New left lane rules go in effect in multiple states

October 26, 2021

Keith Goble

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States around the country this year have taken action to bolster rules for left lane use. Oklahoma is the latest state to enact changes.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

Oklahoma

As of Monday, Nov. 1, a new Oklahoma law is intended to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

State statute has limited left lane use on roadways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Statute specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing or preparing to turn left, or for safety measures.

The revision to statute specifies that vehicles would be in violation of the law when traveling on highways. Signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, HB2054 states that county roads that are not part of the interstate or turnpike system are to be excluded.

Arkansas

Across the state line in Arkansas, a rule in place since early August also addresses left lane use.

In 2013, the state acted to prohibit all travelers from continuous driving in the left lane on multiple-lane roadways whenever traffic flow is impeded.

Although the rule was intended to address slower-moving vehicles traveling in the passing lane, state officials point out the rule also applied to instances when a vehicle is traveling at or above the posted speed limit but a faster-moving vehicle is attempting to pass.

“Slower traffic keep right” signs are posted around the state.

The Legislature acted in 2019 to add a requirement for yellow “state law” signs to be added at locations already posted with keep right signs.

The 2021 law revises the rule to state that left lane travel is only permitted when passing or overtaking another vehicle. Other exceptions include preparing to turn left or when other lanes are closed or unusable.

Additionally, the Arkansas State Police points out the law requires all drivers to travel below the posted speed, even when passing.

South Carolina

Another state to revise its left lane rule is South Carolina.

State law has required any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for situations that include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

No penalties were attached to the law.

State lawmakers approved a bill this year to make a change they say is necessary because the current deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior.

Since mid-August, the left lane rule applies to situations on highways with at least two lanes when a vehicle is traveling behind a slower-moving vehicle. Fines would be limited to $25.

Commercial drivers are exempt from the rule when they are unable to move into the right lane safely due to other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right, or when a truck’s driver is unable to move into the right lane safely due to a highway grade or other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation is required to post signs along highways to alert travelers of the law.

Warnings will be issued for violations occurring during the first 90 days. Tickets can be handed out starting Nov. 15.

Alabama

Also in effect in Alabama is a revision to the state’s left lane rule.

State law prohibits drivers from hanging out in the far-left lane. A 2019 revision to the rule clarified that while traveling on an interstate it is against the law to stay left more than one and one-half mile without completely passing another vehicle. Certain exceptions apply, such as while driving through a work zone or during heavy traffic congestion.

The new law focuses on notifications for the public about the lane use rules. LL

More state trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.