Ready to learn the left-lane law?

July 25, 2019

Two lanes of traffic on a highway

It’s enough to drive a driver crazy: There you are on the freeway, going the speed limit on bone-dry roads with plenty of light, and the person in front of you is going slower than the flow of traffic. You’d love to pass them in the left lane, but it’s not an option, because there’s another driver camped out there, blocking you from passing. What’s a driver to do?

The requirement to move over and allow vehicles to pass in the left lane has been law in Minnesota for many years. Effective Aug. 1, the current language of the law is modernized to account for today’s traffic. In a nutshell, it says that whenever practicable, drivers need to move out of the left lane so that other vehicles can pass. In other words, if you need to pass someone, do so in the left lane – but then get back in the right lane as soon as you’re clear.

A very important side note: Nothing in this (or any) Minnesota state law says drivers are allowed to speed. So when the car ahead of you is going the posted speed limit, there’s no need to pass them.

Similarly, if the driver in front of you is going as fast as the conditions allow, don’t pass them. Remember that ice, snow, fog, rain, darkness and other environmental conditions can make it necessary to drive below the speed limit. The goal is to get where you’re going alive and unharmed.

Keeping the left lane clear has other benefits, too: It will help reduce everyone’s stress on the road by increasing efficiency, and it can ward off road rage effectively. Traffic also works best when everyone is going about the same speed.

So what do you do when someone is staying in the left lane, preventing you from passing (or engaging in other negligent driving behavior)? Get to a safe place and call 911. The 911 operator will want a description of the vehicle, its license number, and the location where you last saw it. Violating the left-lane law comes with the same $50 fine in place prior to Aug. 1.

Ultimately, keeping the left lane clear for those who are passing will make the road safer and life easier for all drivers, yourself included. So next time you’re driving down a highway or interstate with four or more lanes, remember to stay in the right lane and go the speed limit.