When you learned to drive, were you taught to keep to the right unless passing?
The answer is probably yes, but it's not likely that you've ever seen it enforced. In Georgia, though, they're taking it seriously: drivers who slow down traffic in the left lane might soon face a fine of $75 or more.
The bill, which breezed through committee this week and looks headed for a vote, builds on a rarely enforced state law requiring a vehicle in the left lane to either speed up to the legal limit or move over to the right.
Lawmakers stated, in comments to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that safety might be improved when motorists use the lane according to their respective speed, and that it might help soothe traffic congestion. The new fine would also help reduce the frequency of people using the middle lane for passing, causing dangerous close calls or accidents with slower-moving vehicles.
It also helps vehicles keep a more even speed, which can result in better fuel economy. So when you're smoking up that grade in your Mercedes-Benz 220D—biodiesel stickers and all—perhaps you could think of pulling to the right for the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG that's wafting up from behind at…the speed limit, we'll just say.
A quick poll of a few High Gear Media colleagues underlines that lane discipline seems to vary greatly within our country. Motor Authority editor Nelson Ireson says that keeping right, in Little Rock, is "rarely observed and even more rarely enforced." Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker laughed, and noted that on the New York State Thruway "plenty of people park solidly in the left lane—especially those from New Jersey!"
This writer would have failed driver's ed with anything less than perfect lane discipline and notes that in most of Michigan, drivers move to the right for higher-speed vehicles. We've seen excellent lane adherence in the vast plains states, yet in West Coast cities it's a dangerous free-for-all, and up and down the I-5 corridor the use of the flash-to-pass features is socially forbidden or met with blank stares.
What's your experience with lanes on U.S. expressways? Does keeping right matter, and does it help keep things smoother and safer, or does it result in people going even faster in the left lane? Let us know what you think.