After years of frustration, drivers could see less of a particular pet peeve on Minnesota highways starting today - Thursday, Aug. 1 - with the enactment of a new left lane law.
“The new law modernizes existing language that's already in place for people traveling in the left lane below the posted speed limit and impeding traffic,” said State Patrol Public Information Officer Neil Dickenson. “The new law's language is going to basically say a vehicle in that left lane must move over and let faster vehicles pass. We want to make sure we are letting everyone know the speed limit is the speed limit. We want everyone at that or below the speed limit. If you are under the posted speed limit and impeding traffic, the new law says you must move to the right and let those vehicles pass.”
To be clear, the new law does not give drivers permission to drive above the speed limit just because they are in the fast lane. In this case, “fast” is equal to the speed limit.
Though many saw slow drivers in the left lane as just an impediment to them quickly getting where they were going, Dickenson said the law is about safety.
“The biggest thing is keeping the flow of traffic at a safe pace,” Dickenson said. “If you have someone traveling well below the posted speed limit, you're going to have traffic back up. You could possibly create rear-end collisions. If we could have everyone traveling at the posted speed limit at a good, steady rate, I think that will definitely reduce the number of crashes we're seeing.”
Drivers in the right lane can continue being courteous to other drivers seeking to merge or pull onto the highway. While nobody in the right lane is required to move over to make room for a new motorist joining the flow of traffic, they are still encouraged to do so when possible, in the interest of keeping traffic flow smooth.
Dickenson said troopers will immediately begin incorporating the left lane law into violations they are already monitoring.
“We are looking for all types of violations while we are on patrol,” Dickenson said. “If we see someone traveling below the posted speed limit in the left lane, we are going to make a traffic stop. We call it educating the driver, to make them aware of the new law. That's our goal, to educate out here.”