Safe&Sound: Are you a Left Lane Speedster?

Maybe this is you: the traffic slow down finally let up! You’re cruising on I-95 up the left lane
at a pretty good clip. Until you approach another car from behind going much slower. You flash your lights, honk your horn. This is the fast lane! Don’t they know they should stay to the right if they’re going to drive that slow? What a #$@&%*! And then there’s a, ahem…gesture.

Whether you’re on Route I-66, I-495, or another Virginia interstate, come July 1st a new law will agree with you, to the tune of a $250 fine for left lane dawdling. In fact, Commonwealth law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right but putting a new stiff penalty behind it means Virginia law makers are more serious about enforcement.

Our auto claims expert, Bruce, sees the benefits that come with the enforcement of drivers slowing down interstate left lanes. There are obvious safety issues with speedy drivers resorting to chronic lane changing or weaving in and out of right lanes to get ahead when the left lane is clogged. 

But he can’t help but pay more attention to the growing number of traffic fatalities. Ending a 5-decade trend in declining traffic deaths, the nation had a 7.2 % increase from 2014, losing more than 35,000 people in crashes in 2015. (NHTSA) And last year was the deadliest on Virginia roads since 1966 with 700 deaths for the whole year. (DMV) 

While contributing reasons for these increases are partly related to job growth and lower gas prices, concerning factors such as distracted and impaired driving as well as speed undeniably play a role. 38 states have continued to increase maximum speeds to 75 or higher. And interstates in rural parts of Virginia, like I-95 and I-81, now have an increased maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour. 

So here are 3 things to consider before you zip up the left lane: (If you’re getting more honked at from behind, we have a separate blog post just for you!) 

1. This is not a license to speed.

Speed limits aren’t changing here, folks. VA law prohibits going over 80 mph or any speed 20+ over the speed limit. It's called reckless driving, a misdemeanor offense, which is the same level of offense as DUI. And remember: The Virginia speed limit is defined as the maximum legal speed that you may travel on the road where this sign is posted assuming weather conditions are favorable. During rain, snow and ice, you may receive a ticket for overdriving the conditions even if you are driving at or less than the posted speed limit.

2. Let the VA State Police handle things.

Tail-gating or badgering another driver is not only dangerous, it’s called aggressive driving and can be criminal. Remember that there’s a range of interpretation on how to drive in the left lane due to the broad range in ways states handle it. Be patient and avoid escalating any issue with another driver and let officials penalize dangerously slow drivers.

3. Take it easy. You’re probably not going to get there faster anyway.

Studies show speeding, zipping around cars and changing lanes frequently not only doesn’t get you to your destination faster, it also increases the chance of having an accident and decreases your gas mileage. That can translate to higher insurance premiums. And it’s bound to make you feel more uptight and stressed out. 

Let’s hope Virginia lawmakers got it right with passing this new law and continue to make the Commonwealth’s roadways safer. By keeping slower traffic to the right and obeying posted speed limits, all of us on the roads should be a little more safe and sound. Now, put down that phone!

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