What the Left Lane is Really For

Elephant in Left Lane
Beachinrn, Flickr.com
Remember, “fast” is subjective. Think of the left lane as the “passing” lane, and you might find fewer people overtaking you on the right.

Most drivers have an inherent understanding of the basic rules of the road. Green means go. Red means stop. Speed limits are there to save lives. But there are some rules that aren’t as obvious. For example, did you know that on highways with more than two lanes the left lane is reserved only for passing other vehicles? And that driving in the left lane – even when there are no other cars in sight – could be considered a traffic offense? If this is news, this blog’s for you.

Understanding Lane Courtesy

Lane courtesy refers to the practice of getting out of the way of other cars that want to drive faster than you. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately this is something that’s not always practiced, and roadways are frequently backed up by drivers who either refuse or don’t know they’re required to yield to those who want to get past them. This this can lead to road rage. If you’re finding that you’re being honked at, shouted at, or consistently have drivers passing you on the right, it might be time to take a long hard look at your driving habits. Remember: each driver’s version of “fast” is subjective, so don’t think of the left lane as the fast lane; remember it’s the passing lane.

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What if You’re Driving the Speed Limit?

A lot of drivers think it’s acceptable to occupy the left lane if they’ve got the speedometer pegged at the maximum allowable limit. After all, the law’s the law – right? Not exactly. According to the Uniform Vehicle Code (which is a set of traffic laws suggested by a nonprofit organization called the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances), “any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic.” In plain English, this means that even if you’re driving the maximum posted speed limit you should still move to the right to allow other drivers to pass you in the left lane. While this might seem to fly in the face of adherence to the speed limit, highway patrol officers in some states could be within their right to give you a citation for holding up the flow of traffic. Beware!

Follow the Law Where You Live

Because states often interpret fast lane rules differently, it’s important for you to know exactly where you stand if you’re a self-confessed “left lane hog.” Read up on what your state’s laws say about when it’s okay (and when it’s not okay) to drive in the left lane here.

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All of us, at one point or another, have experienced the frustration of being stuck behind a slow driver who won’t extend them the courtesy of moving to the right.