100 Words On: Why I Hate Slow Drivers Who Cruise in the Left Lane

In North America the left lane is designated for passing, intended for the highway’s fastest traffic. It’s a concept that evolved with the birth of the US Interstate Highways. Unfortunately, too many drivers today feel entitled to cruise in the left lane as long as they’re traveling the speed limit. This selfish practice is not only legally dubious, but also obstructs the free flow of traffic. According to the National Motorists Association, so-called “left lane blockers” are responsible for many traffic jams.

The bottom line: Moving over for faster traffic makes highways safer and more efficient for everyone. It’s also common courtesy.

Photo Credit: Garrett


  1. 1


    Actually, I believe the left-lane-as-passing idea goes back to at least the German Autobahn, which predates the Eisenhower Interstate system in the US by about 20 years.

    On the Autobahn, if you are slowly cruising (“slow” being relative) in the left lane and are rear-ended by a faster moving car, you will be ticketed for failing to yield to on-coming traffic. Ausgezeichnet!

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      You may be right about the Autobahn, DC! My assertion that the US Interstate System was the origin was based upon the info I got from the National Motorists Assoc.

  2. 3


    I agree! I wish everyone would pass and stay on the right, but that is wishful thinking. On Interstate 5 (California), at least the trucks follow the rules.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      In a perfect world, that is how it should be.

      My experience has been than truckers tend to be among the most courteous drivers on the road — if not the most courteous. Well, most of them, anyway.

  3. 6

    RobG says

    I could write a novel on this topic. The left lane problem is (IMO) the direct result of the liberal mentality that nobody should be allowed to do any better than you. Couple that with idiotic speed limits and overzealous enforcement whose only purpose is to generate revenue, and you have a recipe for stupidity.

    I’ve encountered too many people who believe it’s their job to “prevent” people from going too fast, and will go Road Rage against people if/when they try to get by them.

    I wonder how many people have been taught to drive by simply being told, “when you get on the freeway, just get over to the left lane and let people go around you.”

    California requires all vehicles towing to stay in the right lane unless passing and the cops are good about enforcing that. But they also stick towing vehicles with a 55 mph speed limit. And there will often be a truck that decides to pass a 55 mph truck going 57 mph so it takes about five miles for it to happen.

    Like I said, I could go on and on, but I better stop now.

    • 7


      “the direct result of liberal mentality”? How about the direct result of stupid people doing stupid things? I’ve seen enough NRA and Nobama bumper stickers in the left lane to know it’s not a result of liberal anything. It’s driving. Not politics. Stupid people do stupid things, regardless of their political persuasion.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      I hear ya about the slow passing trucks! Especially when you are coming up on them at, say, 80 mph (yes, folks, out in some of the wide-open areas of the West, that is an extremely reasonable speed) and the truck that is traveling 2 mph faster than the semi in front of him jumps out in front of you at 57 mph.

      As you said, it then takes the passing truck as long as a couple minutes — or more, if there is a long line of trucks — before it finally moves back into the slow lane. Very inconsiderate!

  4. 9

    JYK says

    I agree! We have a lot of these passive-aggressive drivers in Washington State. And I think people who go under the speed limit are just as dangerous as, if not more than, those who speed.

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      I’ve always subscribed to the theory that more accidents are caused by slow drivers being in the fast lanes than faster drivers on the highway, in general.

      Maybe that’s wrong, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  5. 12

    Oscar says

    “In North America the left lane is designated for passing, intended for the highway’s fastest traffic.”

    Of course, if that traffic is going faster than the speed limit, that traffic is as much a lawbreaker as the guy who is crusing along in the left lane at the speed limit. And how can you pass somebody who’s doing the speed limit without going over it?

    I say this because not every state has left-lane laws, and it certainly isn’t a nationwide law. I might get irked at the guy doing 50 in the left lane when the speed limit is 70, but I am not going to be such a hypocrite to get pissed at the guy doing 70.

  6. 13

    Lola says

    Oscar, for reals you need to lighten up.

    The Uniform Vehicle Code says that cars driving below the “normal speed of traffic” should be driven in the right lane, and most states (29 of them) have left-lane passing laws that follow this code. Since it states “normal speed” and not “speed limit”, those who are driving above the speed limit but still slower than the flow of traffic around them are in the wrong. So it seems to me that driving slower in the left lane is considered a worse offense than speeding.

    For the record, ten additional states have the left lane designated as “turn only” lanes. Five states have weak or no laws (although it is common courtesy to keep right), and the remaining six states have laws stating that you must move if blocking traffic.

    It drives me bat-sh*t crazy when people don’t keep right on a 2-lane highway. Glad I’m not the only one out there who feels that way! :)

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Well said, Lola! :-)

      Unfortunately, the states don’t make its citizens take the time to read the UVC — or maybe there wouldn’t be so many slow pokes in the fast lane.

      According to the UVC, if the normal flow of traffic at any particular time is, say, 75 mph (even though the posted limit is 65 mph), then a car traveling 70 mph in the passing lane that failed to yield to faster vehicles would be guilty of obstructing traffic (even though it was traveling over the posted speed limit).

  7. 15


    Thank you! I agree with you completely on interstates and highways. In cities it can be a bit different due to many left turns but even then a lot of people I get stuck behind could use some help finding the right lane. I live in a touristy area though so I have to look at the plates to determine which lane to be in.

  8. 16


    Pulling out into the left lane to pass someone is to take your life in your hands in my state. Left laners have no concept of speed control and feel free to ride the bumper of the car in front with a space of six inches between bumpers.

    Sanity from all is required, not faster speeds or no-speed limit lanes.

    • 17

      Len Penzo says

      I hear ya, Marie. I do not condone tailgating under any circumstances — even when a left-lane blocker is present.

      Of course, I think no matter what we do, there will always be speeders. Almost everyone does it on occasion. I know some people, like the Honeybee, who do it almost all the time. On second thought, you can strike the “almost” part. 😉

      • 18


        Interesting factoid (since someone mentioned the Autobahn above): did you know that it’s illegal to tailgate on the Autobahn in Germany? They have higher fines for that than for almost any other driving offense.

        Tailgating/being tailgated is scary.

  9. 19


    I wish they would flash this blog post all over the Interstates. My biggest pet peeve is the people who are not only clogging the fast lane, but doing it while texting or performing other egregiously unsafe acts. I am pleased to know that the NMA is on my side about this!

  10. 20


    I live in Denver, CO, where almost every single highway/freeway/interstate has signs posted on the side of the road that say things like “Slower Traffic Keep Right” and “Keep Right Except to Pass.” And YET, people drive whatever the heck speed they want in the left-most lane, and expect people to cope. *sighs* (It doesn’t help that the posted speed limit is 55 in most places and drivers are going anywhere from 50 to 75.)

    This especially drives me nuts because I spent the last eight years of my life in SW Michigan, and did most of my freeway driving on I-94. Almost everyone in Michigan follows the “keep right except to pass” rule flawlessly, and will absolutely move over (if they can) if you are coming up behind them at a faster speed. I-94, for those of you who don’t know, is a major artery for semi-truck transportation, and is two lanes for most of the way.

    My theory is that people who drive along I-94 have been stuck behind a semi passing another semi often enough to understand how frsutrating it is not to be able to get past if there’s a slower moving vehicle in the left lane. In Colorado, where most of the freeways (at least in Denver) are 3+ lanes per side, and there’s not as much semi traffic, no one cares. (It’s a different matter entirely when you get into the mountains, where everyone follows the rules.)

    Colorado drivers baffle me constantly.

  11. 21


    As someone who uses the carpool lane to go to and from work, there is very little that annoys me more than people who get in the carpool lane and drive slowly. Especially if they’re not actually carpool. My boyfriend and I have decided we should strike a deal with the police: we’ll throw water balloons filled with paint at people illegally using the carpool lane, and then they’ll be easily identifiable for the police!

    A more common occurrence though is that the slow car is a work truck with a couple of Mexicans in it. I’m guessing that they’re afraid to drive over the speed limit because they worry they’re more likely to be pulled over because they’re not white. Sadly, they’re probably right.

  12. 23

    Tim says

    In Colorado the reason people drive in the left lane as the “normal” lane was quite obvious to me after driving here for a few years. The real reason is ignorance, but it’s not just ignorant drivers on the road – it’s the typical mindset and ignorance of the State itself. When on any 2 lane road merging to a one lane road, Colorado depreciates the right lane in 95% of cases – reinforced by signs indicating right lane traffic merge LEFT . This is exactly opposite of every other State I have driven in. A majority of States depreciate the left lane when the same scenario exists. These states make the right lane the PRIMARY lane, which is the more logical and SAFEST scenario. By doing what they do, Colorado is educating the population daily ( my guess subconsciously) to depreciate the right lane AT ALL TIMES in favor of making the left lane PRIMARY. Therefore the LEFT lane MUST be the correct lane to travel in all the time. It’s 1)nauseating, 2)dangerous, 3)the behavior of lemmings, and one of many reasons I really hate Colorado.

    • 24

      Len Penzo says

      Wow … that is strange, Tim. And as you point out, quite dangerous. I wonder what the Colorado traffic engineers were thinking when they decided to follow that convention.

      I will say, for the most part, in California it is the left lane that usually depreciates — but I can think of several examples off the top of my head where the right lane is the one that comes to an end too.


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