We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the interstate and suddenly come up on someone who’s going much slower than you are. If you’re both in the right lane, you just casually ease into the left lane and go around them. But what if there are slower drivers in both lanes? That’s when the road rage hits.
Well, we now have scientific proof that driving too slow in the left lane is not only harmful to drivers’ mental states, but also to the physical safety of everyone on the road.
New 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. 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.
Reducing speed limits in general doesn’t seem to help either. On the German Autobahn, speed limits are often nonexistent, but accident and fatality rates are lower on the Autobahn than on U.S. highways. Research indicates one of the primary reasons for this is that the Germans are much stricter on lane discipline – meaning traffic is separated by speed, with slower cars staying out of the way of faster ones.
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.
Some Alabama lawmakers are stepping up efforts to keep slower drivers out of the left lane. Representative Phillip Pettus (R-Greenhill) sponsored a bill this year that would have ticketed drivers for staying in the left lane longer than 1.5 miles. It did not pass before the end of the regular legislative session, but there are indications that law enforcement officials may start enforcing Alabama’s left lane law more strictly. It will come as no surprise to most Alabama drivers that Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Sgt. Steven Jarrett says the left lane law is frequently violated.
Other states are starting to crack down on left lane abusers as well. Georgia has raised the penalty for violating this law to a misdemeanor, and police in Washington, Texas, and Ohio have started issuing tickets to drivers going too slow in the left lane. Eleven states specifically say the left lane is only to be used for passing.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently ranked Alabamians among the worst drivers in the country. But if drivers would simply stay out of the left lane when they’re not passing, that could quickly change, and everyone would be much safer on the road.