Interstate 75 85 highway night Atlanta
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Should Drivers Moving Vehicles Slowly in the Left Lane on a Highway Be Ticketed?

ou have just rented a car after being a passenger on a flight for several hours; and you just want to get to your hotel room or home — only to have some driver poking along in his or her car in the left lane on a highway and refusing to pull over to the right to allow you to pass.

Should that driver receive a citation from the highway patrol for moving slowly in the left lane?

162 lawmakers in the state of Georgia had voted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 to pass a bill known as HR 459 — also known as the “slow-poke” bill — while only nine lawmakers voted against it — and the bill officially became law on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The official summary of the bill is “to be entitled an Act to amend Article 9 of Chapter 6 of Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to speed restrictions, so as to modify provisions relating to impeding traffic flow and minimum speed in left-hand lanes; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date and applicability; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

In other words, if you are traveling in a vehicle in the left lane of a highway and a car speeds up behind you, you would be required to move to the right to allow the car behind you to pass — even if it is speeding and you are traveling at the legal speed limit…

…and if law enforcement personnel witness you refusing to pull over to allow the car behind you to pass, you could be issued a citation for failing to allow the car behind you to pass — despite the fact that there is already a law which states that the left lane of a roadway should only be used for passing slower vehicles. This is to reduce incidents of “road rage” and mitigate the dangers of aggressive driving.

If the car behind you is traveling faster than the posted speed limit, the driver of that vehicle could also be ticketed for speeding.

That law has been put to the test, according to this article and video from WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta: “In just over nine months, the Georgia State Patrol has written 269 ‘Slow Poke Law’ violations, mostly in the metro area.”

Legislators in Alabama passed a similar law, which went into effect in March of this year, according to this article written by Lowell McGill of The Atmore Advance. “I asked a friend in the highway department how drivers are responding and he told me, ‘There are still defiant drivers who are too stubborn to pull over.’ ‘But, hopefully fines will change the minds of some,’ he said.”

A similar law — which could carry a fine of up to $200.00 — is being proposed in North Carolina, according to this article written by Stephanie Maxwell of WSOC-TV Channel 9 News in Charlotte; while lawmakers in Washington state are considering proposing a bill for a similar law as well, according to this article written by Austin Stanley of KEPR-TV News in Pasco.

I have no immediate access to data which suggests that this law has improved mobility on the highways and avoided potential traffic congestion. I just know that I like to arrive at my destination as quickly, easily, safely and legally as I can…

…but I have seen signs on highways around the United States which state that the left lane is to be used for passing purposes only; and that is typically the rule in many jurisdictions — so although many motorists claim that they did not know that that law exists in Georgia, they should still not be using the left lane unless they are passing another vehicle.

What are your thoughts about law enforcement officers fining drivers for moving slowly in the left lane and not allowing vehicles behind them to pass — even if they are speeding?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. There should only be a ticket for slow pokes who aren’t passing. If you’re passing and someone starts tailgating that behavior is extremely dangerous and should never be encouraged. Using relative speed to “signal” your intention is one of the prime causes of road rage, not the people who don’t cater to those idiots.

    1. I agree with Rodney. How is this going to prevent road rage? When someone fly’s up on my tail, that pisses me off when I am passing someone at 70 but they want to pass at 80. They need to wait. That being said there are too many idiots that ride the left lane and have no intention of passing or moving over.

      1. I loath the idea of giving the ‘purveyors of state-sanctioned violence’ yet one more reason to harass us ‘mundanes’, however, blocking that left lane is not just ‘dickish’, it’s rather dangerous. There’s a viral video going around right now where a pickup truck driver decides use a slow moving 18-wheeler around Batavia NY in order to create a rolling road block to spite (a very crappy) driver of a Camaro (I’ve given enough terms that google can easily look this up). Needless to say the combination of crappy driving, passive aggressive behavior, and overall lack of consideration to fellow motorists led to a 3 vehicle wreck.

        One clear point on this, and why I’m replying to you is, simply ‘passing’ in the left lane is not enough. Said pick up truck driver in above example was ‘passing’ — but chose to take bloody ages doing so. This is dangerous, especially when dealing with large slower moving vehicles (as in the 18 wheeler mentioned). Your goal should be to make the pass as fast as f******g possible. Get around the vehicle you want to pass, then get back in lane and out of the way.

        Thus, the implied argument of being just by ‘passing someone at 70 and those wanting to pass at 80 just have to wait’ is in my opinion part of the problem. This could only make sense if the vehicle that you’re passing at 70 is going at 40 or around those lines. If this is the case as per most interstates where the speed limit is 65… well, if you’re passing a vehicle going at 65 by doing so at 70, then I’d argue why are you even passing in the first place? Just stay in your lane — please!

        1. Using your clues, thehawk75, I saw the video in question:

          There are too many factors about which I do not know to reach a conclusive decision.

          First, the lens of the camera might have distorted distances. It appeared to me that the pickup truck was in the left lane far too early to pass the trucks in the right lane; but that could have been an illusion due to the lens of the camera.

          Second, I have no idea how fast the vehicles were traveling.

          Third, I have no idea whether or not the driver of the pickup truck and the driver of the Camaro might have previously been engaged in a form of “road rage” immediately prior to the incident which was captured on video. Did the driver of the pickup truck purposely slow down to block the Camaro from passing; and if so, was there a reason?

          Fourth, the driver of the Camaro was allegedly charged with driving while intoxicated — his blood alcohol content was reportedly .19 percent — and driving without a license.

          I believe that as long as the vehicle in the left lane is traveling at a reasonable rate of speed and is legitimately passing vehicles on the right, it should remain in the left lane until passing has completed — after which, it should return to the right lane…

          …and if the vehicle is traveling one mile per hour faster than the vehicle intended to be passed, the driver should at least be considerate enough to allow vehicles traveling at a faster rate of speed to pass first. I personally have seen drivers of trucks with eighteen wheels do this…

          1. I agree with your criteria. I would add one more – the distance to the next car in the left lane. If you’re 5-10 car lengths behind the car in front of you, anyone behind you isn’t going anywhere anyway. If, however, there isn’t anyone in front of THAT driver for a quarter mile, he/she needs to move over.

  2. Slow-moving left-lane drivers are my biggest driving complaint…so yes. Ticket them! I drove in Ireland last summer, and it was such a pleasure–the passing lanes are absolutely ONLY used for passing, and yes, traffic flowed much more smoothly and briskly.

  3. As a certified defensive driving instructor it is very unsafe on a bunch of levels. Usually when you ask those that drive slow in the left lane you find that they just don’t know any better. They just don’t understand why people give them trouble and don’t just pass them on the right. They should be ticketed. They wouldn’t stand for it on the Autobahn so why would we in the USA on interstate highways with much more traffic.
    Truckers refer to this is as the “Hammer Lane” in other words it’s for putting the Hammer down and driving faster or passing. It is also illegal to drive in this lane in many states. I personally find drivers in certain states are really bad about this. Oregon and Illinois stand out in my experiences.

  4. Rule# 1 of driving: Never get passed on the right. If you do, you’re in the wrong lane.
    Rule #2 of driving: There should never be a minivan in the fast lane.

  5. Actively passing is the only time you should be in the left most lane. Nothing aggravates me more than someone holding up traffic, plodding along in the fast lane. They should absolutely be ticketed, even if driving speed limit if they fail to move over after passing.

  6. Great article Brian. I live and work in North Jersey. I drive the NJ Turnpike daily. Many NJ drivers are like me and we are like Ricky Bobby in that “we wanna go fast!!!” So yes, absolutely people who drive slowly in the left lane should be ticketed. I see clueless people usually with out of state plates (NY and PA mostly) that just insist on not moving over. I then slingshot past them usually with a good honk of the horn to get the point across. They probably think I am the jerk when in reality they are the ones holding up the entire highway. The law and signage all over the Turnpike reads KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS. The language could not be any clearer. That means you are only to be in the left lane to PASS. If you aren’t PASSING anyone, you must MOVE OVER.

    Great blog, keep up the good work.

  7. It would be great if American drivers and truck drivers could all see how well this works when everyone does it like on the German autobahn. Then contrast with the same highway in Belgium and see how easily it falls apart.

    Speed up when you are passing, and slow back down when you duck back in. Easy as pie. Trucks stay out of the middle lane unless you really need it. I personally can’t wait until cars are automated.

    1. I have driven on the German autobahn, Scott — and you are correct.

      I must admit that even though I have been to Belgium more than once, I have not driven on its highways…

  8. A fun new law from the same pack of jokers that came up with the surprise $5 room tax a month ago. How, exactly is a car in the HOV lane supposed to go a lane to the right? In most areas that’s illegal, so now drivers can choose between a ticket for making an illegal lane change or a ticket for holding up the speed crazed person behind them. Sigh.

  9. Maybe I am the pessimist here but it just seems like this is another law designed to allow the cops to pull over whomever they want.

    Example, think of how many people drive in all the lanes in metro Atlanta when traffic is bad. When traffic is at a crawl the left lane is slow too. Sure we would all like to be able to fly in the left lane when everyone else is stopped in gridlock but that is not how traffic work. When is the dividing line between traffic being slow and the left lane being slow with it and traffic moving fast enough that the left lane goes back to only being a passng lane.

    I support this law in Germany since they enforce it with cameras, remote tickets and are incredibly serious about road safety. Americans are much worse drivers than Germans (notice how until very recently BMWs didnt have giant cup holders and fancy vanity mirrors) and no amount of traffic stops is going to change that. Perhaps if they installed cameras all along major routes and wrote thousands of video tickets a day it would work but not a few hundred traffic stops in a year.

    1. >When is the dividing line between traffic being slow and the left lane being slow with it and traffic moving fast enough that the left lane goes back to only being a passng lane.<

      Easy. You gauge it by the distance to the car in front of you – Are you keeping up with traffic?

      But your point brings up another interesting one. If the purpose is to facilitate traffic flow, how is pulling someone over going to HELP that? If anything, it will make a bad situation worse.

      It's likely just a money-grab. But once everyone learns how to use the fast lane, it'll be glorious.

      Now… how 'bout them slow-mergers? Or worse – those who brake for them!

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