Over the years I have lived in Western Washington I have definitely noticed this obnoxious phenomenon, but have also developed a theory that takes it one step further. I think it’s a self-perpetuating issue that starts with stop-and-go traffic from too many people driving solo on the roads. When the roads are full, people feel they really need to “fight” to get into the lane they want, or even to merge onto the freeway in the first place. Once they’ve “won” and gotten the space, they are loathe to give it up to someone else and therefore follow too closely to the car in front of them and don’t change lanes to get back to the right after passing someone. It took them thirty whole seconds to get into the left lane to pass that other car, so now they’re not willing to change back into the right lane since they might pass another car in the next 5 miles and have to be ready for that eventuality even though there are 3 empty lanes to the right of them.
I’ve actually found that the far right lane is sometimes the “fast” lane because of all the folks that are parked in the left ones. I’m not much of a help to solving this issue though, since I still have no idea how to get people to change into the right lane except when passing. The other fun example was the guy riding on my rear bumper this morning before I tapped my breaks to get him to back off. There were TWO left lanes that he could have used to pass me that were completely open – there was no need to tailgate me when I’m already going 65 mph.
This also gets phenomenally worse when there is rain even though Seattle is known to be a “rainy city” – no, we’re an overcast city with heavy mist much of the time. In the rain people get worse at driving because they’re STILL not willing to get to the right, they STILL don’t want to use a safe following distance, and in addition have worse sight lines because of the rain factor.
And don’t even get me started about driving in the snow here.