Can I be Ticketed for Driving Slowly in the Left Lane?
Last week a public information officer for the Indiana State Police, Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, posted a twitter comment that went viral. The reason was arguably because he described pulling a driver over for one of the top complaints that drivers have against other drivers: blocking the left lane. The driver was camping in the left lane– also known as the “passing lane” – on I-65 and “…had approximately 20 cars slowed behind her because she would not move back to the right lane”, according to Wheeles.
There is plenty of confusion among drivers about the laws for driving in the left lane. Many mistakenly believe that they may drive for extended periods of time in the left lane as long as they are traveling at the speed limit. The officer’s answer to that point of view is this: “The spirit of the law is that since many people drive well above the speed limit, it creates an ‘accordion effect’ as traffic starts backing up behind the slower vehicle. This is where many of our crashes occur on the interstates. It’s all in the name of safety.”
Can I be ticketed for driving slowly in the left lane?
It is possible to receive a ticket for driving slowly or “camping” in the left lane instead of using it as a passing lane as it was designed; every state has a law about blocking or limiting use of the left lane on multi-lane roads and highways. The choice to ticket is left up to the police officer.
The reason that an officer may choose to ticket is that hanging out in the left lane – while at the speed limit or not – means blocking vehicles that want to pass slower moving cars. The lineup of motor vehicles that it can cause increases the risk of car accidents because the normal flow of traffic is disrupted, and it can lead to tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic and road rage. Research has found that driving even five miles per hour slower than surrounding traffic increases the risk of car crashes more than driving five miles per hour over the speed limit. The problem is compounded when you have two vehicles driving equally slowly next to each other in both the left and right lanes.
Drivers should resist the urge to slow down in the left lane to “teach speeding drivers a lesson.” The police officer may be just as likely to ticket the slow-moving driver as the speeder in that situation because of the increased risk of car accidents.
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