The left lane on the interstate is for passing; at least that is what it is meant to be used for. Alabama is one of 29 states with a law saying any car moving slower than the “normal speed of traffic” should move over to the right lane. This means even if you’re going the speed limit in the left lane, you should move over if there are others trying to go faster.
However, many Alabamians use the left lane for long-distance travel, which actually increases the amount of traffic and accidents in the state each year. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently ranked Alabamians among the worst drivers in the country. A large reason for that result is the number of accidents that occur in the Yellowhammer State on an annual basis.
But data also shows that Alabamians can become safer drivers if they simply follow the left lane rules.
Peer-reviewed scientific research shows that two cars riding side-by-side going the same speed can result in major traffic buildups. Additionally, studies reveal that some left-lane-drivers are misguided in believing they are actually keeping people safer by slowing down traffic. In reality, cars going 5 mph slower than the surrounding traffic have a greater chance of causing accidents than cars going 5 mph faster, and having slow drivers in both lanes often results in faster drivers weaving in and out of traffic, drastically increasing the risk of accidents. Vox media created a video illustrating this very phenomenon.
The research shows that slowing down and changing lanes multiple times can be far more dangerous than speeding, causing almost 10 percent of the total accidents on highways. If the left lane is only used for passing, drivers reduce the total number of lane changes, thus decreasing the statistical likelihood of crashes.
Not only are Alabamians putting people’s safety and schedules at risk with poor left lane usage, but they can also be putting their wallet in a world of hurt. Although most people are unaware, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says that it can and will ticket drivers for the offense.
“If they need to pass a slower moving motorist than that’s when they can use that left hand lane to pass that motorist and safely get back over into the right lane,” State Trooper Cpl. Jess Thornton told WBRC last year.
So, let’s do ourselves a favor, Alabama. Unless you are passing, stay out of the left lane to save money, time, and lives. It is a win-win-win.