Few things are more frustrating than moving over into the left-hand passing lane on the highway only to come up quickly to the rear bumper of a "Sunday driver" or "left lane lurker". At best, these drivers are unaware of their surroundings. At worst, they are self-appointed speed limit enforcers, purposefully blocking others from exceeding the posted speed limit.
On the flip side of the coin, few incidents are scarier than when you are lawfully passing a slower motorist, only to glance in your rearview mirror to see an irate driver roaring up from behind. A new Georgia law aims to protect everyone on the road in both of these situations.
As anyone who has driven on Interstate 85 during rush hour can tell you, the consequences of remaining in the left-hand lane for longer than necessary to pass another vehicle can be dangerous for everyone on the road. Anecdotal evidence shows that so-called slowpokes actually cause an increase in reckless driving, as faster drivers react by weaving through traffic and making erratic lane changes in an effort to get around them. Also, the potential for road rage incidents against the lurkers puts all nearby drivers in danger.
On July 1, 2014, a new Georgia law went into effect in an effort to eliminate these dangerous situations. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-184, "Minimum Speed Regulation", states that "No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic...." Further, the new law states that "...[N]o person shall continue to operate a motor vehicle in the passing lane once such person knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed."
The new law makes no reference to whether the vehicles are obeying the posted minimum or maximum speed limits. Even if a vehicle is exceeding the speed limit, it must still yield to a vehicle exceeding the speed limit by a greater amount. In addition, a driver does not have to be moving below the minimum posted speed to be pulled over for being a slowpoke.
Being pulled over for a violation of the new law can result in more than just the proverbial slap on the wrist. Drivers who stay in the far left lane after a faster-travelling car has approached from behind can be convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced accordingly to up to a $1,000.00 fine and 12 months confinement. In addition, convicted slowpokes are subject to additional administrative penalties such as points on their licenses and increased car insurance rates.
There are some exceptions to the requirement to yield to faster-travelling cars. If it is necessary to drive in the passing lane because of traffic congestion, inclement weather, obstructions or hazards or to obey an official traffic control device, then a driver cannot be ticketed under the new law. In addition, if a vehicle remains in the passing lane to exit the highway, turn left or pay a toll with cash or a pass, it is not a violation of the law. Finally, emergency vehicles engaged in official duties and vehicles engaged in highway maintenance or construction are exempt from the provisions of the new statute.
Georgia legislators hope that the Slowpoke law will give law enforcement a stronger tool to ensure highway safety. Several laws are already on the books covering similar situations, but none has the strength and publicity of the new statute. For instance, the U.S. Uniform Vehicle Code, upon which most states base their traffic laws, requires that cars moving at less than the normal speed of traffic move to the right. In addition, O.C.G.A. §40-6-40 requires that "... any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic ... shall be driven in the right-hand lane...." Finally, and most similarly to the new statute, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-42 provides that "... the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle...."
Lawyers who practice in Georgia's traffic courts are watching carefully to determine how local judges will handle the predictable influx of cases that will stem from the tickets issued under the new law. Of particular interest is how judges will resolve the paradox that drivers who are speeding will be ticketed for driving too slowly.
At Daniels & Taylor, P.C., our attorneys stand ready to take on the new law and provide drivers ticketed thereunder with educated and aggressive representation in area municipal, recorders and state courts. If you are cited for being a "slowpoke", please call our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced traffic law attorneys.