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Left-lane camping, drivers’ bad behavior often a source of chokepoints


In KIRO Radio’s Chokepoints series, we take a closer look at the traffic issues plaguing commuters in the Puget Sound region.

Dave Gashler writes, “The traffic stops are caused by a few un-educated drivers that take over the left lane and don’t pass.” His sentiments weren’t alone. Another listener, Justin Box, wrote in to say he also thinks it’s the lack of education on merging.

There are chokepoints on the roads caused by our geography. There are chokepoints caused by our population growth. But there are also chokepoints caused by drivers. Driver behavior is a major cause of traffic congestion in our region.

I get just as many emails about driver behavior as I get for specific chokepoints on the roads.

Washington State Trooper Chris Webb offered his take on how much of our region’s congestion can be tied to drivers and said left-lane camping is an issue.

“It does cause some minor backups,” he said. “Plus it causes a lot of frustration because people aren’t able to go with the flow of traffic.”

Webb said every driver he pulls over for the violation tells him the same thing. “The excuse we get when we tell them they need to merge right unless you’re passing, they always come back with the same thing: ‘I was going the speed limit.’ A lot of times they actually weren’t going the speed limit, they were going under. But even if they were going the speed limit, we still need to keep that flow of traffic moving through there.”

Trooper Webb said it’s his job to make sure people are going the speed limit. Left-lane campers are not authorized to pace traffic. They need to get over.

Listener Dave wants giant billboards on the freeway to remind drivers and Webb said he likes that idea.

“I would love to have huge billboards all along the freeway, bright lights, ‘Stay out of the left lane unless you’re passing,'” he said.

But he knows that’s not in the state budget.

According to Webb, drivers can have a positive impact on congestion if they would only be less selfish on the road.

“We’re going to have to be more patient and we’re going to have to be more friendly out on the road,” he said. “Think of the other driver, maybe, out there as your friend or a family member and be courteous.”

So drivers, before you complain too much about the spot that slows you down each day, be sure your behavior behind the wheel isn’t contributing.

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