Fast-lane law boost for common-sense driving

(Bedford) Times-Mail

Operating a motor vehicle requires a lot of common sense but, as those of us who travel the byways of America know all too well, common sense doesn’t often prevail on the pavement.

A law signed by Gov. Mike Pence earlier this month, which takes effect July 1, gives faster drivers the right-of-way in what we commonly refer to as the “fast lanes,” or the left lane of a highway. The law allows police to cite drivers who travel slowly in the fast lane, failing to budge when they should reasonably know another vehicle is attempting to overtake them.

Most of us have been in the situation.

You’re traveling on a four-lane divided highway. The posted speed limit is 60 mph, but drivers are traveling side by side in both lanes at 55 mph, backing up traffic, infuriating motorists and creating a sea of brake lights.

State Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brooksville, who sponsored the legislation, said he did so to ensure “individuals who are driving in the fast lane slowly are properly incentivized to get out of your way.”

The mandate doesn’t apply during traffic congestion, bad weather, exiting on the left, paying a toll or pulling around a stopped emergency vehicle. But, at all other times, those drivers who continuously travel in the left lane and don’t move over, will risk fines come July 1.

Common sense tells most drivers to move into the right lane when a faster vehicle is approaching from behind, but the rule was simply not spelled out in legislation. It was more a “best practices” rule of driving that is not often practiced. Before the new law was passed, state statute only said vehicles traveling slower than the speed limit must use the right lane of a multilane highway but didn’t address driving in the left lane.

Opponents of the law say it’s backward, noting police officers should not be ticketing slower drivers but focusing on those traveling above the posted speed limit. But that’s a weak argument at best. Few, if any, police officers are going to allow a driver traveling 75 mph to get away in order to stop a Buick driving 55 mph in the left lane.

The more legitimate concern is how often the law will be enforced.

Law enforcement officers have a tough job on their hands. With serious accidents, violent disputes and drug arrests almost daily, it’s hard to believe the biggest concern on an officer’s mind will, or even should be, the left-lane driver who is single-handedly infuriating other motorists on State Road 37.

You can almost guarantee tickets for left-lane driving will be even less frequent than those citations for texting and driving — another infraction that appears to be relatively tough to catch.

But for those who travel Indiana’s highways frequently and prefer a smooth drive, free of braking and lane changes, this law is for you. It may not cure the problem, but perhaps it’ll give slower motorists more of an incentive to move into the right lane when a faster vehicle is approaching from behind.

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