Policy Analysis | February 2009

Left-Lane Campers

Background: What Is Lane Courtesy?

The National Motorists Association (NMA) strongly supports the concept of slower traffic traveling in the right lane of multi-lane highways and vehicles in the left lane yielding that lane to faster traffic. The NMA calls this concept "lane courtesy". Recently, there have been several articles on the "left-lane camper", the driver who drives in the passing lane and bars faster drivers from easily passing. States are cracking down on left-lane campers, both to keep traffic moving and to tamp down the road rage that goes from zero-to-60 faster than ever before. Proper lane usage and common courtesy go hand in hand in helping lower incidents of road rage along with helping with traffic issues that clog our highways. In short, there is an acknowledgement that our highways are used improperly and the solution is not more highways, but rather in developing proper usage of the highways we already have.

In the SLC, only Kentucky requires drivers to move right if they are blocking traffic in the left lane. Most states follow the Uniform Vehicle Code and require drivers to keep right if they are going slower than the normal speed of traffic (regardless of the speed limit; see below). These states are listed as "slower", with an asterisk and an explanation if vehicles lawfully using the left lane must yield to overtaking traffic. A few states either do not require vehicles to keep right ("no"), or permit vehicles moving at the speed limit to drive in the left lane regardless of traffic conditions ("less than SL").

The color coding in the "keep right" column is red if the state has no restriction on slow vehicles in the left lane, yellow if vehicles moving at the normal speed of traffic are permitted in the left lane even when they are unnecessarily obstructing other traffic, green if use of the left lane is limited to passing, and grey otherwise.

SLC State "Keep Right" Laws

State Keep Right? Law Comments
Alabama slower 32-5A-80(b)
Arkansas no 27-51-301(b) Law prohibits obstructing traffic by driving continuously in the left lane.
Florida slower 316.081(2) Governor Bush vetoed 2005 SB732, which would have reserved the left lane for passing, saying that drivers blocking the left lane are "cautious and careful."
Georgia slower * 40-6-40(b),
If below speed limit in left lane and blocking overtaking traffic, must move right.
Kentucky yes 189.340(7) Only where the speed limit is 65 or 70
Louisiana slower * R.S. 32:71 Must move right if blocking overtaking traffic.
Maryland less than SL 21-301 If driving 10 MPH under speed limit, or slower than speed of traffic if conditions require speed below limit.
Mississippi slower 63-3-603(d)
Missouri slower 304.015(3) 304.151 prohibits "obstruct[ing] the regular flow of traffic on...any state highway"
North Carolina less than SL 20-146(b),(e) Keep right if below speed limit.
Oklahoma slower 47-11-301
South Carolina slower 56-5-1810(b)
Tennessee slower 55-8-115(b)
Texas slower 545.051(b) DOT may post "left lane for passing only", 544.011.
Passing on right prohibited except on one-way roadways, 545.057.
Virginia slower * 46.2-804(1) 46.2-842.1 requires vehicles in the left lane to yield to faster traffic;
State Police say this applies even when faster traffic is speeding.
West Virginia slower 17C-7-1(b)

The Uniform Vehicle Code, prepared by National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, states:

"Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic ..."

Note that this law refers to the "normal" speed of traffic, not the "legal" speed of traffic. The 60 MPH driver in a 55 MPH zone where everybody else is going 65 MPH must move right.

Enforcement for failing to keep right while at or above the speed limit is variable. Police looking for criminal activity are aware of the "keep right" law and will use it as an excuse to stop a suspicious car. On the other hand, most police find speeding easier and more profitable to enforce.