Queensland’s Pacific Motorway: a user’s guide

QUEENSLANDERS have a bad driving reputation, especially in the southern states.

The New South Welsh, apparently forgetting the homicidal nature that underpins Sydney’s roads, chortle when they see a car with Queensland registration doing something silly on the highway.

The reputation probably came about because the first road most southerners are flung onto upon crossing the border is the Pacific Motorway; Queensland’s jewel dual carriageway stretching from Tweed Heads to the heart of Brisbane, less than 100km away.

While it would be the envy of any major metropolis, South East Queensland’s premier motorway, at its widest reaching eight through lanes in total, nevertheless becomes a frustrating experience due to its patrons.
Commuting between the capital and the Gold Coast is a bewildering thing; one that can lead to road rage, dangerous behaviour and even death.

To make it easier to understand the bewildering behaviour on this broad stretch of bitumen, here is my guide to each of the four lanes that make up this highway to hell.

The far right (War): It doesn’t matter who you are or what speed you’re travelling, you are fall into one of two categories in this lane: the tailgater or the tailgated. Cruising at 112km/h in a 110km/h zone while overtaking someone in the next lane? Expect a souped up sportscar, never-been-offroad luxury SUV or work vehicle to be a sudden brake from an accident behind you. Trying to make it past a car doing 10 below the limit in the third lane from the left? Too bad, the fast lane is taken up by somebody doing 103. Even when the latter happens, expect the aforementioned sportscar, SUV or tradie truck to continue tailgating and flashing their lights, despite the fact you’re in the same boat. It’s the law of the jungle in the far right lane, so make sure your will and testament will be easily found in your soon-to-be mangled wreckage.

The middle right (Pestilence): ‘Keep left unless overtaking’ is a guideline that most drivers take to heart on the Pacific Motorway. That’s why they sit in the second furthest lane from the left, thus generously allowing others to overtake them from the far right lane while they cruise along at 20 below the speed limit. The middle-right lane is the default for commuters: easily the most congested, it also tends to elicit the most frustration. A conga line of cars about a kilometre long can wait with varying degrees of patience while a driver jaunts along at 90km/h, with no traffic in the lanes to their left. But it’s okay, they’re keeping left. The middle right lane is often the reason the far right lane is prone to people sitting below the speed limit, desperately trying to move ahead of the person to their left going even slower than them. Avoid if you don’t want a hoarse throat before reaching the beach.

The middle left (Death): Not named because it’s the most mortally dangerous lane, but because it’s full of undertakers. Frustrated by the slowness of the middle right lane and the lack of progress in the far right, some speedsters will duck and weave into this lane, between even more sluggish vehicles, to get ahead of the queue. This is a risky move: not only is it unpredictable, but there’s every chance the cars to the right of you will inexplicably speed up, leaving you stuck behind a caravan doing 80. Other inhabitants of this lane include trucks, older, less powerful cars and people just trying to get to their destination without dealing with far right lane politics.

The far left (Famine): Apart from those with engines too weak to reach the speed limit consistently, nobody stays in the left lane for long. Either using it briefly in their three-lane mad dash to reach an exit coming up in 200 metres, or arriving from the on-ramp to join their preferred spot in the middle right lane, the far left lane is a dreary, depressing place you stay away from unless you absolutely must. Beware of people entering the motorway at 20 below the limit, expecting for the rest of the traffic to suddenly brake for them as they merge without warning. It’s also home to some of the most extreme undertakers.
So there you have it. For the three-lane sections, merge Famine and Death into the left lane. For the two lane sections, merge War and Pestilence. In peak hour traffic, replace all lanes with “Weep softly”.

Enjoy your drive! Be safe returning home this Easter, which means if you’re reading this while driving, please, please reconsider your life choices.

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