all chastising the complainant (many assumed erroneously it was a woman) for driving too slow in the "fast" lane and, essentially, provoking the tailgater.

Three of the respondents were especially livid, including Bill, who e-mailed that the driver "deserved to get tailgated," while another reader wrote, "Get out of the left lane! It is 'idiots' like you that cause stress on others."

Larry was more temperate, advising, "He should have moved to the right lane. He had no business being in the extreme left lane, which is the passing lane."

David called with this observation: "The speed limit is either 50 or 55 mph in that area, but realistically, most cars are going 60-65 mph. To travel slow in the high-speed lane is to invite disaster, frustration and an accident. In Europe, if you do this, you will be ticketed and fined severely. If you pass on the right on the freeway in Europe, you will also be pulled over and cited for reckless driving. The far left lane is a high-speed lane and a passing lane."

Another caller said he's driven all over the mainland and Canada and, "If I did the same thing this person who complained did, I would have been run over. She is not the police. It's not her job to hold down the speed of other drivers. She's causing the problem by clogging that lane. ... We have a lot of dumb drivers."

Yet another man speculated the complainant "probably was not paying attention to traffic behind her and slowing everybody up. If you're matching traffic speed to the right of you, then maybe you should be in the lane over rather than in the faster-moving lane and have them cut around you, which is dangerous."

That all said, Honolulu police Capt. Bryan Wauke responded, "Nobody deserves to be tailgated, because all (the tailgater is) doing is endangering themselves and the other driver." (The penalty for tailgating is a $77 fine.)

By law, "slower" drivers should keep to the right. Section 291C-41(b) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes addresses the topic of driving on the right side: "Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway."

"Normal," in practice, may not be the speed limit, as Dave pointed out, but, depending on where you are on the H-1, the maximum speed limit set by law is 50 or 55 mph, Wauke said. Speeding, in general, "is the culture we have to overcome," he said.

Depending on where he was, the driver in question was either slightly above or slightly below the speed limit, Wauke said.

That may be galling for many drivers, but the Honolulu Traffic Code sets the minimum speed to drive in other than the far right lane at 5 mph below the posted speed limit.

Specifically, Section 15-7.4 (c) states: "Whenever any roadway is clearly marked for two or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, no person driving a motor vehicle in the lane or lanes other than the extreme right lane shall travel at a speed which is five miles per hour or more below the maximum stated speed, e.g., below 30 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour speed limit zone or below 40 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit zone, except when otherwise directed by a police officer or any other persons authorized to direct, control or regulate traffic, or when a reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, or in compliance with the law."

Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered.
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