Driving slowly in the left hand lane is not just a pet peeve, but causes a hazard by negatively impacting the flow of traffic.
This forces faster moving traffic to pass in the right hand lane. Drivers hoping to pass a slow left hand lane driver often signal a lane change toward the center median, flash headlights, or drive very close to the bumper to the slow left hand lane driver, which is known as tailgating.
The left hand lane which is also referred to as the fast lane, inside lane, or passing lane is reserved for faster moving vehicles wishing to pass or overtake. The United States Uniform Vehicle Code states the following: “Upon all roadways 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.”
Some states, including North Carolina, have made it illegal to drive slowly in the left hand lane and fail to yield to traffic that seeks to overtake.
In North Carolina, travel on a multi-lane roadway is governed by N.C.G.S. §20-146(b):
Upon all highways any vehicle proceeding at less than the legal maximum speed limit shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for thru traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn.
A violation of this law is an infraction pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-176 (a) and if convicted, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicle would assess 2 drivers license points pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-16 (c), or 3drivers license points if the violation occurred during the operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
Most of the laws prohibiting driving slowly in the left hand lane however seem to only be enforced to stop suspicious vehicles or passengers.
Generally, one should always be aware of their surroundings especially while driving and move lanes if they find themselves holding up traffic – the choice to travel in the right hand lane should be made already out of consideration for other travelers, to increase traffic safety, to reduce traffic congestion, and to improve emergency response.
By Jana H. Collins, Office Manager