A reminder: Get your trailer out of the left lane

Aug 29, 2023, 5:02 AM

Photo from Chris Sullivan...

Photo from Chris Sullivan

We’re rolling into the final holiday weekend of the summer, and we know you’re already hooking up your trailer to get ready.

Here is a quick reminder of where you can tow and where you can’t on our freeways.

More Chokepoints: Progress being made on widening State Route 18

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I am not a fan of left-lane campers. Next to impairment, distraction, and speed, I believe left-lane camping is the next most dangerous driver behavior. It can cause road rage and increase the temperature behind the wheel.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson said the law is really easy to understand.

“The left lane inherently is a passing lane,  and unless you’re passing another vehicle, you’re not to be in the left general purpose lane of a multiple lane interstate or state route,” Johnson said.

Even if you are going the speed limit, you need to get out of that left lane when not passing traffic.

“It’s an inciting violation that can lead to aggressive driving and road rage potentially,” Johnson said.

While the left-lane camping law is easy to follow and understand if you choose to, many drivers don’t appear to understand that you cannot tow anything in the left lane when on a road with three or more lanes.

You’re making a dump run with a trailer. You’re hauling your boat. You’ve got the jet skis on the trailer. If that’s you, you cannot be in that left lane on roads with three or more lanes of traffic in the same direction.

This is a violation that I see all the time, and Trooper Johnson believes drivers just don’t know the law.

“I don’t think it’s widely known,” Johnson said. “At least the people that we explain it to, I truly believe they had no idea.”

But here’s the strange part of our law. You can tow a trailer in the HOV lane. There is no prohibition about that.

“That is legal as long as you are adhering to the number of occupants of what the HOV requires,” Johnson said. “There’s gross vehicle weight restrictions, you know, 10,000 pounds or greater.”

Those are the only restrictions. You meet the number of passengers for the HOV requirement, and your combo does not weigh more than 10,000 pounds.  I think this would eliminate most 5th-wheels behind large trucks that I see in the HOV lanes, but some of them could be legal.

Back to the left lane issue with trailers, there are some spots on Interstate 5 and Interstate 90 where big rigs can use the left general purpose lane to ease the movement of goods.

So, as you head out, just remember to stay out of the left lane if you aren’t actively passing or are towing anything.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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A reminder: Get your trailer out of the left lane