Thursday, March 5, 2009


Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Saturday, August 18, 2007
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

Most Northeast Phoenix residents have been caught up in rush hour traffic on Arizona 51. That traffic snarl is usually not the result of an accident, but more the result of inconsiderate or incompetent drivers.

The posted speed on the 51 from Loop 101 to the Northern Avenue exit is 65 mph. At its widest points, the 51 is six lanes.

Yet, be it Sunday afternoon or 4 a.m. on a weekday morning, there seems to be some nincompoop doing 50 or 55 in the farthest passing lane. This, let us politely call him or her a jerk, slows down traffic and that results in rush-hour snarls.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Spokesman Harold A. Sanders said, "There is no law in Arizona that designates passing lanes."

Sanders said the reference to passing lanes is in the Arizona Department of Transportation's driver's license handbook, but is not a state law.

So all those people in the left lanes doing 50 have all the legal right in the world to impede those who may do the traditional, although illegal, speed limit plus 5.

There's another reason to talk to your state legislator.

Sanders said, "The law only delineates that a motor vehicle should travel at not less than the minimum speed and yield to faster moving vehicles when possible."

I'm not an expert on Arizona Revised Statutes, but I've never seen a posted minimum speed on the 51.

"I do not agree at all with your assessment of the abilities of drivers who use State Route 51," Sanders said about my attitude toward people who use the left lane.

My attitude is that these are usually the same inconsiderate people who are smoking with one hand and talking on the cellphone with the other.

"Your assessment of the driving problem is extremely inaccurate, and there is no factual statistical analysis to support your perception."

That said, I did not mention my other attitude that in some cases it is the slow drivers that may contribute to horrendous accidents on our freeways.

When I first started reporting in New Mexico, I covered a minister and his wife killed by a drunken driver doing over 100 on Interstate 25 in Valencia County. The couple's vehicle was rear ended by the vehicle. Memory fails as to which lane the couple was in.

I also don't know what speed the couple was traveling, but I'd be willing to bet it was not as fast as the vehicle that rear-ended theirs. That makes practical sense.

From that incident, I developed an attitude that somewhere, sometime, while I'm driving, there is going to be someone doing over 100 mph who wants to use that left lane.

I stay to the right as much as possible, unless I am passing. I'm not afraid to merge with other traffic that is entering the highway.

I respect Sanders' opinion, but would like to pick at it a little. If you squeeze a garden hose, water rushes out one end and is forced back in another.

My concept of those doing 50 in the left lane is that the person doing 120 must go somewhere when they come upon that person doing 50, and it could be into my car in the right lane.

So, as Arlo Guthrie sang in Alice's Restaurant, it is time to start a movement. Let's hear from all those drivers who are tired of traffic being backed up by inconsiderate, in my opinion, drivers who plod away in the left lanes on our freeways.

Don't call me or Sanders. Neither one of us can do anything about this. It is time to start a conversation with your Arizona state legislator. This is a great icebreaker if you never have.

Richard Kelleher is a media relations specialist and former journalist who lives and works in Northeast Phoenix.