A Simple Question … Endless Possibilities

Why Drive in The Right, Pass in the Left Lane?

Posted by apwood on September 12, 2008

For one – it would make so many people happy.  At least me.

Why do I care?  Almost daily I see someone going right at or below the speed limit in the left lane.  It starts to back traffic up and you have to take off cruise control.  (No, I’m not a road rager (is that a word?) who drives 90 mph, just your normal 7-miles-or-so-over-the-speed-limit-girl)

Also, my other half is an offender of left-lane-driving-slower-than-the-cars-in-the-right-lane.  He is one of the many who do this. I try to bite my tongue when someone is on his ass and I just know they’re irritated.  If he doesn’t notice after a minute or so i just can’t help it.

I don’t understand why nor do i understand why I don’t and why it bugs me?  I just feel like it is the right thing to do as a driver.

But anyway, curiosity pushed me to look up what the ‘law’ on such annoying behavior is.  It must have come from somewhere.  Didn’t I learn that in Driver’s Ed in high school?  Stay to the right unless passing?  It has been a while so I did some searching.

First I found a site called “STATE KEEP RIGHT LAWS” – it actually breaks down the laws each state.  Yeah, LAWS as in plural.  It is ridiculous some say YES you have to keep right, others say NO, others say sometimes depending.  Take a look at the chart – beware, it can be confusing – you have to keep looking up to remember which color means which answer and then the side notes.  (or maybe it is just early for me).

So, the verdict on Pennsylvania (since that is where i live and drive most often) – “USUALLY”.  Huh?  Not Yes (although marked green for yes = driver can only use left lane to pass)  Usually was given b/c it is a YES with 2 reasons for not following this:

May also use left lane to allow traffic to merge or “when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow”.

I get it they are being very specific – which some may need and not leaving it to common sense.  Very smart PA lawmakers that be.

But  there are only seven states that say Yes to drive in the right lane unless passing.

The abundance of them say ‘Slower’ on the chart which means –

Most states follow the Uniform Vehicle Code and require drivers to keep right if they are going slower than the normal speed of traffic (regardless of the speed limit). These are listed as “slower”, with an asterisk and an explanation under “comments” if vehicles lawfully using the left lane must yield to overtaking traffic. A few states either do not require vehicles to keep right (“no”), or permit vehicles moving at the speed limit to drive in the left lane regardless of traffic conditions .

Which I interpret as if you are holding up traffic because you are going slower than the people in the right lane or behind you move over.

Only a few states don’t say you have to get over.

So I wasn’t crazy – Stay in the right lane unless you are passing or going faster than the right lane.

I even found a site called DRIVE RIGHT PASS LEFT – where they also hold the belief that this system has a place and will help with congestion on the highways.  I didn’t scour it as closely as the first as I’m out of time.  Woke up a little early this morning and had a minute.

Am I the only one who wishes this was a law that more abide by?

Although – this was kind of just a fun thing to look up for curiosity sake on what the laws were.

Have a good one!


4 Responses to “Why Drive in The Right, Pass in the Left Lane?”

  1. great blog…i cant wait to get my driving license so i can moan about the road too and swear at other drivers as they try to cut me up heehe…driving is abit different in england though

  2. apwood said

    Thanks for dropping in! Enjoy when you get the license!

  3. lucrari de dizertatie…

    […]Why Drive in The Right, Pass in the Left Lane? « WHY?[…]…

  4. fordskydog said

    This is a daily annoyance for me. In my state, Florida, the law is a bit ambiguous, but if anything can be read to support the drive right pass left logic. At it’s most blatant, the law says that an overtaken driver is to yield the passing lane if the overtaker makes his/her intentions to pass known by turn signal, by audible signal (horn), or by flashing the lights.

    It is my experience that these actions just make the left lane stragglers mad. I typically wait a safe distance behind a left lane straggler to see if there is any differential in speed between them and the traffic in the right lane. i.e., are they actually passing, albeit very slowly? If they do not show any intention to pass, then I flash my lights. Then they usually get offended and cause problems. I have even signaled my intention to pass while following a slower left lane driver when the right lane is free, and been pointed to the right lane, suggesting I just go around on the right.

    Having experienced driving in Germany, amongst a nation of pretty strict rule followers, I understand from experience how much of a joy driving can be. When the rules are very logical, and when everyone knows and follows them, it is a beautiful thing. On the German Autobahn, the equivalent of our interstate highways, there are strict rules about driving right and passing left. You can get fined for not returning to the right lane, and you can also get fined for passing on the right. A headlight flash is a courteous signal of intent rather than a personal attack. Incidentally, throughout my 5 days of driving all over Germany, I did not once see a driver holding a cell phone.

    The logic of drive right pass left is sound, and can be supported by queueing theory. The purpose is many fold. Let each driver proceed at his chosen pace (it is not for the general public to police each other). Unambiguously know what other drivers will do. If everyone knows what’s going on then it will be less hairy when the stuff hits the fan. Leaves an out in hairy situations. Most importantly, it allows traffic to separate. In NASCAR, we all know “the big one” only happens when lots of cars are in close proximity. And most pragmatically it keeps heads cool. How would you feel if someone just stood in the doorway and didn’t let you by, say at the supermarket or the bank?

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