There you are in the left lane of a three-lane expressway. You have just finished passing a relative slowpoke in the middle lane. You don't want to sit in the left lane all day, so you start to ease one lane to your right.
Suddenly, you notice that another car is moving from the right lane into the center lane. You are about to sideswipe each other.
Who has the right of way in such a situation?
Would you believe that, even in this overregulated Middle Atlantic world of ours, there's no official answer?
Says Howard MacDonald of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration: "Always, the car on the right has the right of way," although he concedes that "we don't have a law exactly" for the Middle Lane Crunch situation described above.
MacDonald's maxim: "Better to be right than dead right."
In Virginia, George Cooper of the Department of Motor Vehicles examiners' office agrees that, in theory, the driver moving from right to center has the right of way. But safety is the standard in the Old Dominion. Neither seeker of the middle lane is supposed to move there until the way is clear, Cooper says.
Of course, safety must be the paramount consideration. Rules are only guideposts; your eyes and reflexes are still the tools that will keep you in one piece.
Even so, I think both states should resolve the Middle Lane Crunch situation by officially awarding the right of way to the Left Laner.
In every other respect, on every multi-lane highway I've ever met, the driver in the left lane has the right of way. His relatively greater speed entitles him to it. Our "keep right except to pass" laws entitle him to it. Why should the Left Laner relinquish the right of way for one maneuver and one maneuver only?
The Middle Lane Crunch question isn't analogous to a four-way stop. There, the car on the right can be given the right of way because both cars have come to a halt, each driver can easily see the other and each can tell which one arrived at the intersection first.
On the open road, however, it's extremely dangerous for a driver moving from left to center to look to his far right. The driver must take his eyes away from the road and away from the mirror to do that. I'll do one or the other, but not both at once.
Meanwhile, of course, the driver moving from right to center only has to look briefly to his left to see if the way is clear -- a maneuver that he's used to performing anyway.
Let's write a law that's consistent with the dominance we've already given the Left Laner. Otherwise, we'll be turning the superhighway into more of a Dodge City than it alread is.