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What Are The Laws For Driving In The Left Lane?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's a driving pet peeve for many of us -- getting stuck behind someone driving 55 mph in the left lane. It finally bothered Drew from Lindstrom enough that he wrote to WCCO.

He wants to know: What are the rules for driving in the left lane? Good Question.

"I try my best to be patient," Drew says, "I've spoken with friends who flash their bright or tap the horn, I haven't gotten that far yet but understand when you have to be somewhere in a hurry."

Expedia ranked drivers that aggravate people the most. The "texter" tops the list, followed by "tailgater," "last-minute line cutter" and "left lane hog."

Every state has a law that says drivers going slower than the speed of traffic should stay in the right lane. But, a handful of states go a step further and ticket left-lane drivers who aren't passing or turning. Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and New Jersey have what are called "slow-poke" laws.

Minnesota does not.

"We don't stop left lane campers, sitting in the left lane driving the speed limit," says Minnesota State Patrol Tiffani Nielson. "If they're driving the speed limit, they're not violating the law."

Minnesota statue 169.18 says, "Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway, or when a specific lane is designated and posted for a specific type of traffic."

"The law is written that slower traffic needs to move right and drivers can use the left lane to pass vehicles," Lt. Nielson, who also reminds people speeding is against the law. "They should not exceed the speed limit in the left lane of traffic."

As one Minnesota man said Wednesday, "My Uncle Keith used to drive in that lane, he used to tell my mom when they'd drive together – bullcrap - I'm doing the speed limit, they can go around me."

Research shows drivers in the left lane are more likely to cause other drivers to change lanes and create large speed differentials – two factors that contribute to a higher likelihood of accidents, according to John Hourdos, Director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory.

Lt. Nielson says congestion in the metro area makes it hard to give people tickets for driving in the left lane.

"Every lane is filled, so we're not going to focus on that violation," she says.

But, she also recommends drivers always move to the right if someone comes up behind them. She says it's not worth what troopers have seen can escalate into road rage.

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