Wednesday, July 20, 2016
States are Finally Getting Tough on Left Lane Hogs
Frustrated by congestion and unsafe lane changes, state governments are telling left lane drivers to get the lead out.
Tennessee rolled out a new law on July 1 that dings drivers $50 for driving too slowly in the left lane, joining a growing list of states that want to free up the go-fast lane through penalties. The days of drivers coasting along at (or slightly under) the speed limit in the passing lane are waning, and that’s a good thing.
Since 2013, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia and Indiana passed new get your ass outta the way laws designed to keep traffic moving on overburdened highways. Indiana police used the law to write 109 tickets and issue 1,535 warnings to feather-footed drivers since last year.
Lawmakers behind the new rules don’t necessarily want pokey drivers to speed up, they just want them to move over to a more sedate lane. Rules differ by state — Indiana drivers need to move over if they’re blocking three vehicles, and Georgia drivers blocking one vehicle while driving under the limit had better vacate the premises.
Before the rule hit the books, the architect of Tennessee’s “Slowpoke Law” said the measures didn’t have anything to do with speed — just traffic flow.
“If you’re in the left lane of a three-lane highway and you’re not there to pass and if you’re impeding the flow of traffic, an officer has the option of writing you a ticket,” State Rep. Dan Howell (R – Georgetown), told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“Keep right” laws already exist (in some form or another) in every state, but many drivers haven’t learned their lesson. Why do people still dawdle along in the left lane? Once again, the media blames Nixon — well, the Nixon era.
The 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, adopted by Congress in 1973 to counter gas shortages caused by the OPEC Oil Embargo, left lasting psychological damage. That law was heaven for slow drivers, who could now drive Ms. Daisy in any lane they chose, but it shattered the driving norms associated with each lane. Hence the need for “keep right” laws after the oil started flowing and speed limits nudged upwards.
With luck, the newer laws will see results, so there won’t be a need for overhead signs that flash: “Beige Toyota, GTFO.”