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Why do drivers pace other cars on highways?

For example, when you're on a freeway or highway and there are multiple lanes where traffic could flow freely, drivers tend to adapt their speed to the others around them, resulting in clumps of cars that shouldn't necessarily be clumped up. (Different from jams caused by traffic lights, accidents, and so forth.)

I was discussing this with someone a while back and they said they thought it was passive-aggressive; an attempt to prevent others from passing them. I think it's probably more caused by our unconscious motivation to fit into the surroundings/ adapt to those around us- an inborn social trait. I can't find any actual scientific research on this though.

Posted - January 10


  • 5850
    It is a very peaceful feeling when every car on the road is going the same speed.

    Also you are very unlikely to get a ticket for speeding if all traffic is going the same speed.
      January 10, 2019 4:24 PM MST

  • 10428
    People like to play "follow my leader" still now they have grown up....  If youre behind a lead car on a trip.....the one in front sets the pace and as long as you leave a big enough gap you just sit back and follow 
    I think also ,people feel safer if your travling along together as long as everyone behaves in a decent manner.....
      January 10, 2019 4:46 PM MST

  • 9278
    I agree with the person who told you it was passive-aggressive.  I particularly hate when that happens and there's a pace car in the passing lane so even if you wanted to get around them, you can't.  It's also dangerous if something happens on the road in front of you and you have to swerve to one side or the other and there's a car right there.  You are supposed to leave room to maneuver.
      January 10, 2019 9:56 PM MST

  • 1720
    I hate that when pokey camps in the passing lane and I can't get around all the other slow pokes because they're all going the same sluggish pace. Why would they not want to be passed? Does it make them feel somehow inferior?
      January 11, 2019 5:53 AM MST

  • 9278
    I think it makes them feel superior that they are able to control what other drivers do.  How many times have you had that situation and then there comes a break in the traffic to your right, you pass into that lane and come around and as you're coming back into the left lane, the car you wanted to pass speeds up?  
      January 11, 2019 11:34 AM MST

  • 37313
    I ignore them.  It drives them bonkers.
      January 11, 2019 11:40 AM MST

  • 5554
    I lived in North Texas 50 years ago and made a lot of trips over the years to West Texas to visit my parents---a 300 mile drive.

    I remember one trip during which a specific car passed me four times at about 20 MPH faster than I was going; I subsequently noticed him at rest stops or gas stations.  (I was on cruise control and just chillin')

    The last time I saw him was him behind me at the traffic light in the middle of downtown in my destination city.

    It's all about average speed....

    Cars do seem to cluster on the highways.  On long drives, I try to find a group that is maintaining a reasonable speed and distance from the others and join that group.  I don't like to have other drivers in my blind spot, nor do I like to be in theirs.

    And I don't ever drive passive-aggressively.  Not sure I ever did, but definitely not for the last 40 years.

    Here's an interesting link:
      January 11, 2019 11:56 AM MST

  • 11181
    I always use speed control so I don't really care how fast others are going as long as they are going as fast as OR faster than I.  
      January 12, 2019 12:34 AM MST

  • 5850
    When I drove limos in Phoenix, every now and then a car would follow me down a two lane road in the left lane. When I neared my turnoff, I changed to the right lane. Suddenly the driver behind me decides he needs to be in front of me, and he thinks he can change lanes and pass faster than I can change lanes. When he can't do it, because there is a curb over there, he honks his horn as if I had done something wrong.

    You have to be very careful about changing lanes in Phoenix. People go bonkers when your car gets in front of theirs on a public street. Every now and then somebody pulls out a pistol and discharges it in your general direction. One pushy lady followed me into a parking lot and got out to fuss at me because my car got in front of hers. She even called the cops.
      January 12, 2019 8:11 AM MST

  • 5705
    That is so true and you know many people do that very purposefully.  I have been told that is the proper and most respectful way to drive and not doing that I would put myself as well as others at risk.  A lot of people really believe that and it is an article of faith on the road.  And they are very proud of it.  Which I was never into.  I just sort of tool along in the slow lane. 
      January 15, 2019 6:35 AM MST

  • 163
    I thought about that as I drove on a short trip.  One hit on it as i am usually good at getting separation. There are more people that just get in the passing lane and stay there which ends up jamming both lanes so we are unwilling in the parade. The other is one truck passing another that takes 5 to 10 miles to complete. Some States have laws on staying in the passing lane and i think called a poking law.
      January 18, 2019 8:02 PM MST

  • 5850
    I can tell nobody has ever been to Atlanta. You can find cars on the freeway going any speed from 45 mph to 90 mph. And both freeway and street traffic slows down occasionally. If you are on the freeway during rush hour that means a traffic jam every few miles, and when you get up to the front of it, there is nothing there. No cop, no accident, no dog in the road, nuthin. Just slow down about every five minutes. 
      January 18, 2019 10:38 PM MST

  • 23797

      In the driving manual, it specifically states that's dangerous and should be avoided, but you know how some people are . . .
      January 24, 2019 6:28 AM MST