This week’s Courier Herald column:
There are a lot of important things going on in the world. The Supreme Court has rediscovered strict interpretations of the Constitution and the principles of Federalism, the economy continues to be ground toward recession between the gears of inflation and higher interest rates, and Freddie Freeman has grown publicly homesick for Atlanta. Much of the country is on vacation this week, so we’re going to focus on something topical for those filling their tanks with $4.50 gasoline and heading out on Georgia’s freeways.
Too many of y’all still need to get out of the left lane.
It’s been almost five years since I’ve dedicated a column this topic, and the problem has gotten worse, not better. Sure, we had a brief reprieve when the pandemic curtailed travel. We’re all out and about again, and there’s now five years’ worth of new southerners on our roadways, and a never ending supply of tractor trailer trucks servicing Georgia’s growing ports and the warehouses that are growing like kudzu across the state.
We’re not building new freeways anytime soon in Georgia. We need to learn that we have to use the ones we have more efficiently. A huge component of this would be removing the scourge of left lane bandits from the passing lane.
Let’s start there. We must universally start referring to the left lanes on divided highways as the passing lane. It’s not the “fast lane”. Too many people can’t understand that calling it the fast lane doesn’t mean that traffic moves faster there. Way too many more just want to move all the way over, mentally check out, and let traffic build behind them as they refuse to actually drive the car they are operating.
Georgia passed a law in 2014 affectionately called the “Move Over Slowpoke” law. It applies to all Georgia roads with two or more lanes moving in the same direction, not just Georgia’s interstates. It requires motorists to move over when approached by a faster vehicle from behind, regardless of the speed of the vehicle in front.
Yes, that means even if you are going the speed limit, even if you are speeding yourself, Georgia law requires you to let the faster vehicle pass. Please re-read that last sentence as many times as you need to internalize it before we move on.
Some people believe they should block this lane to keep others from speeding. This kind of “obstruction is progress” leadership should be reserved for serving on your homeowner’s association board, and not by making Georgia’s roadways more clogged and dangerous.
Others truly believe they can’t be breaking the law if they’re not speeding. You can get a ticket for holding your cell phone, crossing three lanes of traffic, failing to use a signal, and a myriad of other actions all while not speeding. If you can’t handle the fact that you must obey many traffic laws at once beyond maintaining speed to safely operate your vehicle, someone else should be behind the wheel.
This isn’t just a problem with Georgia drivers. I don’t know how Florida communicates a presumed God-given right to obstruct left lane traffic to their residents, but they greatly want to evangelize these ways once they cross the border into Georgia.
This is where we require not just enforcement of the existing law, but education. The Georgia Department of Transportation has many kinds of cautionary signs along our roadways.
Some are fixed and painted, while others are electronic. They provide instruction that Georgia is a hands free state and that Georgia law requires you to move over a lane from stopped emergency vehicles. These are good reminders for Georgia drivers and needed alerts for those whose state laws may not match ours.
Perhaps I’ve just missed them traveling from corner to corner of this state regularly, but I’ve yet to see one sign of any kind alerting motorists of their duty and legal obligation to quit clogging the passing lane on Georgia’s roads. Information must be the partner of enforcement if we’re going to fix this problem.
The law has been on the books for eight years. It’s time there was a concerted effort to educate the drivers on Georgia’s roadways about their responsibilities to keep Georgia’s highways open and moving.