Archived: The Ohio Clusterfuck Phenomenon

This entry was part of my previous journal, but I felt that it deserved to be carried over. The original entry was written after a weekend road trip that involved driving longways twice across the state of Ohio.


After having driven essentially from corner-to-corner-longways across Ohio, and in combination with my previous five years of driving experience, I am now convinced that my theory of the Ohio Phenomenon is correct. I have no real explanation for why; I merely offer the results of my in-depth observation.

The Ohio Clusterfuck Phenomenon (as presented by Andrew M. Janeshek):

The Ohio Clusterfuck Phenomenon occurs when two vehicles travel side-by-side for many miles on a two lane interstate at approximately the same rate of speed, which is consistently slower than the rate of speed desired by the majority of motorists on said interstate. For some reason this phenomenon has an uncanny correlation with the state of Ohio. While the Ohio Phenomenon occurs in areas beyond the Ohio boundaries, it is often instigated by a motorist from the state of Ohio (as denoted by Ohio license plate registration). And although the phenomenon does occur elsewhere, it is noticeably concentrated within Ohio state bounds.

A couple possible objections and my responses:

Maybe Ohio has more motorists traveling on the interstates than other states in which you have traveled and observed, and so it merely seems more prevalent in Ohio.

I find it very unlikely that this is the case. Whilst traveling through Ohio, I would constantly find myself caught in a “traffic jam” while far from any particular destination. The traffic would be incredibly tight and there would be no room for maneuverability, and then all of a sudden traffic in the left-hand lane would pick up speed and the traffic jam would slowly dissipate as people were free to travel at whatever rate of speed they desired. Between these intermittent traffic jams, I would be driving and there would be almost no traffic whatsoever. During my multitude of experiences in the past 2 days, I occasionally found myself directly or else very close to the causes of these instances. The motorist in the left hand lane would be traveling at the same approximate rate of speed as the motorist in the right lane. Both would be traveling slower than a great deal of other motorists intended to go. Traffic would begin to build and accumulate behind the two drivers until a very lengthy line (often between 15 and 30 vehicles) had formed. The motorists would continue to “clog” traffic for (on average) between 4 and 15 miles. Once the motorist in the left-hand lane had finally overtaken the motorist in the right-hand lane (or vice versa) the motorist would then either shift lanes in order that traffic may begin to resume its unencumbered rate, or else a large enough gap would be formed that traffic would weave its way through and return to desired speed. Once clear of the “clog”, traffic would thin out and there would often be a reasonably small number of cars on the interstate within eyesight range. And then, the process would inexplicably begin anew.

Perhaps this is a groundroots vigilante style effort to enforce the speed limit?

I would venture that such is not the case, because the traffic jams would occur at rates anywhere from 15 miles per hour below the legal limit to 15 miles per hour above the legal limit. If it were a movement of that purpose, then all of the rates would occur at the legal limit, or else very close (allowing standard deviation of speedometer accuracy).

Other notes of interest:

From my observation of the motorists responsible for causing these instant “clusterfuck” traffic jams, it seems to me that the cause is either ignorance or simply disregard for road manners. I would venture to say that many of the motorists of Ohio that travel on the interstates have never heard of the standard “Drive right, pass left” procedure. The general idea being that traffic keep to the left lane, leaving the right lane open for faster traffic to make a pass.

Often during my travels through Ohio, or else when encountering an Ohio motorist in another state, I find that they are reluctant to change lanes, regardless of the situation. If they are in the fast lane going 50 mph in a 65 mph zone, and a string of traffic traveling at the legal speed limit is approaching, they will (in many instances) simply continue to remain in the left hand lane and force traffic to pass on the right. [*Please note* – In many traffic codes across the United States, it is illegal to make a pass on the right in many circumstances. This has to do with visibility and “expectations” I think. To my knowledge, this does not apply to the interstate in strict legal terms, but it is a rule of thumb that the majority of motorists, in my experience, follow.]

If you are unable to pass another (single) motorist over the distance of at least a quarter mile or else to pass in less than 15 to 20 seconds, then you have no business attempting to make a pass. You should adjust your speed to accommodate remaining behind that person, or else adjust your speed to make the pass and then resume your original rate of speed. A simple blip of the throttle (on the part of the “passing” motorist) to gain enough distance to safely pass would provide a solution to the problem of the Ohio Phenomenon, and, in my humble opinion, be preferable to creating a clusterfuck of motorists who are getting frustrated and angry.

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