Keep Right: Which states prohibit left-lane driving?

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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 rear view 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, Tennesse enforced a new “slow poke” law. 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.

Passing in the Left Lane

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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 laws seem to be a trend in the nation’s Southern states, with Indiana and Georgia enforcing their own slow poke 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.

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

Going slower means STAY RIGHT.

The Dangers of Left-Lane Driving

Watch the eye-opening video below to better understand why various versions of “keep right” laws are popping up across our nation.

Many people don’t realize the dangers hanging out in the left lane can cause. Take a couple minutes to learn why slower drivers should stay right, and the left lane should be used for passing and turning only (as much as is 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.

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.

“What 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 “slow poke” refers to someone who is driving the speed limit.

Studies have found driving the speed limit — when it causes other cars to switch lanes repeatedly — is actually more dangerous than speeding.

“Research has shown that the strongest predictor of an accident is variance from the average speed of traffic.”  – Vox

The “Keep Right” Laws Around You

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 this law in America:

  • 1 state: does not have a keep right law in place (it’s South Dakota)
  • 4 states: require you to stay right with several exceptions
  • 5 states: left lane driving is prohibited if you’re going under the speed limit
  • 5 states: require you to move right if you are blocking traffic
  • 8 states: prohibit left lane travel except for turning and passing
  • 27 states: require you 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. View our compiled notes for links to each state’s exact laws.

What This Means

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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.

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.

Compare rates from local companies today.  The key is that you’re always insured no matter what state you’re in (or what lane).

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