Drivesmart column: Are slow drivers breaking the law?

When I am behind a driver that is going slower it bothers me.

By Tim Schewe

“Have you ever touched on the subject of drivers doing five to 15 kilometres below the posted speed limit? It’s extremely annoying. The passing lanes are usually not available due to Murphy’s Law, and the four lane stretches are great when you find one, but never when you need them! And the oddest thing happens on these four lane stretches; the folks who were going under the speed limit suddenly go ‘over’ the speed limit!”

I will add one observation to this reader’s, and that is drivers of vehicles like these either have never used their rear view mirrors or are completely oblivious of the parade behind them.

This is something that I notice in myself as well. When I am behind a driver that is going slower it bothers me. Sometimes I am able to reduce my speed and follow along and sometimes the itch to pass just has to be scratched.

My mood is often an indicator of which of the two choices I will make. A bad mood can lead to a bad choice so it is worth thinking twice when you recognize this in yourself at the time.

Slow driving is different in law than speeding. With speeding, if you are over the limit you are in breach of the law. However, if driving under the speed limit is necessary for the safe operation of your vehicle you have an excuse for impeding traffic. That is, until an officer tells you to speed up or to remove your vehicle from the highway until the officer gives permission to continue.

In short, there is no offence in driving slowly in British Columbia unless you do not have a safety reason or are driving contrary to the officer’s instructions.

This is one of those laws that can differ depending on which province or state you happen to be driving in. Pay attention to signs on hills or ask for advice before you go.

If you do choose to drive more slowly than other traffic, remember that slower traffic must keep right and if you have the opportunity to use a slow vehicle pullout you must use it.

This brings us to courtesy and self preservation. Obstructing traffic where there is only one lane of traffic for each direction will eventually provoke someone into passing, perhaps in a manner that is dangerous due to their impatience. If you have to drive slowly, keep an eye on those behind. Pull off the road and stop frequently to let others by and then continue at the pace you require to be safe.

When I did speed enforcement I allowed the same room under the speed limit that I allowed over it. I also kept an eye on advisory signs and rarely found a driver outside on the low side but frequently found them outside on the high side. Some slow driving complaints may be made by drivers who need to relax a bit behind the wheel themselves.

We tend to look at this subject with only one set of eyes, forgetting what it was like when we were new drivers and not yet knowing how old age will affect us. We also have many different opinions of what might be safe in the circumstances. If we all co-operate, this should not be more than a few moments interruption of what you want to do.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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