Only two Idaho drivers have been cited for driving too slowly in the fast lane since the state’s new “slowpoke” law took effect July 1. Three other drivers got warnings that they better go the speed limit in the left lane or scoot over.
Those numbers, current as of July 27, are from the Idaho State Police, which patrols the state’s highways. Tickets for speeding during that time frame — numbering 2,495 — far surpass these five cases of impeding fast-lane traffic.
Even so, the new law gives troopers another tool to keep roads safer, said bill sponsor Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.
When vehicles lack speed or momentum to pass in a reasonable amount of time, he said, it creates a traffic hazard and a potential for road rage.
Most people expect general traffic to be in the right lane, with other lanes meant for passing, Idaho State Police Lt. Shawn Staley said.
“If vehicles are moving slower, it can cause accidents and crashes,” he said.
Now, drivers impeding traffic on multilane highways by going below the speed limit in the left lane could face a $90 fine.
“Guys will make traffic stops on it,” Staley said. “But it would have to be fairly egregious.”
Staley said the law doesn’t give a specific time period in which a person impeding traffic has to get over. It’s what is normal and reasonable, which is to be determined by a law enforcement officer, he said.
Two years ago, a bill was introduced addressing the issue of passing on two-lane roads, Clow said. That law now allows drivers to go 15 mph over the speed limit to safely pass a vehicle going below the speed limit. This law does not apply to multilane highways or Interstate 84, Staley said.
“I still see trucks and RVs hindering traffic, but I haven’t been in a situation where they were hindering multiple cars,” Clow said since the law went into effect.
Clow expects it will take some time for people to change their driving habits, but the new law “brings attention to trucking vehicles to be sensitive when attempting to pass.”
Clow said he doesn’t think state troopers would now be looking out for slow left-lane drivers specifically, but it’s a tool they can use if needed.
Drivers won’t be ticketed for driving the speed limit in the left lane, Staley said, even if they “impede” those who want to go faster.
“If you’re going the lawful rate of speed, another person shouldn’t push up behind you,” he said.
Even if only a few slow drivers get tickets, Staley said the new law is an improvement for traffic safety.
“It is a pet peeve for most motorists. We as officers are just like most people,” Staley said. “If we see a problem that can be dangerous, we will issue citations.”