Slowpokes In The Left Lane
March 14, 2014
A little known law went into effect in Florida on July 1, 2013 that should make a lot of frustrated drivers very happy. The law, part of a larger transportation bill amended Chapter 316 of the motor vehicle code making it illegal to linger in the left-hand lane of multi-lane highways.
We’ve all been there; driving on a multi-lane roadway when traffic ahead slows. You don’t want to speed but you would like to at least do the speed limit. You pull over into the left lane to pass only to meet another driver in the left lane who is driving slower than the speed limit and holding traffic back. It’s frustrating and, in some instances, dangerous.
A lot of people refer to the left lane as the “fast lane” but there is actually no such thing as a “fast lane”. There is however a passing lane and it’s the far left lane. It exists to allow drivers who want to get around slower moving traffic to pass. The only reason for a driver to be in the left lane is to pass or to make a left turn. Once you have passed the slower traffic, you should move, as soon as it is safe to do so, back into the right hand lane so that others may pass.
Some drivers have the feeling that, “As long as I’m doing the speed limit, I have a right to be in the left lane and anyone who wants to pass me is speeding and needs to slow down.” That’s a dangerous attitude to have. Unless you’re a police officer, you shouldn’t take it on yourself to try to make others obey the traffic laws. Even if and especially if other drivers are speeding, you should move to the right and allow them to pass.
When a driver drives slower than the flow of traffic in the left lane, it tends to frustrate other drivers and could lead those other drivers to engage in risky behavior such as tailgating, lane weaving, or passing in no-passing zones. In extreme cases, it can lead to incidents of deadly road rage. Aggressive driving and road rage are reaching epidemic proportions in the US and safe drivers should do whatever they can to avoid those situations and allow the aggressive driver plenty of room to pass by.
Under Florida’s law, a driver traveling more than 10 mph under the posted speed limit can be given a ticket for obstructing traffic. However, drivers shouldn’t have the attitude that as long as they are doing less than 10 mph under the speed limit or even if they are doing the speed limit that they can remain in the left lane. Use the left lane only for passing and, unless you’re passing someone else or preparing to turn left, stay in the right lane.
Florida isn’t the only state with a left-lane slowpoke law. Illinois has had a similar law since 2004. In New Jersey, the fine for lingering in the left lane increased up to $300 in 2012. A similar law is under consideration in the Georgia legislature.