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Slow in the Fast Lane: Left Lane Bandits

Ever been stuck behind a driver dawdling in the passing lane? Not only is it infuriating, but in Virginia it’s against the law.

Cars Driving on Highway/ Freeway
A row of cars behind a slow driver in the left lane, Barbsimages / Shutterstock

It’s happened to all of us: you’re cruising along the highway in the left-hand lane when you come up behind someone going way too slow in the fast lane. Those dawdlers aren’t simply contributing to traffic slow-downs and stoking road rage, they’re also breaking the law here in Virginia, and police officers are handing out $100 tickets to violators. To make matters worse for those getting pulled over, a slow-driving violation has the potential to negatively impact your car insurance rate the same way a speeding ticket would.

While there’s not much you can do about other drivers going slow in the fast lane (unless you’re wearing a badge!), you can avoid contributing to the problem by being a conscientious and non-distracted driver. Be aware of your surroundings and obey posted speed limits at all times, and be sure to stay to the right whenever you aren’t passing another car. And don’t tailgate if you come up behind a slow-driving offender — it’s a dangerous practice that never helps solve the problem.

Before you get too upset if you do find yourself behind a driver going slow in the fast lane, look around for a possible explanation: there may be a construction-zone lane closure, or there might be emergency vehicles on the side of the road that have pushed traffic out of the right-hand lane. If there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the slowpoke to be in the fast lane, it’s OK to try to gently signal the offending driver — chances are that he or she isn’t aware of the backup they are causing. But be gentle — there’s a good possibility that you are behind a newly licenced driver who is relatively inexperienced and is nervous about being on the road, or an older driver who is being extra-cautious. Without getting too close, you can flash your lights to signal to the driver ahead of you that you’d like to pass, and if it’s safe for them to move over they hopefully will. If that doesn’t work, a light tap on the horn might do the trick and alert them that it’s time for them to move to the right.

If neither of those gentle nudges work, your best course of action is to simply take a deep breath, remain calm, and hope that the slow driver is due to exit the highway soon. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to get worked up and angry about being stuck behind a slowpoke, no matter how frustrating it is. Road rage leads to many accidents and dangerous situations on our roadways, and it’s best to avoid those situations at all costs. The risk of having an accident only increases when tempers boil.

Another option in some situations is passing the slow driver on the right — which is legal in Virginia, on roadways with multiple lanes going in the same direction, unless specifically prohibited — but this move always warrants caution, and we recommend avoiding the practice whenever possible.

All of us here at Burnett & Williams want you to be safe whenever you’re out on the road — we’re on a mission to help you avoid needing a Personal Injury Lawyer! But if you ever do need us, we’re here, and we’ve got your back. Call us for a free consultation 800-969-1650, or email us at contact@burnettwilliams.com.

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