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MATT HELMS: Poll shows top slowpokes are driving a Buick next is the Marquis

MATT HELMS: Poll shows top slowpokes are driving a Buick

February 25, 2004

We're not encouraging dangerous speeding. But hey, the left lane is for passing, which generally implies driving faster than others on the road.

Some people don't care about that. They're oblivious or, at worst, they're the self-appointed keepers of the speed who take policing the law into their own hands, keeping others at or near the speed limit.

When you're stuck in the left lane behind someone going way too slow, chances are we know exactly what they are driving.

According to our unscientific poll, it's a Mercury Grand Marquis or a Buick Century, followed by a Ford Crown Victoria.

Those were the top vote-getters in last week's Driving Today poll that asked: If you're stuck behind someone going too slow in the left lane, which vehicle is that person most likely driving?

There was equal disdain for minivan drivers and those big conversion vans, though no particular model was singled out.

With minivans, "it's the attitude of the kids-first soccer mom who thinks, '60 is the only safe speed to go, and I'm going to make all of you drive it for your own good,' " writes Rebecca Heberlein-Rollins of Canton.

The driver of a 2002 Ford Focus adds: "I'm from Ann Arbor, and I used to go to school in Kalamazoo. Every single time I'd go on one of those long drives home on I-94 I'd get stuck behind a minivan going 60 in the left lane who won't get over for anyone. And invariably there would be a near miss from infuriated drivers having to pass them on the right. I don't care what anyone says, having to suddenly slam on your brakes on the freeway due to someone going 10 m.p.h. under the speed limit in the left lane is very dangerous."

Other drivers were more particular, like Larry Achram of Grosse Ile, who says it's frequently a Saturn that curbs his enthusiasm.

"I guess it makes some sense, because I believe that the brand was intended for those who do not even like cars and driving," says Achram, who drives a Chrysler Crossfire. "Just recently, I experienced a Saturn blocking each of the three lanes ahead of me."

But by far, the brand that got the most votes was Buick. Betty Laughren of Westland says she knows why.

"I confess: I'm the one driving in the left lane if there isn't a center lane available," says Laughren, who drives a 1992 Buick Roadmaster. "I'm not driving the speed limit. I'm driving 5 over and I still get dirty looks. I feel I should get a gold star because I'm keeping the other drivers from getting speeding tickets."

Another reader, who understandably didn't want to upset her ride to work, wrote: "You must have followed my carpool driver! He does exactly what you said, in a white Buick Century! Big pickup trucks zoom around him, cut in close, make funny gestures with their hands, but he just doesn't get it!"

What is it that he doesn't get?

It's this: Speeding is illegal, of course, but so many people do it that we have evolved customs that most folks observe. Getting out of the way in the left lane is one of them, whether you call it the passing lane or the fast lane.

Is it irresponsible to talk about this? Does it encourage speeding? Maybe, in a small way, but no amount of columns encouraging people to slow down would really make much of a dent.

I'm all for safe driving. I'm also a realist.

Remember, folks, this is just a quick tally of responses from 101 Driving Today readers. Based on that, it's clear you equate Buick sedans and Lincoln and Mercury's bigger vehicles with slow driving.

To be fair, there was only one mention of the Dodge Stratus. Hopefully, it wasn't mine.

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