Bob vs. Light-Flickers
Bust Bob's Chops

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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Bob-bob-bob, bob-bob buran.
On February 26, 1999, Bob Levey said:

"People want to see pavement in front of them... So when they become fire-breathing light-flickers... it's because they feel hemmed in and trapped when they're following another car."

Hello. My name is Mario, and I'm a fire-breathing light-flicker.

Many people speculate about what it would take to turn an average citizen into such a beast. Let me discuss their theories for a moment before I get into my own confession.

Is it because I feel superior to other cars, and I flash my lights to torment or blind the drivers? No. I couldn't care less about the other drivers, nor do I want to make it any harder for them to drive.

Is it because I'm aggressive and I naturally seek to turn any encounter into a conflict? No. The last thing I need is a conflict on the road. I don't think you want one, either.

Is it because I feel claustrophobic and I need to see a nice clear piece of tarmac in front of me? No. In fact, I prefer to travel in groups. It's safer that way.

I'm a fire-breathing light-flicker for one reason: I am going faster than you are.

If I flick my lights at you, then that means we must both be in the left lane. Because if we're in any other lane, I will pass on the left. I will not pass on the right except when absolutely necessary, because that is dangerous. It will leave me in your blind spot longer, and it increases the chances of two cars trying to merge into one lane at the same time. Surely you have seen this. It can be avoided by minimizing the need to switch lanes to the right.

Traffic flows better with slower traffic keeping right. How slow you go should indicate how far to the right you should be. And this speed, by the way, is relative to other cars. Not the speed limit signs. Which are you concerned about, the small metal sign safely in the median or the 10-ton tractor trailer bearing down on you? If you are the only person on the road trying to maintain the speed limit, then you should be in the far-right lane. This should be a no-brainer. It is for your own safety.

Traffic which is being overtaken should naturally move to the right, if only long enough for the faster traffic to pass. When I blink my lights at you, it is not because I am a fire-breather. It is because I suspect you did not see me coming. This is fine. I do not expect you to be glued to your rearview mirror. You have other things going on.

But when I know I am overtaking, I may blink my lights well in advance, in order to get your attention. It is not intended to be rude or hostile; it is intended to provide you with a valuable piece of information which you may not have previously had. There Is A Car Coming.

This works in most parts of the country but unfortunately the results are definitely mixed around Washington. A Maryland or D.C. driver almost never moves over; Virginians often will. Unfortunately, some people view this courtesy as a threat. They may refuse to budge, which results in getting passed on the right and bad feelings all around. A few people even get belligerent by trying to catch up with the faster car and blinking the lights in return. As if the faster car was deliberately taunting them.

The safe and sensible thing to do is recognize that the faster driver is not threatening you; I am alerting you to my presence. This gives you the opportunity to smoothly move to the right and allow a safe pass. If it's not a race, then why object to being passed?

Believe it or not, I get passed too. I try to see them coming and make way, but occasionally I'm distracted and need a little "reminder" myself. There is no shame in this. It is driver communication. We are not isolated in our cars.

A little courtesy can make our roads a lot safer.