Illustration for article titled A Look At Our Interstate Highway System

I recently spent five hours driving from Charleston, South Carolina, to Atlanta. I highly recommend this trip. In fact, Travel Magazine just named it “America’s finest collection of Jesus-related billboards,” which is an accolade the fine people of South Carolina no doubt worked very hard to wrestle away from Mississippi.


Spending five hours on the road gave me a chance to do some thinking. No, not about Jesus, though I will admit to being a bit unclear about why he’s always depicted in various states of undress. Instead, I was thinking about satellite radio.

I will now explain satellite radio for those of you who have been living under a rock, or possibly in a parking garage, both of which are places that don’t get reception. Imagine, if you will, how hard it is to find a song you like on normal radio. Now multiply that by fifty, and arrange the channels with the same logic as debris falling from a midair explosion. This is satellite radio. Actually, I’m being unfair: it does have some benefits. For example: there’s a station that only plays 1940s music, presumably aimed at people who start sentences with: “Back when Eisenhower was president…”


Eventually, my mind wandered from satellite radio to the state of our interstate highway system, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you after exhaustive research that involved both a) driving, and b) looking around.

The Good

Let’s be honest: we, as Americans, ask a lot from our interstate highways. For instance, we insist on travelling from city to city without the kind of problems they have in Russia, where each road contains speed bumps, massive potholes, and at least one dishwasher.


For that reason, we should be thankful for the quality of our highways. We should also be thankful that we don’t have speed cameras like they do in Switzerland, where the fine is based on your income. Actually, for me - an unemployed journalist whose primary source of sustenance is Cocoa Puffs - this wouldn’t be so bad. But it wouldn’t be good news for you, dear reader, as you probably have a well-paying job, or at least one that requires daily bathing.

There are other benefits to our highways. They’re well-signed, reasonably well maintained, and, of course, filled with large roadside billboards showing partially-clad biblical figures. (Note: the last one only applies if you’re in the south. Elsewhere, it’s divorce attorneys, or in western states, pot dispensaries.)


Georgians also have an extra perk. Down here, the police aren’t allowed to use unmarked cars. That means I can confidently speed past silver Crown Victorias while using Google on my phone to find out if there’s a single satellite radio station in existence where I can be free of Michael Buble. Not that I would.

Finally, American highways benefit from tremendously long exit lanes. This is a vast improvement even over the much-praised German autobahn, which drivers can only exit using a 90-degree right turn. Unfortunately, the mere presence of long exit lanes doesn’t mean drivers will use them. Instead, it’s common practice to come to a complete stop in the right lane, or possibly the left lane, before leaving the highway. Which leads us to…


The Bad

The biggest problem with our highway system comes from those who use it. No, I’m not talking about the “my exit is coming up so I must come to a complete stop” set. Instead, I’m referring to a much more obvious problem: left lane usage.


I know what you’re thinking: Really? Another article about left lane usage? or possibly: Really? This article doesn’t have any animated GIFs? But left lane usage is an important topic, which is why I bring it up. Here’s how it should work: you cruise along in the right lane until you come up behind someone who is stopping because his exit is two miles ahead. You signal. You pass on the left. You return to the right lane. Here’s how it actually works: you cruise along in the left lane. That’s it. This mainly applies to Buick drivers and people who pay extra for “Support the Arts” license plates.

It also applies to truckers. Possibly the most annoying thing in modern society is when one truck, going 60.2 miles per hour, reaches a second truck, going 60 miles per hour, and absolutely insists on passing rather than lowering his speed. Some 19 minutes later, with his trailer just clear of the other truck’s front bumper, he’s forced to slow down because there’s someone in the left lane with a Support the Arts license plate.

We also face another major highway problem: tire treads. The highways are covered with them. And I don’t mean a few errant tires here and there. I mean if you stopped and gathered all the tire debris on the side of American highways, you would probably have enough rubber to create condoms for an entire season of MTV’s The Real World. But if you attempt that, I’d stay away from the highway between Atlanta and Charleston. Jesus will see you. And he wouldn’t approve.


Doug DeMuro operates and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.

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