Left-lane law now in effect

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Left lane slowpokes, watch out. Your road rage-inducing behavior is now illegal in Georgia.

Georgia’s new law regarding slow drivers in the “passing lanes” went into effect on July 1, and the law applies to all roads with at least two lanes in each direction – not just interstates.

The law was passed this spring by the Georgia General Assembly as House Bill 459.

It is now unlawful for someone driving in the passing lane to stay in that lane once “such person knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken … from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed,” according to the language of the law.

The passing lane is defined as the far left-hand lane that is not an HOV lane.

The law doesn’t apply when someone must drive in the left lane to exit or turn left, on toll highways, when compliance with other laws or traffic control devices make it necessary to drive in the passing lane, or when inclement weather, obstructions, or hazards make it necessary to drive in the passing lane.

The law also doesn’t apply “when traffic conditions or congestion make it necessary to drive in the passing lane.”

A similar law was passed a few years ago, but only applied to drivers in the left lane who were doing less than the posted speed limit.

Now, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are going in the left lane. If someone behind you is going faster, you have to move over.

For safety’s sake, however, be sure that vehicle doesn’t come around you on the right as you are moving over.

“People in a big hurry who are not being considerate, who are weaving in and out of traffic, can cause accidents,” said Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows.

The original bill, as introduced, only applied to “controlled access highways,” such as interstates, but the final version applies to “roads, streets or highways with two or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction.”

“If people are going slower than the normal flow of traffic, they just need to stay in the right lane,” Meadows said.

“It’s kind of like the ‘move over, slow down’ law for stopped emergency vehicles,” he said. “Get in the lane you’re supposed to be in. Use caution when changing lanes, be courteous to other drivers and obey the speed limit.”

NPD officers don’t work the interstate, and will likely not be involved in much enforcement of the new law.

On a road such as Bullsboro Drive, enforcement would be difficult. “You’d have to observe them for a while, in my opinion,” to see if they are in the left lane because they are about to turn, or if they are just using it for travel, Meadows said.

If motorists are going slower than the normal flow of traffic, “stay in the right-hand lane and that’s basically about it,” Meadows said. Everybody “should be observing the speed limit no matter what lane they are in."

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