You’re driving 65 miles per hour on a two-lane highway. You move to the left to pass another vehicle — brakes! You’re stuck behind somebody going 55 miles per hour in the left lane. Hanging out in the left lane below the speed limit is not only dangerous it is illegal and could earn you a ticket. Some call these drivers “left lane hogs” or “keepers of the speed” because they slow down the flow of traffic.
A 2007 study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute piloted a program to place signs on highways that stated: “Keep Right Pass Left — It’s The Law”. Some states post signs stating “Slower Traffic Keep Right”. The goal of these signs was to remind drivers that the left lane is for passing and then you should move to the right to keep traffic flowing safely. Slower drivers in the left lane can actually be cited for obstructing traffic. Those who stake out permanent positions in the left lane tend to provoke other cars to drive faster, often giving them no other choice but the dangerous strategy of passing on the right.
Some states are taking action against the left lane hogs. Beginning Virginia set a $100 fine for driving too slowly in the left lane, failing to stay to the right side except when passing, and other violations, such as crossing a double yellow line. Before that, the infractions were considered legal violations but had no fines attached.
Indiana is penalizing drivers for holding up traffic in the left lane. The law states drivers could get tickets for as much as $500. In Chicago, if you don’t keep up the pace while driving in the left lane you could be slapped with a $1,000 fine and multiple-time offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor. In New Jersey, the fine for the offense went up to a maximum of $300. At least 38 states have laws in place to fine drivers for lingering in the left lane. In five states, fines can reach $1000 and 22 states classify the violation as a misdemeanor.
Bottom Line: Moving over isn’t a matter of courtesy; it’s a matter of safety. It is also a matter of doing one’s part to help traffic flow smoothly.
If you feel you or someone else you know requires more help with bad driving habits, consider enrolling in a defensive driving course. Depending on your state, many insurance companies can offer a premium reduction for approved courses.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host.