WSP uses YouTube to warn “left-lane campers”

The in basket: Robin Henderson e-mailed to ask if I’d seen the video produced by Washington State Patrol on YouTube, informing its viewers of this state’s legal requirement to stay out of the left lane of multi-lane highways if you aren’t passing a slower-moving vehicle. You can be ticketed for “camping out in the left lane,” as that’s often called.

“Heh, heh,” Robin said, “I’d like to mount a projector on my dash so I could play the video in the rear view mirror of the guy in front of me camped in the left lane.”

The image atop this column, from an e-mail my cousin sent me, expresses the same sentiment.

The in basket: I had seen the video, just the day before, when I got a WSP news release about it. You can see it at

I don’t get too exercised about left lane campers, many of whom I think aren’t so much inconsiderate as genuinely afraid to confront the blind spot challenge that moving right presents. I usually can use the right lane to get around them quickly enough.

Even I find changing lanes to the right frightening on a crowded three- or four-lane urban freeway at night, more so since 2000 when I had neck surgery.

But I make it a point to move right if the driver behind me makes it clear he wants past by moving up on me, even if I’m going over the speed limit.

My wife, The Judybaker, is one who won’t move right for a car coming up on her from behind if she is doing the speed limit in the left lane and the traffic to her right is traveling slower than the limit. Of course, by definition, she then would be passing slower moving traffic and would be legal. But it still might irritate drivers behind her who want to exceed the speed limit, and probably would consider her a left-lane camper.

If the right lane traffic also is doing the speed limit, so she’s just pacing them, she could be risking a ticket. Or risk being stopped and warned, which the video says is a frequent result.

The video says there are exceptions to the rule, but doesn’t list them. They are when preparing to exit the highway to the left or to allow the merging of another vehicle, such as at a freeway on-ramp.

I urge those who get angry at left-lane campers ahead of them to make the following mental calculation. If you’re stuck behind such a driver for two minutes, you haven’t been delayed two minutes. You’ve been delayed only as long as it takes you to make up the distance you would have traveled at your preferred speed compared to the speed you were forced to travel. It’s usually a few seconds. If you won’t miss a ferry, you can live with it.

4 thoughts on “WSP uses YouTube to warn “left-lane campers”

  1. “genuinely afraid to confront the blind spot challenge that moving right presents”

    If this is truly the case with some drivers, then they need to drive in the left lane all the way home & leave their car in their driveway or garage forever, because they are most certainly not skilled enough to be out on a public road!

  2. I took drivers education from Mr. Acres at CKHS back in 1977. Freeway speed was 55 mph. I already had a lot of driving experience with my dad. Dad always drove 64 and I pretty much learned from him. But in drivers ed. I was trying to keep it under the speed limit. So we get on the recently expanded highway 3 south of Silverdale and promptly get stuck behind some little old lady doing 50.

    Mr Acre’s looks at me and says “Pass her”. So I put on my blinker, check my mirrors, give a quick head check to my blind spot and pull over into the passing lane. I speed up to 55 and what does grandma pitty poo do? Of course she speeds up to match me. There I am, just a kid and already developing a lead foot trying my best to be a good boy in Drivers Ed.

    Mr. Acres says again “PASS HER”. I look at my speedometer now approaching 60 mph and ask ‘are you sure’. He nods, so I gun it. I hit 72 MPH getting past her. It was the fastest I had ever driven at the tender age of 15. After I safely merged back into the right lane and slowed to the speed limit I asked Mr. Acre if I wouldn’t get a ticket for driving that fast. He told us that it was perfectly legal to exceed the speed limit for a brief period of time to safely maneuver while passing another motorist. I have lived by this rule and never been ticketed when passing on the freeway.

    Folks who alter their speed, or hog lanes just to make a point to other drivers are either being inattentive or just plane confrontational. Some people are on the road working for a living. They just want to get from point A to point B as expeditiously as possible without being hassled.

    1. It’s legal to exceed the posted speed limit when you have to move into the oncoming lane to pass a vehicle moving slower than the posted speed limit. Upon passing, you must immediately return to your lane and slow to the speed limit. This “speeding” exception does not apply to passing vehicles on roadways with multiple lanes going the same direction, like a freeway. Mr. Acres could have got you a ticket. (I took drivers Ed at CK in 73′ but my instructor wasn’t that cool.)

  3. Lane campers are surely the source of road rage. No doubt they see themselves as “Guardians of teh Universe” to keep all others at or below the speed limit. There is always a chance that the person wanting to go just a wee bit faster has a valid reason for doing so, and to camp in the “fast lane” seems to me to be an invitation for a confrontation. It certainly does not hurt anyone to pull over for a few moments to let another go around. No treason to be selfish in every aspect of life. I’m guessing the campers are also the ones that will speed up while another is attempting to pass on a two-lane road. Not nice at all.

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