By on February 16, 2010

We try to cover a lot of the stories in which politics and automobiles intersect, and frankly, most of them are just plain depressing. From biofuel frauds to speed cameras, it seems that motorists as a political class tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Not so in Georgia, where 11Alive reports that a bill is moving through the state legislature that would establish a minimum fine for driving to slow in the passing lane. If there’s a cause that every driver can get behind, this is it. In case you don’t appreciate the depth of annoyance most feel about left-lane bandits, Georgia State Rep. Mark Butler is on hand to explain:

They’re causing a lot of frustration for the drivers behind them. They’re also causing people to weave in and out of traffic in order to get around the slower drivers, which also causes a much larger hazard…. The left-hand lane on these multi-lane roads is supposed to be used for passing only. We’re not trying to get people to go faster, we’re just trying to get people to quit clogging up the lane that’s supposed to be used for passing.

Indeed. Though any idiot can understand the idea of a speed limit, a vast reserve of anecdotal evidence suggests that few American motorists are well versed in the art of passing lane etiquette. Interestingly, the world’s best lane discipline is probably practiced on the German autobahn, where high to nonexistent speed limits make dawdling in the left lane a dangerous undertaking. Loath though we are to see motorists targeted for extra fees, bills like this one are long overdue.[Hat Tip: Don Gammil]

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50 Comments on “Georgia: “Slowpoke Bill” Moves Forward...”


  • avatar
    Audi-Inni

    As a resident of GA, this would be welcome, if it’s even enforced. The hidden agenda, I suspect, is to free up the passing lane so the local police can have a better shot at issuing more speeding tickets. Either way, it’s “show me the money!”

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Here here, both the rule and the revenue-based skepticism.

      When I lived in GA 10 years ago they had an awesome law where, if you were in a fender-bender and the parties could safely move off the highway, you had to.

      Glorious. It’s not like you need a forensics expert to discern who was responsible for the incident. So why force the multitude to waste a century’s worth of person-hours waiting for the LEO to assess who was responsible?

      Then I moved back to NC and am waiting for the day where my commute down I-40 doesn’t have to crippled idiots blocking tens of thousands of people getting to work/home.

      As for this rule, I swear to God, if I spot another SUV/Minivan in the left lane with those kookie family/pet stickers going 5 under… And don’t get me started on holiday traffic to and from the beach. Up here in NC, the left lane on the highway is used exclusively for those towing their 25 ft pontoon boats…

  • avatar
    twotone

    The NRA sticker on the vehicle seems appropriate. Just shoot slow drivers!

    Twotone

  • avatar
    rtt108

    One can only hope that CT does the same. CT, followed perhaps by MA, seem to have the most number of uneducated drivers clogging the center and left lanes I’ve seen anywhere in the nation. CT being by far the worst.

    Seems like on every single highway trip I can watch the left lane clogged with the fastest drivers, all tailgating and cursing the guy in front of them (alternatly going 80mph to 20mph) … the center lane poking along at 5mph below the limit with bumper to bumper oblivious drivers … and the right lane wide open for a mile !!!

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Not to excuse the left lane bandits, but many of them simply can’t get to the right due to the line of cars passing them on the right.

    To make this work, drivers who are going faster than the car ahead of them are going to have to develop their own lane discipline and refrain from passing on the right.

    Come up behind, flash your lights, honk, and wait. They’ll move right if they are sure you aren’t going to go around them on the right. And if they are sure the Camaro weaving in and out of traffic isn’t going to pass them on the right as they are moving over.

    This is not to suggest all left lane bandits are mere victims of circumstance. Many are just idiots. But even idiots fear collision with someone who couldn’t wait for them to move right.

    There are an awful lot of people who are going to have to develop lane discipline – a’int gonna happen.

    • 0 avatar
      isucorvette

      In my state honking or flashing lights is actually illegal.

      The problem isn’t that they can’t get to the right lane, it’s that they have no intention of getting to the right lane. If they wanted to get over simply turn on your turn signal and people will let you over.

      A good driver is always looking 1/4 mile ahead of them to see how the traffic is developing around them. If I see a car that isn’t moving over to the right and I’m gaining ground on them, I get into the right lane to plan ahead for the pass.

      Nobody wants to pass on the right, but we are forced to because the idiot has no clue what is going on around them.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      Most of the left lane slugs I come upon are sitting there all alone. I give them time, then a flick or two of the lights, then more time, and then they get the horn as I pass on the right. I’m sure they feel that I have no right to the passing lane if they are going the speed limit. There are signs on all the two lane bypasses here instructing traffic to keep right unless passing.

      A qualitative traffic violation is always exponentially more dangerous than a quantitative one.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      YotaCarFan, the principle problem with this assertion is that the overwhelming majority of freeway entrances are from the right; ergo the folks have actively chosen that lane to coast. The left lane is most comfortable to folks with a steel cocoon mindset, they don’t have to deal with other folks merging on or exiting, and prefer the tranquility of putting the other drivers in their vicinity at risk.

    • 0 avatar
      guyincognito

      I completely disagree with this assertion. While I have encountered a couple of people who were willing to move over to the right when I indicated my desire to pass, the other 10,000,000 people I have tried this with outright refused. In fact, most slow down when approached and then go as fast as possible and crowd the middle lane when I try to pass them on the right. I find it best to move to the right well in advance so as to surprise them and pass without incident.

      In Boston and Northern Jersey, this behavior is so common that the far right lane is for all intents and purposes the fast/passing lane with the far left lane crowded by Prii and CUV’s doing 10 under so they don’t have to worry about hitting the brakes and deactivating the cruise control.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Interestingly, the world’s best lane discipline is probably practiced on the German autobahn, where high to nonexistent speed limits make dawdling in the left lane a dangerous undertaking.

    That has a lot to do with proper enforcement. In North America, we blitz, and we only blitz stuff that’s easy to prove.

    As any parent of a toddler can tell you, inconsistent enforcement gets your worse behaviour than lax enforcement because people are unaware of, confused by or always pushing the rules.

  • avatar
    YotaCarFan

    The idea of the left lane being exclusively for passing is from the olden days before bumper to bumper traffic in all lanes. With traffic volume outstripping road capacity, it’s unreasonable to expect an entire lane to be reserved for passing purposes.

    While I don’t think it’s courteous for someone to create a rolling road block and crawl along in the left lane at 55 mph, it is legal for them to do so and illegal for someone else to exceed the speed limit at any time, including when passing. (That’s why the sign says “speed limit”, not “speed limit except when passing”.) Any “hazardous weaving” around slower drivers is the fault of those drivers doing the weaving, not the slowpokes who are maintaining lane position. If someone wishes to pass a slowpoke, it is their responsibility to either do so safely via “unhazardous weaving” or learn to suppress the desire for instant gratification of passing the slug and slow down.

    The presence of left side exits on many highways in conjunction with the attitude many people have of accelerating when they see someone activate their turn signal indicating a desire to merge in front (“me me me, I’m important, I must be first! no cuts!”) also results in slower drivers moving leftward well in advance of their exit, out of fear that they’ll be unable to do so later in time to make the exit.

    • 0 avatar
      ReGZ_93

      Your wrong on this one. It is illegal to hang out in the left lane in most states. If you look at your drivers manual (you can pick them up at the dmv or most auto tag companies), it states clearly that when you are on any multi-lane highway you are to keep right and pass left.

      Most people either ignore the rule, or forget it after obtaining their driver’s license.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It is NOT legal to drive in the left lane in the state of Maine, and many other jurisdictions. You can very much be ticketed for it. Though realistically the only time anyone actually gets a ticket for it is if the car you are holding up is a cop (of which we have many and wildy varied unmarked flavors). Passing on the right is also illegal here.

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      In most places I’ve driven there are signs clearly posted that read, “keep right except to pass.”

    • 0 avatar
      Btrig

      @YotaCarFan:
      You have exposed yourself as one of the self-righteous speed limit nazis this bill is (hopefully) meant to target. Your message is basically, “I will make you drive at what I consider to be a safe speed if I have to kill you and myself to do it”. Maybe this whole “driving” thing just isn’t for you… BTW, I wouldn’t be so smug about the legal speed limits — the real purpose of those is to generate income, not to make bad drivers safe.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Is always safer to allow faster cars to pass on the left, if I cannot go fast enuf, i will move back to right lane. Most Autobahn near vancouver are 2 lanes, should u hog up L lane u plugging up the left lane.

    Always some idiots will stay at the speed limit all day on the left lane, we never know someone could be needing to get somewhere fast but not have the priviledge of Police escort.

    People wanna to go fast is their own choice anyways.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    This is the best bill that I’ve ever heard of!

  • avatar

    This works so well in Europe, but I don’t think it can ever happen here, even IF the police actually tried to enforce it.

    Even more impressive was when my wife and I were on the Autostrade and came up on a construction area where four lanes were merging into one. I thought, “Oh great, we’ll be sitting here forever”. But everyone slowed just a bit, spaced out, and we kept on going – dropping our speed by about 10 mph. So, it IS possible for this kind of thing to work, but again, probably not in the US.

  • avatar
    Ion

    What they should do is raise the speed limit for the left lane and set a minimum speed for it. This’ll never happen in my state though 55 is still the legal limit.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      California tried this on the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles back before the national 55 limit. Minimum speed signs were posted over each lane. It didnt work and in fact couldnt work. First, commuters were often stopped in dense traffic jams where the peak speeds were 35 mph or so. Second, you cannot legally make the minimum posted speed greater than the maximum. At times of free-flowing traffic, doing 65mph in the #1 lane (far left) still had people passing on the right.

      California had, and still has a law against “impeding traffic”, whatever that really means in court, and laws against big rigs or any trailers in the #1 lane except to pass and only if there are only two lanes. “Slower traffic keep right” signs are also posted. HOV lanes, dense traffic and steep mountain grades do complicate things here.

      BTW, I do get over, but those that weave in and out make it difficult. If you refuse to notice my right turn signal, do you want me to stay put or “cut you off” by moving right as you weave right, not using your turn signals? I’m normally among the faster group on rural freeways, so staying in the truck lane, except to pass is just not practical. This means that I watch my mirrors and get over when safe.

  • avatar
    mrog71

    Arizona is pretty bad for left lane Janes. They think that because they can drive in the HOV lane, they can drive whatever speed they want there, even if the next lane is wide open. Lots of hybrid drivers….

  • avatar
    Ernie

    NY needs that – apparently in Northern NY it’s illegal to pass on the right (doing the speed limit or slightly over) in a vehicle with out-of-state plates ;)

    OK. I’m kidding. It’s only illegal to have out-of-state plates :D

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      It is legal to pass on the right in NY in certain situations: http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/dmanual/chapter06-manual.htm

      The law is the same in most states regarding passing on the right when there is more than one lane of traffic moving in the same direction. Care should be taken, as always, but it is usually not illegal.

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    San Antonio has a law like this – big signs posted “left lane for passing only”. I wouldn’t say it’s done a whole lot to solve this particular problem, even with the occasional anecdotal evidence that someone got a ticket for it…

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      If my experience there is any indication, that part of Texas is one of the few places in the country where this sort of sign actually isn’t needed. On the smaller, two-lane highways, many drivers of slower vehicles would actually pull over and drive *on the shoulder* to allow faster traffic to pass. I’ve never seen more courteous drivers.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    This law would not work for one reason. People will argue that the speed is subjective and arbitative due to the varying speedometer reading. One car’s 60mph reading might be 55mph in other car and so forth.

    In the past, Colorado considered “Slower traffic keep right”, but the feedback from the public was so intense with some idiots declaring their God-giving right to follow the speed limit to the dot regardless of which lane. If a faster vehicle is tailgating the “law-abiding” citizens on the left lanes, the slowpokes would mostly not budged.

    Consequently, Colorado reworded the law perfectly: “Stay on right lane except to pass”. Georgia ought to take Colorado example.

    Germany has this law on book for years along with prohibition of overtaking on the right lane on the highway except for a few certain circumstances.

  • avatar

    We really need a similar bill in Arizona. Our surface streets and freeways are greatly inhibited by people (mostly seasonal retirees) who drive well below the speed limit and impede faster traffic.

    In fact my daily commute on a three line street into the city is constantly impeded by these people taking up all three lanes and driving 10 to 15mph under the speed limit side by side, creating a pile up of slow moving traffic behind them. It has the same effect when they drive that way in the left lane of our freeways or the left lane of large surface streets.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    I’d go nuts if 55mph was the speed limit here. No wonder people are frustrated when drivers insist on running at or below that in the left lane. That’s less than our 100kph limit for non-divided secondary highways (62mph). Divided highways are all 110 (68mph), and cops won’t usually bother anyone who keeps it under 120 (75mph) so most of us stay on the plus side of 110 and smile a lot more.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    If they would pass this in MD, I could finally win this argument with my friend who insists that it’s his right to park himself in the leftmost lane and do the speed limit. Your right? Maybe, but it still makes you an ass.

  • avatar
    Monty

    A question on this.

    Recently my wife and I were in Arizona, and I religously stuck to the speed limit on the freeways and Interstates. Because the right lanes are constant sources of merging and exiting traffic, we kept to the second from right lane, yet got passed on both the left and right by cars exceding the speed limit by as much as 30 to 60 MPH all the time. It was exhilirating, yet also a little frightening at the same time.

    What is exactly the proper etiquette regarding using the far right lanes (sometimes also the merge and exit lane as well) as the slow vehicle lane?

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      I would say the etiquette is “keep right except to pass.” For myself, if I’m being passed on the right, I interpret it as a suggestion that I should probably be in a lane further to the right.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I was beginning to think that driving in the left lane was now taught in driver’s ed.

  • avatar
    bobkarafin

    I know the geezers (I’m gradually becoming one myself) will usually say “I’m already going the speed limit, and you shouldn’t be going any faster anyway” — well, we DO have a problem with shooting assholes on the highways in Texas, now don’t we?

    I don’t care if you’re already going 90 plus in the left lane; if someone comes up on you and you’re not prepared to speed it up yourself GET THE F__K OVER!!

    I rarely do more than 15 over the limit anymore, but even if i’m speeding in the left lane and someone comes up on me, I will ALMOST ALWAYS move over as soon as I can.

  • avatar
    SacredPimento

    I wouldn’t mind if they did something like this in California. But, I’m afraid it would only work as well as the hands-free cellphone law.

  • avatar

    It’s only after I took a defensive driving class (NYC) that I learned about passing on right, completely legal!
    I was a little surprised, how such a thing be legal? but this is the reason that when you do pass a car on right, he/she does not even think he is doing something wrong, for them, any lane is good to go.
    Now, whenever I visit Israel, I notice that there is no need to create any rules for passing on right there, if you try to drive slow on the left, they would flash their high beams and literally ride on your rear bumper until you move, even at 75 mph.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    We have a similar law in Texas that doesn’t do any good for many of the drivers I encounter. It has to be enforced to be of any help.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    When you do finally manage to get around one of these huggers of the left, you can expect to see one of two expressions, if you bother to look over. The first and most common is the blank look, meaning, I suppose, that they have no idea what’s on your mind. The other is the angry look signaling that you have some nerve to want to go faster than they are. Count on them shooting by you at 85 a second or two later or at least flashing their lights wildly or honking furiously. Thus, together, you have a substantial part of our citizenry. Pleasant thought, no?

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    Whenever traffic spots a median cop on I476, all lanes slows to 55 until the cop is out of sight, then kick it back up to an avg speed of 75-80. What with the collective behavior of drivers varying so radically in the presence of a cop, I don’t see how something like this can be enforced, unless the slowpoke is driving under 55, which I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed in the left lane of a highway.

  • avatar

    http://csp.state.co.us/downloads/leftlanebrochure.pdf

    Colorado has a left-lane law in the same vein as this, although I have no idea if it’s ever enforced.

  • avatar

    I think there should be three parts to the law, to make it comprehensive and clear to the gomers who still don’t get it:

    Part 1: Keep right except to pass. If you are in the left lane and NOT passing a car, you get a ticket. Period.

    Part 2: You may only pass on the left. If you pass a car on the right, you get a ticket.

    Part 3: It is illegal to be passed on the right. If you create a situation where a car passes you on the right side, you are in violation and get a ticket.

    This is how it was explained to me when I went to driving school in Germany, and it makes perfect sense. It seems redundant, but I’m not sure people will understand unless you present all 3 parts. Otherwise, they’ll say, “But people are merging!” or, “but I’m going the speed limit!” or some other nonsense.

    Of course, all of this could be resolved with some driver’s ed too. I truly believe that nobody should be given a drivers license unless they have completed a driver’s education class. Nobody.

    I resented the German system when I was 18 and thought I knew everything. The classes were expensive and there was a lot of time spent in a classroom learning about stopping distances, physics, and rules of the road. But I knew how to drive when I was finished.

    I wish all of the other people on the road here in the USA were required to be competent. There would be a lot less traffic, and we wouldn’t have to deal with new laws that won’t be enforceable.

  • avatar

    I’ve always considered that some good old-fashioned public service announcements about lane use would prevent a lot of road rage. Missouri uses that “Keep right except to pass” language on its signage, and my experience is that it’s helped over the last 10 years or so. You still have occasional clueless folks camped in the left lane at 52 mph, but “most” seem to get the idea to move over when given the brief flash signal. It is, in fact, state law here (304.015[6]) to drive in the right lane of multi-lane highways except to pass (or to make a left turn).

    Dunno if there are statistics or prizes awarded, but the worst in my recent experience was that stretch of I-35 from MPLS to Duluth. Not even that crowded the two days (up/back) I drove it, but you’d think no one there had EVER seen/read/heard anything about modern/proper lane use. MN had the “slower traffic keep right” language on a few signs, apparently no one wanted to be thought “slower” so camping in the left lane was universal. And maddening.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    I’m with George Carlin on this one: Anyone going faster than me is a maniac, and anyone going slower than me is an idiot. LOL
    I have been in Germany times and they have the right idea. If you are not passing in the left lane you get pulled over very rapidly and get a ticket. If you pass on the right you get a ticket. I don’t know if they still require that you keep your left blinker on while passing on the left as it has been about 10 years since I have been there, but it works very well as others always know your intentions. Blinker use at all times is/was MANDATORY. They don’t mess around over there and enforcement is certain.

    • 0 avatar
      CC_Stadt

      >>>I don’t know if they still require that you keep your left blinker on while passing on the left as it has been about 10 years since I have been there, but it works very well as others always know your intentions. Blinker use at all times is/was MANDATORY.<<<

      As someone who learned to drive in Germany: blinker use at all times is indeed mandatory and (to a degree) enforced, which is a good thing in my book.

      However, that does NOT (and never did) include the mandate to permanently keep your left blinker on while you are passing in the left lane. The people you saw doing this (and there are many, that's for sure) are communicating their "intentions" alright, but most of them were probably in the group of pushy drivers who will run right up your bumper even at 100 mph because they want to go 140 while you are trying to safely merge back to the right.

      There is a law against hogging the left lane, but there is also a law against aggressively trying to push people out of the left lane by honking, flashing one's lights, permanent left-blinking, and/or tailgating. Doing the former is a problem, but doing the latter is no better.

  • avatar
    liechter

    This law is completely ridiculous. In Germany, it makes sense because there is no speed limit. But in the United States, there is a speed limit so the effect of this law is that virtually all drivers in the left hand lane will be driving illegally.

  • avatar

    @ yotacarfan
    There is aggressive driving, and there is also passive aggressive driving.

    And then there is courteous driving. That means being courteous to the people behind you as well as those in front of you.

  • avatar

    For left lane hogs, I don’t think massachusetts is so bad–contrary to one poster somewhere above. The DC area is worse (where I am this month). Anyway, I hope the Georgians pass their bill. This is what I call a feel-good story.

  • avatar
    donkensler

    The worst experience I had was once on the Ohio Turnpike. Was cruising along when suddenly saw tail lights ahead and had to slow to the limit. Then traffic picked up for a while, then more tail lights. This continued for about a half hour until I got near the head of the line and found the leader was someone who slowed to about 2 mph faster then the right lane traffic while he was passing them, then would speed back up to 70 or so when he was done passing. Had to do about 85 to clear him before the next right lane traffic when it was my turn. To be charitable, maybe he was paranoid about accidentally passing an unmarked statie, but still…

    Which brings me to the people who won’t pass a cop who is clearly going under the limit on a clear dry highway (it’s happened – maybe he’s getting off at the next exit).

    Some of the worst lane discipline I’ve seen is on the creeper lanes on hilly or mountainous two-lane highways (mostly in the west). Semis usually are pretty good about moving to the right, but Ma and Pa Kettle in the RV just won’t. When I encounter that situation, I just assume the RV contains Ma and Pa K, and plan to dart right as soon as the lane appears. Of course then you get Ma and Pa doing 21 up the hill passing a semi doing 20…

    And for those who have said that if you’re doing the limit in the left lane and I pass you it means I’m speeding, leave that between me and the cops. Do you go out of your way to enforce other laws yourself?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    “Interestingly, the world’s best lane discipline is probably practiced on the German autobahn, where high to nonexistent speed limits make dawdling in the left lane a dangerous undertaking.”

    In my view as someone living in Germany, at least when traffic denses up, left lane discipline still leaves something to be desired. The rule would be only to use the left lane to pass but many use the left lane as long as they are not slower than the car in front of them. Often, you’ll see about 50% of the cars in the left, 35% in the middle and 15% in the right lane.


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