Thank you, Washington State, for busting left-lane squatters

Washington state may have already been viewed as a popular future destination by some because it’s one of two states that has legalized the commercial sale and recreational use of marijuana. (Pot isn’t yet legally available for sale, but is expected to be this year.)

But Washington state could be a much more fun place to visit because you’ll be able to drive on the highway without getting stuck behind “left lane squatters,” who are either clueless about the purpose of a passing lane or have taken it upon themselves to enforce the speed limit on the citizenry and try to get other drivers to slow down.

According to Seattle’s Fox TV affiliate KCPQ, Washington state troopers are pulling over drivers who move slowly in the left lane, rather than remain in the right lane except to pass. If you’re not passing traffic on the right and there’s an opening in that right lane, move it on over.

Troopers are actually enforcing a state law by doing so and will either issue a verbal warning or a citation to educate through enforcement or “change driver behavior,” as one officer put it in the KCPQ report.

Judging from the officers who talked to the Seattle TV reporters, they see what we see — and feel. Who hasn’t been angry when stuck behind a plodder in the left lane? And you’re not even driving that much over the speed limit.

So your frustration builds as you inch dangerously close to that car in front of you. Maybe you yell at that other driver. Maybe you flash your lights. Maybe you honk your horn. Then when there’s an opening on the right, you veer over and floor it past the slowpoke who’s become the focus of your anger, thus creating another potentially dangerous situation.

It’s enough to make someone — I don’t know — want to pull over and relax by smoking a joint, perhaps? But don’t do that. No, seriously — don’t. It’s illegal to smoke and drive. Basically, the only place you’ll be able to smoke pot once it’s legally available is at a private residence. Be safe out there, folks. And stay to the right on the highway unless you’re passing.

mad driver

Snarky cracks about smoking pot aside, this news from Washington is glorious and hopefully provides a model for other states throughout the country to soon follow. Actually, other states have considered similar measures. Florida passed a law similar to Washington’s last summer.

Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in Virginia to prompt drivers to maintain the posted maximum speed limit in the left lane, though no penalty was included with the bill. In Georgia, the Senate approved a bill that would ticket drivers with a misdemeanor if they didn’t move into the right lane to let faster vehicles pass. New Jersey is also discussing an increase in penalties on left-lane squatters.

I’ll admit that I’m particularly sensitive to this issue, currently living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Those fortunate enough to live in a bigger cities and metropolitan areas with people who actually know how to drive on highways and deal with heavy traffic might not have to deal with these sorts of situations as often. Or maybe it’s worse in those areas, thus precipitating the need for these laws. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’ve become a much angrier driver since moving here. It’s supposed to be all calm and laid-back here in the mountains. The pace is slower and more relaxed. Except it’s often too slow and relaxed. Some of us need to drive faster because we didn’t give ourselves enough time to get across town to a movie or minor league baseball game, man!

Yes, I realize the speed limits are lower in smaller towns than large cities. (I’m going to presume this isn’t a problem throughout the state of North Carolina, which includes bigger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh.) And I do happen to live in an area popular with retirees, meaning many more old people on the road. But you can still move over to the right and let those of us who want to drive faster pass. It’s called traffic flow, people.


(Actually, there’s a far more irritating tendency among drivers in my area, and that’s the inability or unwillingness to switch to the left lane to accommodate drivers trying to merge onto the highway. I’ve never encountered this anywhere else.

People will just stick to that right lane, refusing to budge, even if there’s a completely empty lane to the left. I’ve seen and experienced so many near-collisions because of this. How about a bill for this, North Carolina? But hey, I suppose they’re at least staying in the right lane if they’re not passing, so there’s that.)

I’ve probably been here too long and need to move to a bigger city again. That’s a whole other blog post. Or perhaps an issue to discuss with a professional. I have digressed and apologize.

The point is that highways — and all roads with two lanes or more on either side, really — were designed with multiple lanes for a reason. Not everyone drives the same way, at the same speed. Highways were built to accommodate that. And slowpokes or speed limit sticklers shouldn’t be allowed to lollygag or enforce their uptight will on a populace that has different interests allowed by the law. So move over.

Thank you, Washington state, for cracking down on stubborn, clueless left-lane slowpokes and attempting to bring some reason to society. May the rest of the country soon follow your example. At least with driving and enforcing proper use of the left-hand passing lane. The pot thing is another issue. Get your house in order on that first, then we can see if you’ve provided another example to follow.

[Car and Driver]


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports,, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.