There’s nothing more maddening than getting stuck behind a slow driver camped out in the left lane. Despite constant public awareness campaigns over the years, the problem persists. So a national motorists group is once again pushing “Left Lane Awareness Month” in hopes of getting the slow pokes to move over.
The Washington State Patrol started a campaign in 2011 that included a YouTube video, and began a crackdown on left-lane campers earlier this year.
It’s more than just a headache. It’s against the law. Trooper Guy Gill says the problem persists, with troopers in Thurston and Pierce counties alone stopping more than 2,200 drivers in 2013. The slower drivers can cause accidents, not to mention road rage, Gill says.
It’s surprising how many people have no clue about the rules, Gill says. They’re simple.
According to RCW 46.61.100.:
Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except (a) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (b) when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, (c) when moving left to allow traffic to merge, or (d) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted. On any such roadway, a vehicle or combination over ten thousand pounds shall be driven only in the right-hand lane except under the conditions enumerated in (a) through (d) of this subsection.
Washington is one of ten states that prohibit left lane driving except in the conditions mentioned above, according to a list by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Twenty-nine other states require drivers to move out of the left lane if going slower than normal traffic. Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota are the only states that either do not require vehicles to keep right, or allow permit vehicles moving at the speed limit to drive in the left lane regardless of traffic conditions.
The battle over the left lane has even spawned creation of several Facebook groups and a group called “Left Lane Drivers of America” that formed to take back the left lane, even selling windshield stickers that slower drivers will see in their rear-view mirrors that say “Move Over” and “Slower Traffic” with an arrow to “politely but firmly remind others what the Left Lane is for.”
“Moving over is a matter of courtesy. It is a matter of safety. It is a matter of doing one’s part to help traffic flow smoothly. And it is the law in many states,” the group says on its website.
One point of contention for many drivers is the HOV lane. But there are no Washington state laws requiring drivers move over to let faster drivers pass in the carpool lane, unless they are significantly impeding the normal flow of traffic.
The Washington State Patrol does encourage slower drivers to move over, though, to avoid sparking road rage. “It is usually not worth risking a road rage incident by blocking faster-moving cars, even if you are going the speed limit. Use common sense and pull over into the adjacent general purpose lane (not the shoulder) only when it is safe to do so.”