Is Left Lane Driving Allowed in Your State? [2021 Update]

Driving just 5 miles per hour slower can increase the risk of other drivers getting in a crash while passing the slower car. 27 states require that drivers who are going slower than the traffic speed must stay in the right-hand lane, with many states prohibiting left lane driving for drivers looking to pass slower traffic or make a turn. Both drivers — the one going slower than the speed limit and the one moving faster than the speed limit — could be ticketed, raising auto insurance rates.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2021

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Things to Remember

  • In five states, you are required to move right if you’re blocking traffic
  • Slowpokes in the left lane can raise the accident-risk for other drivers
  • Tickets for slow driving can result in an auto insurance rate bump
  • Every state in America has a keep right law with different penalties

We all have experienced this: You’re left lane driving, cruising at a speed a little bit over the speed limit, passing drivers who are driving slowly, when you very quickly come up behind a car that is camping in the left-hand lane.

You swerve to the right to get by the person, performing a risky maneuver as dangerous as speeding itself, before heading back to the left lane. This is an article covering the laws governing and the dangers of left lane driving.

If you’ve ever encountered one of these slowpoke drivers — people driving in the left lane slowly — you know they’re dangerous, even more so than the people going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Higher-speed drivers have to perform dangerous maneuvers, often quickly so as not to risk a crash with the slow drivers, because the slow drivers are in a lane not meant for them.

For that reason, almost every state in America has a “left-lane” driving law. Most of them are simple: The left-lane can only be used for turning or passing. Chilling in it is an offense, for which people can be ticketed.

This article covers all that and more. We know that there are two groups affected by the left-lane law who could face legal and financial consequences for the situation mentioned above: the person performing the maneuver to get around the slowpoke driver and the slowpoke driver themselves.

We know that getting a ticket, either for being a slowpoke driver or going over the speed limit, can affect your auto insurance rates. You may be wondering by how much, and in truth, every company penalizes drivers differently for this driving infraction.

If you broke the left-lane driving law and want to find better rates, just enter your ZIP code into our online quote generator above. It will ask you about driving infractions and calculate your rates accordingly.

Or you can head over to our Best Auto Insurance Companies for 2021 page and go over each individual company that you have an interest in. We include average rates for the major companies as well.

Let’s get started.

What States Have the Left Lane Law?

In many states, left lanes can only be used for passing on interstates, and this is only the case if the drivers are actually passing another car moving slower than them and not simply trying to get away from traffic altogether.

The left lane law seems to be a trend in the nation’s Southern states, with Indiana and Georgia enacting their own slowpoke laws in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

Left-lane cruisers, as they’re known, will no longer be able to hog the country’s busy motorways and interstates in the passing lane.

For most of us, this is cause for celebration. But if you happen to be one of the “slowpokes,” perhaps it’s time to work on driving the minimum posted speed limit, and remember: Going slower means STAY RIGHT.

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What is Left-Lane Law?

State “keep right” laws or the left lane law dictates proper use of the passing lane. Driving is a pretty uniform practice across the United States, so most of us don’t think twice before crossing new state lines.

However, many states have their own traffic laws that pose legal penalties and physical dangers if not obeyed.

Imagine you’re on the interstate minding your own business just coasting along when you see the dreaded lights in your rearview mirror. Do you have a busted taillight? Did you forget to renew your tags?

Nope. You’re just driving in the left lane.

Though only a few states ban left-lane driving, knowing which states have done so before you travel can save you a lot of hassle and money.

In July 2016, Tennessee introduced a new “slowpoke” law for proper use of the passing lane. Slow drivers who do not yield to drivers moving faster than them, regardless of the speed limit, will face a misdemeanor charge or $500 fine if caught.

And that’s just one law for one state. Let’s move to the next section, where you can see which states (and yours in particular) are passing similar left-lane driving laws, especially in one particular region in the country.

Does the left-lane law apply if I’m driving the speed limit?

Perhaps you’re offended at the implication all left-lane drivers are going 10–15 mph below everyone else. In many cases, in fact, a “slowpoke” refers to someone who is driving the speed limit rather than someone who has a need for speed.

Studies have found driving the speed limit when it causes other cars to switch lanes repeatedly is actually more dangerous than speeding, with some law enforcement officers giving tickets to those slowpoke drivers.

Although it is uncertain how much those tickets would cost, our article titled, “How long does a speeding ticket affect your auto insurance?” shares that a speeding ticket can raise your auto insurance rates on average by $45.46 and stay on your record for up to three years.

Dangers of Left-Lane Driving

What are the dangers of left-lane driving? Many people don’t realize the dangers hanging out in the left lane can causes. Take a couple of minutes to learn why slower drivers should stay right, and the left lane should only be used for left-lane passing and turning (when safely possible).

Driving just 5 mph slower than everyone else on the highway increases the risk of another driver causing an accident while attempting to pass you. According to Nolo’s legal site, you can actually get a ticket for driving too slow and impeding traffic.

When left lanes are used only for passing, however, the risk of collision is decreased since drivers can pass multiple cars at once and quickly resume their place on the right-hand side.

This not only makes the motorway a safer place for everyone involved but also decreases the frequency of drops in speed and disrupted traffic flow.

For that reason, to answer the question, “Which lane is the slow lane on highways?”, it is always the right-hand lane. That is essentially what the right lane is used for — both for driving slowly and to exit the highway as well.

This rule is important for making the streets a safer place and likely a rule that the states with the best drivers are already following. It can reduce accidents and even reckless driving behavior, which often occurs when a driver is forced to change lanes rapidly due to people camping in the left lane.

Keep Right Laws in Your State

Although every state has some type of restriction regarding the left lane, these restrictions vary greatly. Here’s a summary of the various versions of the Left Lane law in America:

  • 4 states: You are required to stay right with several exceptions
  • 5 states: Left lane driving is prohibited if going under the speed limit
  • 6 states: You are required to move right if you are blocking traffic
  • 8 states: Left lane travel is prohibited except for turning and passing
  • 27 states: You are required to stay right if you’re driving slower than the cars around you

As you can see, most states have strict laws in place about which lane you drive in.

The eight states where it’s illegal to drive in the left lane except for turning left or passing are Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

How do keep right laws affect your driving?

It’s your responsibility to understand and obey the driving laws not only in your home state but in any state you will be traveling to or driving through.

Highways and faster speeds always pose a greater risk of collision, but you can protect yourself and those around you by being a safe driver who abides by the law.

Safe driving can also affect your auto insurance rates, with many auto insurance companies offering discounts for safe drivers, including vanishing deductibles, safe driver discounts, and attending defensive driver courses.

Check out our page about tips for reducing your auto insurance rates with years of safe driving for more information. Also, make sure that you are fully covered by your auto insurance policy. In the event of a collision, having adequate coverage often makes the difference between speedy recoveries and financial ruin.

To prepare yourself for the possibility of getting into an accident, take a look at our article about what to do after a car accident for more detailed instructions that can save you money if you’re involved in a collision.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Laws for Driving on Highways

Now that we’ve covered the laws in all 50 states that prohibit slower drivers from driving in the left-hand lane, let’s get to your frequently asked questions. Among others, we’ll answer the following:

  • Why is driving in the left lane dangerous?
  • How do you drive on a three-lane away?
  • How common is a fear of driving?

And many more. Let’s dive right in.

#1 – What states is it illegal to drive in the left lane?

In all 50 states, it is illegal to drive in the left-hand lane with certain exceptions. Generally, those exceptions are when a driver is passing or overtaking a vehicle or making a turn. Some states additionally require that a driver must go to the right-hand lane if they are moving slower than the flow of traffic.

#2 – Why is driving in the left lane dangerous?

Driving in the left lane is dangerous if the driver is going below the speed limit or, in particular, going slower than the flow of traffic. The reason is that a driver going at a higher speed than this slow driver must make a maneuver, often dangerous, when encountering a slower vehicle in the left-hand lane. This can result in accidents, or at least a higher accident-risk.

#3 – Can you get pulled over for driving in the left lane?

Yes, you can get pulled over for both going under the speed limit and over the speed limit in the left-hand lane. Slowpoke drivers can be ticketed if they break the keep right law in their state, which often includes driving at a speed slower than the flow of traffic or going under the speed limit.

#4 – How do you drive on a three-lane highway?

On a three-lane highway, the rules are generally the same as if the driver was on a two-lane highway. The goal is for slower drivers to drive in the lane as far to the right as possible to not slow down traffic and create a higher risk of traffic accidents by driving in the middle lane or the left-hand land.

#5 – What lane do you stay in on the highway?

In general, this depends on how fast you are going. If you are driving faster than the speed of traffic, the goal is to drive in the farthest lane to the left as possible. If you are driving slower than the speed of traffic, the goal is to drive in the farthest lane to the right as possible.

In either case, impeding the flow of traffic (the slower driver) can result in a ticket, while engaging in high-risk maneuvers or driving recklessly (the high-speed driver) can result in tickets as well.

#6 – Do you have to let someone merge?

If you’re already on the highway or the road where someone’s attempting to merge, you don’t specifically have to let them as you have the right of way. However, most drivers will let the person merge as long as they aren’t cutting in front of someone or behaving in a reckless or bad manner towards their fellow drivers and the person that can allow them to merge onto the street.

#7 – How common is a fear of driving?

Generally, around 12.5 percent of people will develop a phobia at some point in their lives, with driving phobia fairly common. The issue might not solely be because the person fears an accident but may just become anxious about being in a car and driving.

#8 – Is driving a car difficult?

The actual driving of the car is not difficult, though someone with a learner’s permit might spend dozens of hours meeting the qualifications to apply for a driver’s license and acquiring their driving skills. One of the major issues when driving is to learn the rules of the road.

While these are generally similar in most places in America, the rules can change when driving in a foreign country. Also, different cities have different driving cultures, which can make adapting your driving technique to those cultures a challenge.

#9 – How long does it take to be good at driving?

According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, it takes most people around 45 hours to learn how to drive, along with over 20 hours of practice to hone their driving skills in different settings and situations. More than 18 percent of people get their driver’s license in just sixth months while most drivers get it in just one year.

If you’re looking to dive right in and find the best auto insurance rates for you and your area, just plug your ZIP code into our online quote comparison tool. We also can calculate rates depending on if you have had a speeding ticket, as that can raise rates.

Because some auto insurance companies will penalize a driver differently for that offense, we can give you quick options that fit your personal needs, rather than just for the average driver in your area.

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