Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Left lane blockers

I would respond that I preferred to write the ticket for the offence that was the more dangerous

By Tim Schewe

When I used an unmarked car for enforcement, one of the tactics that I would use on multi-laned highways involved finding a vehicle traveling at the speed limit in the left hand lane. I would take up a position in the right hand lane a few vehicles lengths back and wait. It did not take long before another driver was dangerously close to the vehicle that I was following, trying to bulldoze them out of the way.

After watching for a few moments to make sure that the second driver would not establish a safe following distance or go around on the right, I would pull that vehicle over and ticket the driver for following too closely. Almost invariably the driver would complain about the vehicle in front and ask why I had not ticketed the first driver for failing to get out of the way. I would respond that I preferred to write the ticket for the offence that was the more dangerous.

In the conversation that followed, it was made clear to me that the bulldozer felt that the left lane blocker (aka: Left Lane Bandit) failing to get out of the way was a more serious offence than their’s was by choosing to severely limit their ability to react if something unexpected occurred.

If you are driving in the left hand lane and you are driving at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing, you must drive in the right hand lane if it is practical to do so. It is important to note that the words speed limit do not appear anywhere in the last sentence. If you are slower, move over. If you choose not to, you are at risk of being ticketed for failing to keep to the right unless it is unreasonable to do so.

There are four exemptions to this rule:

• Passing someone travelling slower than you are

• Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a driveway or private road.

• Allowing other traffic to merge

• When moving over for an official vehicle stopped on the roadway or at the roadside

Our provincial government felt that this rule did not provide sufficient instruction to drivers about keeping right, so they enacted more legislation to further define when drivers must not use the leftmost lane.

One difficulty that I faced was a traffic court justice that told me not to bring fail to keep right tickets into her court unless the driver was traveling less than the posted speed limit. If they were following the limit, she would not convict.

Left lane blockers increase the risk caused by aggressive drivers. The aggressive driver cares for no one but themselves and will try to get by using any means available. By refusing to move over, the left lane blocker contributes to unsafe lane changes and tailgating behaviour.

A defensive driver will reduce the risk by giving right of way even when the law does not require them to.

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