Driving Psychology and Insurance – Lane Selection

driving psychology and insurance lane selection

Welcome to Ben’s Chronicles

Hello! I’m Ben from EINSURANCE. Trust me, I know there are plenty of things we’d both probably rather be doing than discussing insurance. But although insurance gets a bad rap, it does have its benefits; especially when you find the right coverage and carrier.

Unfortunately, throughout my life I have had a knack for being at the wrong place, at the right time. Given my gravitational pull toward bad luck, I wanted to share a few of my life experiences with you in hopes that my bad luck could benefit you. So, bear with me over the upcoming weeks, because I’ll be sharing little nuggets I’ve learned through navigating the insurance world. If my mishaps and theories don’t directly help answer any of your insurance related questions, I promise they’ll make you laugh, albeit at my expense…

If you would like me to discuss a specific topic, feel free to email me at [email protected].

Today our topic is:

Driving Psychology and Insurance – Lane Selection

The Fast Lane?

This is another article in the continuing series of discussions about Driving Psychology. In this article we discuss the complex decision making process of lane selection on the highway. Buckle up we are in deep psychology now!

Just picture in your mind the wonderful Federal Highway system that was built in the Eisenhower Administration, and many would say needs major improvement. Creation was long before the fuel crisis and the SUV craze and the hybrid car, not to mention electric cars. When they were built, the roads were generally built with fewer lanes and they were not so much designed for Commuting as they were for National Defense, at least the Army does not need to pay the tolls we hope.

Today it is a much different story. From Portland Maine to San Diego California, we have some massive roads designed to take millions of people from one place to another without stopping. There are many good and bad stories about the many techniques for driving on these roads. We will just scrape the surface here.

In a calmer and simpler day we worried more about whether our car would make the whole trip rather than how fast we could go or which lane would get us to our destination quicker. Now however, there are many issues to contend with and lane selection is just one. Don’t smile this is serious business for many commuters!

Initial Lane Selection

Without being too pedantic, we start with the on ramp. We could go all the way back to birth and analyze if your mother paid you enough attention, but that is the basis of another story. The on ramp is generally one lane but in many more crowded locations it can be two or three lanes, signage can be a challenge. We begin our journey with the pressing question of which on ramp lane to select. You might as well start with the left hand lane, since the others merge ultimately into your lane anyhow.  Fortunately, the slow drivers generally gravitate to the right so you can get some speed up in the left lane getting ready for the big merge!

Cautionary Note: Drivers of new sports cars very much enjoy using the on ramp to test whether the car they bought really goes from Zero to Sixty in 4 seconds. They paid for that horsepower and they want to use it.

Merger Mania

As you approach the merge onto the Frontage Road, or the Main Expressway proceed with caution and look for a gap in the traffic to merge into. If this new venue is moving quickly, make sure you are moving at the same speed as that traffic to avoid many drivers questioning your parentage or worse. If this desired roadway is moving slowly or just creeping along please refer to the Merger Mania article for some thoughts on Merger Mania and the etiquette of merging.

The Right Lane

You are now in the right lane of the expressway.

Cautionary Note: There are a few crazy locations in Chicago for instance, where the wizards of road design dump you into the left lane (instead of the right lane) of a quickly moving highway, seemingly for the fun of seeing what happens.

At first when you enter the right lane there will usually be an excess of recently merged cars, so be careful.

Cautionary Note: A favorite design flaw of vintage road plan wizards is to put the expressway off ramp just after the feeder on ramp in a clover-leaf design. This is a favorite accident location; those entering the roadway are possibly hit in their blind spot, by those exiting expressway drivers.

OK so you made it on the expressway without incident, congratulations! You are in the right lane and you are moving forward we hope. Now comes lane selection.

In the old days drivers were courteous and a slow driver would try to stay out of the way of a fast driver, and therefore the right lane became known as the slow lane. Baby Boomers were younger then and did not have to prove to anyone that they could still drive. Today some older drivers, who should know the slow lane convention, insist on driving slowly in the middle or God forbid the fast lane, assuming that their mere presence in those lanes means they are good drivers. (The spouse usually has their eyes closed in fear for their life.) If you find yourself behind one of them, politely put on your blinker and move around them, trying to avoid startling them with your speed or hand gestures for fear they will turn their heads and side-swipe you. No horn please.

So now there is somewhat clear road ahead of you and you are doing at least the speed limit.

Cautionary Note: Speed limits are also a thing of the past. In California if you are not going at least 80mph on a freeway you are an inferior driver. Though the speed limit is 55mph, and the police are watching you all the time, they do not seem to care. Be respectful though if they get you for a dead light bulb or testing your car at 100mph.

As you approach another car or series of cars in front of you, it is time to employ lane logic. Listed below are some of the psychologies to know when choosing a lane on a highway.

Lane Selection Logic

  1. A Personalities: Most A Type personalities cannot stand to be second in line or going slowly in the pursuit of a goal. Therefore they travel in the fast lane mostly and ride the brake. This creates unusual brake light activity in the fast lane which means the lane slows down, becoming the slow lane.
  2. Two Footed Driver: While a rare breed, this person likes to drive with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. If you are behind one of these, you will be ready to scream when they speed up and brake at the same time.
  3. The Weaver: Some drivers are doing a mating dance. They are looking for the ideal car to follow.  When they pull up behind you, they make an assessment of your style and speed of your car and decide if they like you or want to pass. The easiest way to please these drivers is to drive a nice car for them to look at.
  4. The Teenager: There are at least three types of teenage highway drivers:
    • The distracted Teen: His/her companion is crowding the seat and their mind is elsewhere.
    • The Cautious Teen: They are deathly afraid of their parents and what would happen if they got a ticket or in an accident.
    • The Joy Rider: This teen has watched too many chase movies and is sure they can do it themselves.

Try to steer clear of each of these; statistically they are an accident waiting to happen, especially if there is more than one teen in the car.

  1. The Drunk: Too many times you come across a car in your lane that does not seem to know which lane or lanes they want to occupy. All you can do is steer clears of these inebriated individuals. Typically it is better to have them behind you than in-front.
  1. Cext Drivers: Generally speaking in the morning, you can be reasonably certain that the crazy driver in front of you is either a Cext Driver or a groomer. They will drive you insane with the lack of logic in their driving. They will speed up and slow down at random unpredictable times.

Obviously you hope you do not encounter any of these types on the road but you will. Keep these types in mind and you will be able to navigate the lanes more effectively.

The Best Lane

Armed with this information you will find that your lane selection will vary with the environment. In New Jersey for instance where there are many A type personalities, you should drive in the slow lane. You will note that the Casino Buses all drive in the slow lane and are way ahead of you by the time you exit. In California, the fast lane is indeed a fast lane, but it is somewhat academic since all the lanes are in perpetual grid lock. Then you have the Midwest, where the fast lane is usually under construction because they never take down the construction cones.

A few tips that can be helpful:

  1. Heavy traffic: The middle lane is usually the best as it gives you the best options, given all the crazy drivers noted above.
  2. Lane Selection: The best lane varies by region. When you move into a new region, start with the Middle Lane. The left and right lanes are somewhat safer lanes as they have other drivers only on one side, but remember the A personalities are in the left lane.
  3. Do not Cext!
  4. Do not drive with a gun in your car unless you have proper certification to do so.
  5. Do not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs!
  6. Take public transportation!
  7. Don’t leave home without insurance, it’s a crazy world out there.

Please share your favorite technique for Lane Selection.

About David Thompson

David Thompson is President and CEO of eINSURE Services, Inc. Dave is on the Board of Directors of AmerInst Insurance Group, Bermuda and is Chairman of the Underwriting Committee, as well as co-inventors of RINITS, a new insurance securitization product. He has a history of creating successful new ventures in the insurance business.