Left lane camping rule doesn’t apply to express toll lanes

Sep 21, 2023, 5:01 AM | Updated: 10:05 am

left lane camping...

I-405 Express Toll Lanes (Photo courtesy of Washington State Transportation Center)

(Photo courtesy of Washington State Transportation Center)

I caught a lot of grief recently for my story on left lane camping and left lane towing. Now, I’m back for more punishment, with a look at the left lane rule in the toll lanes.

It’s been eight years since the I-405 Express Toll Lanes opened, and there continues to be confusion over whether the left lane camping rule applies in the section between Bothell and Bellevue where there are two lanes.

I drive that stretch of 405 a lot, and I use the express toll lanes often.

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I recently had a driver race up on my back bumper as I was preparing to pass another car. I was in the left of the two toll lanes. When I didn’t get over immediately after passing, my fellow driver made it clear he wanted me out of the way. It’s not the first time I have discussed this, but the left lane camping rule does not apply in the express toll lanes.

There is no law requiring you to be passing vehicles in the left of those two lanes. I asked Washington State Trooper Rick Johnson about it recently.

“It feels like that should be applied to the toll lanes, but there’s nothing that addresses the left lane camping in the toll lanes on 405 or where there are two lanes in one direction,” he said.

It is perfectly legal for you to sit in the left lane of the express toll lanes, but if you’re not actively passing others, Trooper Johnson suggested it’s better to be in the right lane just to keep tempers from flaring.

“I just tell people ‘if you’re in the toll lanes and you’re not passing somebody, stay the right toll lane even though you’re allowed to be in that left toll lane, but I think it’s about creating the safest, less inciting environment on the freeway,” Trooper Johnson said.

Perfectly sound advice, but it can be a little scary driving at freeway speeds, or close to them, in that right lane when the main line of 405 is stacked up. So many drivers illegally cross that double white lane into the toll lanes, many of them jumping into that lane at zero miles an hour when I’m going 60. That gives me little to no time to avoid a crash.

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I asked Trooper Johnson if they are out there enforcing that dangerous move.

“There are extra monies that have provided the State Patrol to put extra troopers on overtime in those areas to address issues like toll lane violators and the illegal changing from the general purpose into the toll lanes,” he responded.

Crossing the double white line is one of the most dangerous moves out there. Drivers in the express lanes don’t expect it and the difference in speeds is a recipe for disaster.

To recap, you are not violating any law by being in the left toll lane, even when not passing. If you’re coming up from behind, don’t ride anyone’s bumper to force them out of the way. They aren’t doing anything wrong.

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