Rules of the Road: If slow driver is clogging left lane, can I pass on right?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 3, 2013 

Question: Too many drivers on the freeway are clogging the left lane at well below the posted speed limit. Why aren't they being ticketed for impeding traffic? If we pass them on the right side, are we breaking the law?

Answer: I am not sure that I can agree with your premise, but yes, there are drivers that will drive in the left lane instead of using it as a passing lane as it is designed. As to why they are not being ticketed, there are only so many law enforcement officers on the road at any given time. Most of the freeway enforcement is done by the Washington State Patrol, which limits the numbers even more. Finally, when those people that are driving in the left lane see the patrol car coming up behind them, they pull over into the right lane, eliminating the impeding traffic. This makes it a difficult infraction to write. It is legal to pass a vehicle on the freeway on the right. Remember that you must signal your lane changes, and many drivers will not expect a vehicle to be passing on the right side, so do it carefully.

Q: What is the speed limit for emergency vehicles traveling Code 3 (with lights and sirens on)?

A: There is no set speed limit for emergency vehicles responding with lights and sirens on.


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David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

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