Get Out of the Left Lane: New Bill Will Penalize Driving Slow in the Fast Lane

A bill moving through the Oregon Senate would make the left lane off-limits for everything but passing vehicles. The most common response to this, made by most anyone who has spent any amount of time on I-5 in Oregon, ranges between “Thank God” and “Can we now please raise the speed limit to reflect the speeds that people actually drive?”

On the other hand, a number of people will express surprise: “Wait, what’s wrong with driving slowly in the left lane?” These people are the problem.

If Senate Bill 511 goes through, these oblivious individuals will face penalties of up to $1,000. This isn’t a draconian overreach of a “nanny state”; this simply gives “enforcement authority” to the highway signs that read, “Slower Cars Stay Right.” Washington already has a similar law. The current law in Oregon allows passenger vehicles to cruise in a freeway’s left lane as long as it doesn’t impede “the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” The new bill would amend the current law by requiring “all vehicles to drive in the right lane.” There are obvious exceptions to this, of course—when passing, in heavy traffic, or if there’s an accident on the right-hand side.

Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), the measure’s sponsor and someone well-acquainted with the issue, having to suffer the commute between Portland and Salem, comments, “If you’re not passing, stay out of the left lane. It’s really not that hard.”

She’s right, it’s not hard. And it’s a hell of a lot safer. The plague of Oregon drivers who camp out in the left lane—what people in other states know as “the fast lane”—aren’t merely infuriating, they’re dangerous. They instigate tailgating. They cause normally placid, law-abiding citizens to swerve into the right lane, hit the gas, roar past the drivers in the left lane, then cut back into the left lane before they rear-end a semi-truck.

The bill is currently being negotiated within the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation; it is expected to be released onto the House floor for debate soon. There’s a good chance it will pass.

Thank God.

by Nathaniel Brodie

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3 thoughts on “Get Out of the Left Lane: New Bill Will Penalize Driving Slow in the Fast Lane

  1. So Ms. Burdick wants to save a couple minutes on her daily commute. As a consequence, I get relegated to the rutted truck lanes and am forced to make multiple high risk lane changes to hopscotch the trucks doing 55 MPH.

    When conditions allow, I drive in the left lane at 68 – 69 MPH. When a moron runs up my tailpipe at 75 – 80, I slide over as soon as it is safe and let them pass (silently hoping there is a radar patrol person just a head).

    Besides, this law isn’t even necessary. We already have laws on the books dealing with obstruction of traffic

  2. I agree with previous commenter–don’t need another law–it’s already illegal to obstruct traffic. But I take great issue with the article writer–he is to blame for danger on the freeway, not the slow driver in his way.. What the writer didn’t notice was the words “normal and reasonable movement of traffic,” and I guess he doesn’t realize that he is far from a “normal and reasonable” driver. He’s a tailgater (illegal) on his own initiative. Tailgating is not required by a slow driver. It’s optional and only utilized by impatient, dangerous drivers who seem to want a short life and want to take a few people with them. And “normally placid, law-abiding citizens” do not “swerve into the right lane, hit the gas, roar past the drivers in the left lane, then cut back into the left lane before they rear-end a semi-truck.” Only impatient, reckless drivers who want… (see above). I’ve seen those drivers on I-5; they are the ones who make it dangerous for the rest of us. About the bill, there are, as noted in the article, too many exceptions to make it enforceable.

  3. FYI – Just as a beginning preface to my future comments, I all to often drive significantly faster than I should. Left lane or not. That being said, I’m curious. Is the driver that is “Camped” out in the “Fast” lane and is traveling at 8-10 mph over the speed limit already, truly the dangerous one? Maybe the individual that wants to exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph, and is willing to tail gate to get the message across, or who is even willing/wanting to exceed the speed limit by greater than 10 mph AND weave in, out and around traffic is the one who should get a HUGE fine. Or better yet, impound their car and auction it off to send the message… OBEY the speed limit, or DO NOT DRIVE. To be honest, even if someone was in the left lane traveling at 56 mph (66 mph in a 65 zone), aren’t they already over the “Maximum Speed” that our posted signs require. Why penalize people for following the posted speed signs. If you want to require people not to drive slow in the “Fast” lane, how about you raise the speed limit. Otherwise, do the job and ticket people traveling MORE than the posted “Maximum” speed. How absolutely asinine to consider fining individuals for not making it easier for other individuals to BREAK the law. Get the priorities straight. If it should only be a “Passing” lane then fine. But that means passing others WITHOUT exceeding the “Maximum” speed. If the idea is to bill someone $1000 for inhibiting another driver from traveling FASTER than the Legal Posted Maximum; just what message are we really sending.

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