The ‘Keep Right’ law and multi-lane highways

The in basket: After Gary Reed got pulled over and warned about camping in the inside lane of Highway 16, which has two lanes in each direction for most of its length, he wrote me to say, ” I’ve seen signs along multi-lane highways like I-90 that say to ‘Keep right except to pass.’ Why are we taxed billions of dollars to build super highways when we’re only allowed to travel in the right lane? I get the two-lane (highways), but not three or more in the same direction.”

The out basket:  I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol how drivers should apply the prohibition of driving in the left-lane to freeways with more than two lanes in each direction, and he said “the far left lane (is) the left lane you need to stay out of unless passing slower traffic.

“The HOV lane is not considered the left lane.”

He also reminded me of the state law on this matter (RCW 46.61.100), which permits use of the inside general purpose lane for purposes other than passing.

“Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction,” it says, “all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except (a) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (b) when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, (c) when moving left to allow traffic to merge, or (d) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted.

“It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.”

I think (a) and (b) above mean the same thing and © mostly applies when making room for traffic entering a freeway.

3 thoughts on “The ‘Keep Right’ law and multi-lane highways

  1. I wish that more people were pulled over for cruising in the left lanes. I have also been pulled over and warned for cruising in the left lane, but I was also expected to get a ticket, because lets face it I was not passing anyone and therefore I was breaking the law. If more people stayed out of the left lane except to pass, then there would be less backups and traffic jams. You know if you look in your rear view mirror and you see a car behind you then that usually means they are trying to use the left lane to pass. I am sure it is a law, but I see it all the time, but I believe it is illegal to pass on the right side of a vehicle. So when that happens, there are 2 infractions happening. One for hindering the flow of traffic by blocking the left lane and one for passing on the right. Need more info on that. But in the end drivers out there really do disregard the law by pacing a car while sitting in the left lane. All that does is create anger on the road which leads to road rage. And if you dont believe me, watch what most drivers do when they finally pass a car, they are cussing and flipping off the drivers or they cut the car off real close, just to get back at them. While there is a posted speed limit, most of the WSP officers are not going to pull over a driver who is going a few miles over the limit. Just like most will not pull you over if you pass one on the freeway. I know do it all the time, but I am not flying by at an unsafe speed. I just cruise on by and I always get over into the right lane. But most drivers out there believe it is their job to control the flow of traffic and all it does is make others mad.

  2. I have never met anyone or heard of anyone actually getting pulled over for left lane camping, but thank goodness! This state has a terrible outbreak of LLS, otherwise known as Left Lane Syndrome. They merge onto the freeway, immediately move to the leftmost lane, and camp there for miles, never passing anyone, blocking everyone else from passing. In addition, a lot of them are “actively” blocking, intentionally not letting people pass for some reason I can never understand. Most of the time those suffering from LLS go about 5 MPH under the speed limit and match the speed of the vehicles in the right lane.

    As BearTex3 said, if you have a clear roadway in front of you, but you’re constantly feeling like people are tailgating you, you are probably suffering from LLS! The cure is to understand that being passed is not an “act of aggression.” If you’re in the left lane and you’re not actively passing, just move over and let the other cars go by. And don’t forget to use your blinker!

    Oh, and note I said “actively passing” — if it takes you from Bremerton to Silverdale to complete your pass of one vehicle, that doesn’t count!

  3. Left Lane Camping~! It has been many years but once upon a time I was pulled over for traveling in the left hand lane, I was on my way to drop my Daughter off with her Father on my way to work. Long story short the officer was very nice and simply asked me do you think that if you were traveling the speed limit 55/60 traveling in the left hand lane and a vehicle entered the freeway going the wrong way going at least the speed limit also, do you think you or your Daughter as he glanced back at my toddler in her car seat would survive a crash like that? That officer saved my life NO JOKE after dropping my Daughter off with her Father I continued on my way to work. I thought what the heck when I saw a truck coming my way down the freeway going the wrong way. I have read about these accidents and or situations but had never personally witnessed such act. That is until the same night only a short time after being stopped and warned. That small amount of time placed me out of harms way. Had I not been stopped I would have been I am sure still in that left hand lane and would have then been abe to answer the question do you think you or your Daughter would survive. Coincidence I think not God had his had on us that night and the help of the WSP. A moment I will never forget it still gives me goose bumps to this day. In closing I say STAY SAFE!!!

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