Just in time for the holiday weekend, a new law is in effect that could make getting to your destination a little easier.
The law is designed to target drivers who hold up traffic in the left lane.
If they are going under the speed limit and won’t let faster drivers around, the slower driver could face a fine of up to $500, but legal experts say the new law will be nearly impossible to enforce.
Keep Right Except To Pass
You’ve probably been in this situation: you’re driving down the highway, going the speed limit and a car comes up racing behind you.
There are two lanes there for a reason, and it is for traffic flow.
“They are coming up, so instead of trying to block that guy to slow him down, what you need to do is go ahead and get over and let that person through,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Curt Durnil says. “They are going to get tickets for speeding anyway.”
And if you don’t pull over to let that person through you could get a ticket, too.
“If you are in the left lane, you need to be passing or overtaking a vehicle,” Durnil says. “If you are not, you need to be back in the right lane.”
Indiana’s new law is intended to make roads safer and keep traffic flowing. You’ve probably seen the signs – keep right except to pass. Durnil says the new law just gives teeth to that existing statute.
“There are two lanes there for a reason,” he says. “And it is for traffic flow. I have talked to a highway engineer about that. His example is if we want people to just stay at the same speed the entire time, and nobody move like this, we would just have one lane.”
Nick Ciulla drives State Road 37 to Indianapolis a lot and he says traffic jams are a usual occurrence because one slow driver can grind things to a halt.
“It is not a three-way highway,” Ciulla says. “Usually the trucks have to stay in the right lane because they have to go the speed limit. And as supposed to the speed limit is 70. That means realistically you can go 78 or 79 and not get pulled over, so when people go somewhere between there, it is usually a problem.”
How Will The Law Be Enforced?
The law applies to drivers who “reasonably know” a car behind them is trying to pass and still don’t get over. Indiana University law professor Timothy Morrison says the phrase “reasonably know” could make it difficult for police to enforce the law.
“Maybe the person comes up behind you, honks the horn and you flash your light or gesture something to that individual then you know that the person knows that you are behind,” Morrison says. “But if there is not such action like that, you may not follow the statute.”
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, calls the new law a solution in search of problems.
“It is almost impossible to figure out how the bill would be enforced,” Tallian says. “An officer happened to be sitting on the side of the road and sees this guy doing 90 behind you, honking, and he is going to arrest the guy in front?”
But Durnil says it won’t work like that.
“This left lane law is not about speeding,” Durnil says. “Speeding is its own Indiana code.”
The person going 90 miles-per-hour will still get a ticket for speeding, and if you knowingly try to stop him or hold him back by staying in the left lane you would be committing a violation too.
But that’ s not a violation police can observe from the side of the side of the road.
“If a police officer is sitting there with a radar gun, and a whole bunch of vehicles are going by the highway, he is hitting the radar gun and he finds who is going too fast,” Durnil says. “But this is not like that because you are not be able to tell that if somebody is coming up behind somebody from a fixed point. This is something that is going on down the highway.”
Police will have to be out patrolling and observe the slow driver over a period of time — maybe a mile or two or three.
Police won’t enforce the law during bad weather, when there’s heavy traffic, or when drivers are exiting to the left, paying tolls or pulling over for an emergency vehicle.
Violators could face a hefty fine if they’re stopped. Of course, officers can issue a warning, but they can also issue a citation for up to $500.
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