An Open Letter to Drivers on Minnesota Highway 61: Stop Doing These Two Things
Editor's Note: I wrote this piece originally in April of 2015. While the speed limits have changed, with portions of the road now having a 60 MPH speed limit, this is still a regular scene I am sure you have experienced if you've ever traveled Minnesota 61.
I tend to be a pretty mild-mannered person, including when I'm behind the wheel. I'm not much of one to get road rage, or even get flustered in frustrating driving situations - unless it's really egregious. Well, after what I saw multiple times on Highway 61 on a weekend journey up the North Shore got me worked up enough to climb up on my soapbox for a moment.
Before I go into my rant, I want to clarify that I understand that MN Highway 61 has one of the more interesting blends of traffic in the state. It sees a lot of heavy tourist traffic, which includes people that drive at a slower speed while they soak up the natural beauty. On the flipside, there are people that are just trying to get from Point-A to Point-B as quickly as they can along a pretty desolate, largely two-lane road. Yes, two crowds that naturally are like oil and water.
This combination of different drivers has generated one of two different scenarios I've seen several times. If you've ever driven MN 61, I'm sure you've seen at least one of them too.
On a recent journey from Duluth to Grand Marais, I witnessed almost-accidents-in-the-making on four different occasions. Each of these potential disasters happened north of Two Harbors, where it is mainly two-lane road (beside a couple passing zones).
Here's the scenario: I was the last vehicle in a group of four vehicles heading north, maintaining the posted speed limit of 55 MPH. In each of the four incidents, a fifth vehicle sped up from behind me, going significantly faster than the speed limit, tailing me rather closely for a time. Seemingly waiting for the least opportune time ever, each of these speeders decided to try to pass all four of the vehicles ahead of them in one attempt, with a corner ahead that obstructed their view of any potential oncoming traffic. In three of the four incidents, there was indeed an oncoming car, forcing the speedster to hastily dodge into the grouping of cars they were passing.
Really, people? Are you in that much of a hurry that you need to place your life and the lives of multiple other people in danger? Just slow down a little bit, or even better, go the speed limit like everyone else.
Alternatively, there is a whole other scenario I've seen plenty of times that is quite frustrating as well that might be related to the first scenario happening as often as it does.
There are only a couple precious passing zones north of Two Harbors where drivers can theoretically get past the slowpokes and cruise along to their destination. Why is it that the Buick (don't know why I picked a Buick, I just did) that was going 40 MPH for 10 miles decides to speed up to 70 MPH in the passing zone, only to slow down again when things whittle back down to two lanes? The people speeding up behind you were hoping to get past you, not race you for the duration of the passing zone to see if they can get by before their rare passing window disappears. SMH.
With the North Shore tourist season in effect, don't be a jerk. Drive the legal speed limit, give people proper space, use passing zones properly, and we'll all get to our destinations happily and safely.