Do States Need Slow-Poke Laws?

Posted on May 31st, 2018
By Steven Gursten

Slow Poke Laws

In today’s fast-paced world, the average driver is trying to get to a destination in the least possible amount of time.  An increasing number of states are imposing fines and restrictions on drivers who drive in the left lane and stay there, making it impossible for other drivers to get past them safely.

All states require slow vehicles to keep right, but not all states set penalties for failing to get out of the left lane. Penalties have been stiffened in some states for “left lane camping” or “slow-poke driving” including Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and New Jersey.

Why Left Lane Driving is Dangerous

It can be exasperating to be trapped behind another driver who is driving well under the speed limit in the left lane. For drivers who are late for work or an appointment, being trapped behind a “slow poke” can lead to extreme frustration, as well as congestion and sometimes even accidents.

When the left lane is blocked by a slow driver, other drivers may be tempted to weave in and out of traffic in an attempt to pass them on the right. This can lead to episodes of road rage, aggression and risk taking. It can also lead to vehicle accidents and possibly injury or death.

Slow Poke Laws Vary by State

Whether there is a penalty for camping out in the left lane depends on what state you are in. In most cases, penalties aren’t intended for simply driving slowly in the left lane. These laws are typically aimed at people who drive well below the speed limit but remain in the high speed lane and won’t move out of the way of other drivers.

The laws vary from one state to another. In Kentucky, wherever the speed limit is at least 65, drivers must keep right except to pass. Drivers must keep right except on three-lane highways or to pass heavy traffic in Michigan.

Other State Laws Involving Slow Drivers

In Tennessee, drivers can be fined for camping out in the left lane. The same is true in Indiana, where the fine can go as high as $500 for blocking the left lane. Florida requires drivers to move to the right if they see faster vehicles coming.

Most states have some sort of regulation regarding the use of the passing lane, except for a small handful which includes North Carolina and Maryland. Some states have stiff penalties while others are still trying to get left-lane bills approved, but don’t yet have enough support.

Do Laws Involving Slow Pokes Decrease Crashes?

The real question is whether laws aimed at slow pokes really decrease crashes. Do they protect drivers from other drivers who are dangerous, or just from those who are annoying? Slow drivers are not the first thing that come to mind when discussing traffic safety. Speed and distracted driving are much bigger threats.

Left lane usage can impede the flow of traffic, creating annoyance for drivers who spend a lot of time on the road such as truck drivers or those with long commutes. It can also create areas of congested traffic that aren’t really necessary.

Are Slow Drivers Dangerous?

Ultimately, each state has to decide for itself how much impact slow-poke drivers have on heavily traveled roads and highways, and how much slow drivers are responsible for the road rage and aggression resorted to by other drivers who are in a hurry. Some accidents do seem to be tied into the inconsiderate behavior of drivers who camp out in the left lane.

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