A Public Service Announcement

Though not yet an industrial or vacation magnet, we have great hopes for the fine state of Kansas. Newcomers may find themselves perplexed by the local norms and practices of highway driving. Periodically out of the goodness of our own hearts, as well as various court orders and private settlements, the management of this website is obliged to offer a public service announcement. Herewith a guide to highway driving in Kansas:

Kansans drive in the left lane. The right lane is too close to the gravelly shoulder, and remember the fate of those seeds sprinkled on rocky soil? To the left, good Christian, to the left! The full range of speeds are welcome in the saintly left lane, which is to say, anything from five miles over the posted speed limit to twenty miles below. What’s that, you say you want to drive six miles over the limit, or perhaps seven?

Dear friend, you are not in New Jersey any more. This is not a NASCAR track, it is the stately highway system of the great state of Kansas, and you would do well to respect our laws. Now pipe down that speed talk and take your place in the long glorious line of gleaming vehicles puttering nobly along the left-hand side.

Just as the humble Disciples harvested grain on the Sabbath, there will be times that you need to avail yourself of the right lane. You will need to exit the highway. But there may be other eager travelers, just like you, wishing to gain access to the highway. People in less civilized communities might consider this a moment of friction, when a car attempting to enter the highway finds another car zipping along in the right lane, square in its path. They might demand that the entering car “yield” to the oncoming traffic.

Not in the fair state of Kansas, friend. What right, after all, does the car in the right lane have to continue at such a great rate of speed, when his poor neighbor needs to avail himself of the road as well? The wide, level plains of Kansas reflect our great democracy of citizens, in that none should be considered greater than another. Therefore, good Christian temporarily in the right lane, it is incumbent upon you to slow down, that your poorer neighbor on the entrance ramp might partake of our glorious highway, and as rapidly as possible bring himself to the speed, no greater or less, of his neighbors.

That’s right, highway traveler, we are asking you to brake. Place your right foot on the flat pedal and brake to your heart’s content. Brake, that all might share in the great forward progress of mankind!

What’s that, you say? The people behind you, all traveling at sixty miles an hour, and perhaps not expecting an abrupt stop to traffic in the middle of a highway? Why, that’s what brake lights are for. Even the oldest models have two of them, one for each eye in your rear neighbor’s head. Don’t trouble yourself about him, because he has brakes of his own, as does the driver behind him. Do your duty and stop for the driver who wants to enter the highway, and all the drivers behind you will be happy to stop as well.

For good measure, the saintly drivers in the left lane may well apply their brakes, too. Many a time I have seen it, a great cloud of witnesses, their brake lights lit like candles in heaven, all welcoming a new entrant to the highway. There is not a friendlier highway etiquette in the entire United States.

Though we all try to do our duty, there are those scofflaws who will choose, by virtue of their unregenerate natures, to pass you on the right. Your duty, good Christian, is to accelerate accordingly. Anything less is undemocratic. Keep with them pace for pace, no matter how fast they go, no matter how red-faced they become, until you draw even with a calm-minded true Kansan in the right lane, and then decrease your speed. This is the Kansas way, it is the fair way, it is the right (which is to say left) way.

On behalf of all Kansas highway drivers, I want to give you, newcomer to our state, a warm and hearty welcome, and kindheartedly admonish you with our unofficial state motto: “What’s your hurry?”

From our family to yours, happy travels, and may you arrive no sooner than anyone else.

Comments

  1. Jim Lipsey

    I grew up in Kansas, but had forgotten about this practice in the ten years since moving away. It is somewhat mitigated by the fact that should you ever get stuck in the snow, and Kansas is hillier than most realize, don’t worry about calling a wrecker. Within ten minutes a couple of guys in a truck that has a winch will happen by and courteously pull the vehicle to an area with better traction. They won’t ask for payment, but offering a twenty is customary and will be gratefully accepted.

    My wonderful wife tried to take me to a gun range for Valentine’s day this week as a way of reenacting of our fourth date. I was dismayed to learn that one cannot handle a pistol here in Illinois without first being issued a state firearm ID card, which can take 30 days.

    All in all, I’d opt for Kansas sensibilities, quirks and all, any day.

  2. Patrice

    I’m from Oklahoma City and our driving style is similar with one major exception. We don’t brake for those entering the highway. The idea of the smooth highway merge is apparently missing from the collective driving consciousness here. Most drivers come to a complete stop at the end of the entrance ramp, especially during rush hour, apparently hoping (usually in vain) for a space large enough to accelerate from said dead stop into traffic flowing at around 75 mph. Those spaces are few and far between, unless, of course, a Kansan happens along who will break and allow the stopped Oklahoman the time and space to access the highway

  3. Mike

    I don’t know how you managed to keep up the satire through the entire thing. I was beginning to grind my teeth by the 5th paragraph and I was only reading it. If I were required to type the entire thing I surely would have broken the satire and gone into a rant or proceeded to toss my laptop into the left lane of the nearest highway, where a Kansan could brake for it. That might be why you have a blog and I don’t.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. robert

    hey jim,
    Having lived in Illinois all my life, I am often amazed at other states where you don’t have to prove you’re not a felon or mentally insane before buying a firearm. I don’t know if it helps, but it seems to make sense and has never prevented me from buying the firearm of my choice.

  5. Fellow KS Traveler

    Left Lane Bandits in Kansas have done much to disrupt the regional economy. The highways are not free-enterprise zones because of the ability of one or two consumers to affect the entire market. And no matter the level of order present in the moving highway economy, that merging vehicle scenario’s disruptive nature throws the economy in chaos. Due to the controlling nature of the few, Hayek’s spontaneous order notion only becomes applicable when the market fundamentally changes with fewer participants in the market.

    Except of course when the local yokels shut down major highways at rush hour to investigate a fender bender, forcing all in the highway market into the secondary side street market – disrupting normal behavior in secondary markets, increasing their instability and danger. That, I guess, we could call spontaneous order.

    In this behavior, the French have it right. Large tickets and fines are levied for captured left lane bandits and trucks are specifically prohibited from the left lane on highways.

  6. janie

    I had completely forgotten the idiosynchrosies of Kansas driving. Many years ago, I and a couple of other women from my church used to have to drive to Newton, KS, to drop off or pick up our kids at Bethel College. It was kind of a unique experience. I haven’t had occasion to return to Kansas since those days.

  7. Marie

    Well done. I had to laugh! Here in Maine slow drivers take upon themselves the sacred responsibility of slowing hurried drivers down by pulling out directly in front of them and then crawling along at their own reasonable pace. It’s very effective, because most of our winding roads don’t have many passing zones.

Comments are closed.