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Should it be illegal to drive too slowly in the ‘fast’ lane

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – What drives you nuts while driving around Virginia?

Is it:

A) People who text and drive

B) Drivers who won’t turn right at red lights

C) Folks who travel in the far left and set cruise control 5 m.p.h UNDER the speed limit

If you chose C, you might be in luck.

A Virginia lawmaker has proposed a bill in the General Assembly to make it against the law to drive under the speed limit while in the far left lane.

House Bill 51 states:

No person shall drive a motor vehicle either (i) at less than the posted maximum speed limit in the left-most lane of any Interstate Highway or (ii) at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Whenever the Commissioner of Highways or local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine on the basis of a traffic engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the Commissioner or such local authority may determine and declare a minimum speed limit to be set forth on signs posted on such highway below which no person shall drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The lawmaker who introduced the bill, Del. Israel O’Quinn (R) – Bristol, is a “strong advocate for Southwest Virginia, according to his website.

O’Quinn told CBS 6’s Chelsea Rarrick that drivers who are going too slow in the far left lane is one of the most consistent concerns that he hears from voters in his districts as well as adjoining districts.

“You are trying to pass or get around and it’s next to impossible,” said Lowa Snell who lives in Caroline County and drives along the Interstates often.

A spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic told CBS 6 that they applaud lawmakers for wanting to address the issue, but have some concerns with the bill.

“If for example, the speed limit is 70, then those traveling in the left lane would be breaking the law at 69 mph and at 71 mph making only driving at precisely 70 mph lawful. It would be hard for anyone to argue that driving at exactly 70 mph at all times when in the left lane is possible due to the changing flow of traffic,” said Martha Meade, with AAA Mid-Atlantic.

CBS brought those concerns to Del. O’Quinn.

“I don’t know that a State Trooper is going to write you for going one mile under the speed limit for going in the left lane, just like they might not write you for one mile over the speed limit,” said Del. O’Quinn.

Interstate 81 runs through O’Quinn’s 5th district.

Delegate Israel D. O'Quinn (R - 5th District)

Delegate Israel D. O’Quinn (R – 5th District)

I sent an email to Del. O’Quinn asking him why he filed this bill.

Here’s what he said:

CBS 6: Why is there a need for this bill? Did someone come to you with the idea or is that just a pet-peeve of yours?

Del. O’Quinn: It is the most consistent complaint I receive from citizens.  In our region, the terrain can change drastically and many drivers do not take that into account and will be traveling 10-20 miles below the posted speed limit while in the left lane.  It is also evident that it leads to road rage and other unfortunate occurrences.

CBS 6: What other things that you see on the road drive you nuts?  

Del. O’Quinn: This is the most consistent issue I receive feedback on when it comes to our interstate highways.  I try not to legislate out of emotion, thus I don’t put in a bill for everything that irritates me as an individual.

CBS 6: What lane do you travel in most often?  

Del. O’Quinn: I only drive in the left lane when I am passing another vehicle. Otherwise, I do not travel in the left lane.

CBS 6: What will it take to get the voters to turn this bill into a law?

Del. O’Quinn: If voters are irritated by folks driving under the speed limit in the left lane, they should contact their Delegate and Senator to urge passage of the bill.

Since you’ve made it this far down, here is a YouTube video you might remember from a few years ago.

It shows a police officer get behind a car driving slowly in the fast lane. What happens next in the stuff of viral video legend.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the language in this video may not be suitable for all audiences.

37 comments

  • jackburton77

    It should.

    The flawed logic, of the slower driver, is that they are either:

    1. Going the speed limit and everyone should slow down
    2. The safe driver because they aren’t exceeding the limit

    I, myself, either go the speed limit or 5 miles over. I’m a consistent middle lane kind of guy. I also utilize my cruise control on the highways and interstate. Look how cool I am #sarcasm

    Anyway, back to point, it’s not the slow drivers place to police fast drivers, it’s also just an excuse so they need not bring up that point, they certainly don’t mean it. They create just as much a safety hazard as the lead foots they are impeding. Let them move on and keep up.

    • Itsalimitnotasuggestion

      I’ve gone through two Citizens Police Academies (one where I used to live in a nearby county, one where I live now). The Police Department in my former county of residence and the Sheriff’s Office in my current county of residence told our classes that they enforce the speed limit PERIOD. There is no “five miles over grace speed” as is popularly supposed. If they have not caught you YET, it is because they are after the person in the fast lane who is “blowing by” everybody else at way above the speed limit, texting while driving or driving apparently impaired, etc. Yeah, you go before the Judge, in traffic court, and say, “Your Honor, I often drive five miles over the speed limit” but you’d better have your checkbook or your credit card ready to pay the fine if you do.

      • jfoster13

        Bull, cops will allow up to 10 mph over speed limit in most cases. I have never been stopped going less than 10 mph over even when there was little or no traffic. Show me a policeman who never drives over the limit.

  • Tammy

    I wish someone of some authority, would please show me where it is written that the speed limit is somehow different because you are in the left lane. Please refer to the Virginia State Driver’s Manual and you will see no such difference there. Also, does this mean that if the posted speed is 55 and I choose to do 70 in the left lane, that an officer should have NO right to give me a speeding ticket because I am in the left lane. I drive on the interstates and highways everyday to and from work and the average difference between the far left and the far right lanes are general 10 to 15 miles per hour different. I generally ride in the middle but with that being said, It is my understanding that traffic speeds are set based on road conditions (curvy, straight,paved, etc.) as to allow for speed, convience, and safety, NOT to appease some idiot who believes “THE FAST LANE” is a die hard rule of the road. HOW MANY PARENTS WANT THEIR 16 YEAR OLDS CRUZING IN THE HAMMER LANE DURING 5 O’CLOCK TRAFFIC?

    • jackburton77

      Tammy, no offense but you don’t get it. Leave the enforcement up to the police. It isn’t your job to get involved and when you do it causes more safety concerns than if you just let that person break the law and move on…they are going to anyway.

      Spoiler Alert* People break the law everyday. It doesn’t make it right but I certainly am not going to physically involve myself in a crime. Work smarter not harder. If you have a real problem then call the police and report someone speeding.

      • NOYB

        Report speeding to a cop? LOL!!!!!!!! Thats a good one. After they get off the ground from laughing at you, they will probably give YOU a ticket for interrupting their nap. That is, IF you can find a cop on the road..and paying attention…and who will listen, etc.

    • NightOwl

      @ Tammy: I agree, the speed limit is the speed limit *period*. However, when an individual, through obliviousness or fear drives BELOW the posted limit on a major highway (especially in the left lane) they become a hazzard to the drivers around them *period*.

      I would also stipulate that when traffic as a whole is driving at 8-10 miles over the posted limit (which I agree is illegal), the person driving at the speed limit in the left lane is just as much of a hazzard to other drivers as those who are driving 45 in a 55 zone or driving 90 in a 70 zone.

      Driving on an interstate maintaining at least the posted speed limit should be a given. Of course we all know the reality, right or wrong, is that highway traffic will occassionaly move faster than the posted speed limits. I’m talking about traffic as a whole here, not just one or two lead footed bone heads. If a driver isn’t comforable driving in highway traffic knowing they may encounter these conditions they should stay on the secondary roads.

      I have family members and a couple of friends who aren’t comfortable driving over 50mph. Because of that they choose not to drive on the interstate. It’s pretty simple.

    • athynz

      I believe you missed the point – it’s not giving the speeders the right to fly in the left lane but to get people who – for whatever reason – go 5 mph or more below the speed limit in the left lane. IMHO it’s 55/60/65/70 MPH on the interstate and with very few left hand on/off ramps in the area there is simply no reason for anyone to go below the speed limit in the left lane when there is clear weather and light traffic.

      I tend to go 5 mph above and it’s more than a bit irritating when someone decides to go 5 mph below the speed limit when conditions do not dictate the slower speed.

    • Move Over

      If you are driving in the left lane and people are consistently passing you on the right, you are creating a travel hazard. You should move over, regardless of how fast you are going.

      • Matthew Kelly

        No, the people going faster than the speed limit are the ones creating the traffic hazard. You could be the only person on the road going the actual speed limit, but if someone going faster than you hits you because you weren’t “going with the flow”, it’s still their fault.

        As a rule I go 25-30 mph over the limit on a highway with enough open space for me to do it safely, but still it’s the people going the actual speed limit who are doing the right thing, not the speeders.

    • Driver

      It’s actually the passing lane and you’re not technically supposed to be in that lane unless you’re passing people. So if you’re in that lane going the same speed as the car in the right lane, you’re not passing anyone.

  • Scott Moe

    Actually it is already illegal to drive below the posted speed limit on the highway no matter which lane you are in. You can be cited for impeding the flow of traffic if you are below the speed limit in any lane.Obviously this lawmaker does not know the current laws.

  • Rekula Tsuj

    Oh, this is funny, because all three of the options I hate! If they had included “following too close” and “lack of signaling before turning or merging” and you’d have pretty much covered ALL of my driving peeves. Not everyone has ESP and knows exactly what to expect from other drivers trying to get over. Turning on the signal light at the last second is just as bad as not turning it on at all, too. It doesn’t hurt to actually signal before you hit the brakes or merge, you know. And driving too close is just like someone constantly walking behind you and breathing down your neck at the same time: It’s annoying, especially when people do it in the non-fast lanes and refuse to pass. (Yeah, it can go both ways as well.)

    Hate to say it, but in order for the annoyance to be eased, Virginia probably needs to be more obvious with some of the issues on the highway, whether it’s for lead-footers or the coasting slow drivers in the left lane. I do think minimum/maximum speed limit and passing lane signs would help ease the problem a little bit, but then again, as long as we have a wide ranged spectrum of drivers, the problems are going to continue. Why? Because everyone believes their way of driving is the right and only way, and anyone who thinks or does otherwise should get off the road. :-)

    • athynz

      Agreed! When one is cruising in the left hand lane 5 mph above the speed limit there’s nothing more annoying and even dangerous than some sanctimonious jerk who decides you should not be driving that fast and comes over into the left hand lane with no turn signal going below the speed limit. It’s not up to anyone other than the law to directly affect how fast I drive. And that holds true for the jerk who rides people’s rear ends in an attempt to get them to go faster… which irks me as I’m already above the limit.

    • WpgMom

      Just to expand on your signalling pet peeve. The only thing worse than no signal are the ones who signal half way through a turn. Classic

  • Zane

    Even though it seemed pretty awesome what the cop did, it was dangerous tailgating so closely, by any chance due to fear of the cop behind, the driver decided to hit his brakes even a slightest bit the cop would have rear ended the car and at that speed even if was only 45 in a 65 zone it could have been fatal. The cop should have just flashed his lights a few times and I’m sure the driver would have moved towards the slower lanes preparing to pull over. That cop is an idiot in my opinion.

  • L452

    So, with this law…you will have to go exactly the speed limit in order to not break the law. You can’t go over-ticket, and you can’t go under-ticket. That’s setting me up to give more money to the government.

  • M.L. Adams

    “The Police Department in my former county of residence and the Sheriff’s Office in my current county of residence told our classes that they enforce the speed limit PERIOD.”

    That may be what they told you, bit that’s pure BS! Writing up people for going a couple of miles over the posted limit, except in a school zone, will only do one thing…get the officer harangued by the judge for wasting the court’s time! Frequently testifying in traffic court in DUI cases (I used to draw blood alcohol levels) I’ve seem a number of policemen, almost always rookies, taken to task by the judge for just that, wasting his time, before he dismissed the cases!

  • Manalishi

    Just another scam for this police state to justify it’s rediculous payroll and pension program. Every day on 95 all i see bogging down progress have a few characteristics. #1 toyota prius, #2 hooptie, #3 filthy windows, #4 Quebec tags, #5 obama/biden bumper sticker. if you match any of these,,,,take the pike.

  • troy

    I would rather see any laws we already have be enforced because the fact is there not.Police have gotten fatter and lazier and there seems to be less of the cops that wanna do the job anymore.Most are just there for a check and laws don’t matter.Yea if you do something directly in front of them they might get involved but other then the spped traps run I just don’t see it anymore,surely in henrico county.Seems to have changed with the new attorney and manager,hmm

  • E Johnson

    The left lane is not the fast lane it is the passing lane. No matter what speed you are traveling, if you aren’t passing the vehicle to your right you should not be in the left lane

  • mds7558s

    Let me get this right, citing someone for doing the speed limit in the left lane.. Whats the speed limit on the highway? it’s posted, it don’t say right lane (55mph) or middle lane (60mph) or the left lane (70 plus) when you enter the highway its says SPEED LIMIT 60mph, and if you go faster you’re breaking the law, but the state police do allow for a fraction over. Passing a law that change the speed limit for one lane is really stupid. If you want someone in the left lane to go faster, raise the speed limit on the highway, or just go around them, and go about your business.

  • gary

    The speed limits on the road are pretty cut and dry. It really comes down to courtesy. If you are in the left lane and not impeding traffic, fine. However if someone comes up and wants to pass, be considerate and let him by. If you are in the right lane, it is your responsibility “to keep up with traffic”. The left lane…Virginia’s finest will determine if you are passing at a safe speed. I do not believe an additional law is needed, enforcement of existing laws should be adequate.

  • me

    Speed in the left lane should never be the issue, the law should reserve that lane for passing only under normal traffic conditions.

  • Sammirah Meowski

    It should be just like Germany: the left lane is for passing. If you aren’t actively passing people (at a decent rate, none of this 1/2 mph faster nonsense) then you move out of the lane. I don’t care if people are going the speed limit or even over it, if you’re in the left and people behind you want to go faster than get out of the way.

  • Romaine Cheney

    Talking and texting on a cell phone while driving is worse, in my humble opinion. I’d rather someone drive slower in the left lane if they are paying attention to the road and those around them than and drive around a slow driver. These idiots that drive extremely slow and swerving because they are too busy talking and texting DRIVE ME NUTS!!!

  • nj driver

    OMG. FINALLY somebody has a brain! I drive a lot for my job and it never fails to amaze me at the boo boo driving in the left lane doing less than the speed limit.
    For all the people who are complaining about driving faster in the left lane.. take a moment and read the signs that clearly state Left Lane is for passing, slower traffic keep right. If you don’t like to drive over the speed limit then DON’T DRIVE IN THE LEFT LANE. It’s really that simple. It bugs the heck out of me how traffic is backed up and rubber-necking because someone is driving slow in the fast left lane.
    If you are in the left lane and cars in the middle or right lanes are passing you. ..GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE.
    Cant wait to see this go into affect…I’ll be more than happy to report offenders to the police.

  • Tom Kurr

    >>or just go around them, and go about your business.

    and there’s your sign.

    passing on the right is illegal.
    ‘keep right except for passing’

    by-the-law in pretty much every state.

    but in reality what we have a a batch of people who will drive from Canada to Florida / NYC to LA in the left lane no-matter-what.

    and the result is illegal passing on the right, reckless driving activity, eventually in drastic circumstances resulting in road rage and people shooting at each other in moving cars.

    yes – we need a solution to road idiots.
    most, unfortunately, are the elderly.

    as suggested, might be better to have a “impeding traffic” law – that way you could nail the 95 year old granny “being a safe driver” at 30 mph in the right lane of the interstate.

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