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EDITORIAL: No need for passing lane law

EDITORIAL: No need for passing lane law

New York doesn't need another law, fines, police duties to get cars to move out of passing lane
EDITORIAL: No need for passing lane law
Photographer: Adobe Stock

Yes, it can be frustrating and time consuming when the car in front of you in the passing lane refuses to move out of the way when you want to go faster.

But no, New York doesn’t need yet another traffic law to eliminate the practice of people driving too slow in the passing lane. Police don’t need yet another task to handle when patrolling our state highways. And New Yorkers don’t need another reason to get pulled over or another unnecessary fine.

Under the proposed law, S6675A, motorists who drive more than 1.5 miles in the passing lane without actually passing a vehicle would be subject to a $50 fine for a first offense and a $100 fine for each subsequent offense.

How is the law going to be enforced? A police officer, probably a trooper, would have to be behind the motorist for a full mile-and-a-half and observe the person not passing in order to find the driver in violation of the law.

Usually, there’s one driver up ahead slowing down the whole pack. Is every driver behind him subject to the law, since they are driving in the passing lane without actually passing anyone? Will the officer have to catch up to the lead car and observe him directly?

Drivers often refer to the far left passing lane as the “fast lane,” which they feel gives them license to go faster than vehicles in the other lanes, including those traveling the speed limit. This new law would restrict use of the left lane to passing vehicles only and could actually slow the flow of traffic. 

Or it could encourage more people to drive faster in the middle lane. Or it could cause motorists to make unsafe and unnecessary lane changes from the passing lane to the travel lanes if they see a police officer behind them.

With the state’s new Move Over law, which requires drivers to change lanes to avoid police, highway crews and rescue vehicles stopped by the side of the road, the passing lane is often used as an outlet to allow multiple lanes of drivers to move to the left. Would the new law provide an exemption for drivers who move over?

The law is also redundant, since it’s already illegal to drive unreasonably slow based on road and traffic conditions.

New York should instead encourage motorists to make room for passing vehicles by setting minimum speed limits and posting stationary and lighted signs to remind drivers to move over.

In Missouri, they post signs saying “Camp in the Ozarks, not the left lane.” Oklahoma has erected more than 230 signs warning drivers not to “impede the left lane.” And Michigan has a “Southpaw Initiative” urging slow drivers to move over.

A new law is not always the best solution to a problem.

That’s true with slow drivers in the passing lane.

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