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Slow drivers: The left lane is for passing traffic, not passing time!

November 22, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Proposed law by Westland, MI lawmaker targets ‘left-lane squatters’ by forbidding slow poking in the ’extreme left lane’ when they’re being tailgated


Don’t slow drivers in the left lane drive you crazy? Especially when somebody gets in the left lane and slow pokes along, oblivious to the fact that traffic’s dangerously backing up behind them.

You’re not alone in getting frustrated with these “left-lane squatters.”

This past spring, Michigan State Police Troopers from the Rockford and Lakeview posts launched “Operation Southpaw,” a left-lane-squatting initiative whose purpose was to prevent car accidents by:

“[E]ducat[ing] drivers who don’t know that the left lane is reserved for the passing motorist … [D]riving slow in the left lane is disruptive to traffic flow and can be dangerous, as frustrated motorists attempt risky moves to get around the offending driver.”

Beyond educating Michigan’s driving public about slow left-lane drivers, one Michigan lawmaker thinks the problem can be effectively dealt with by changing the law. Rep. Robert L. Kosowski (D-Westland) has proposed two laws that stop “left lane squatters” from “traveling in [the] extreme left-hand lane …”

In House Bill 4810, which was introduced on August 18, 2015, and in House Bill 5707, which was introduced on May 26, 2016, Rep. Kosowski proposed:

“[T]he driver of a vehicle in the extreme left-hand lane [of a road with “2 or more lanes for travel in 1 direction”] shall not continue to operate his or her vehicle in that lane if he or she knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.”

Both bills make violation of the proposed laws a “civil infraction.”

Slow left lane driving laws in Michigan

Here’s what Michigan’s existing law says about “left-lane squatters” who “park” in the left lane:

  • Drivers must drive “in the extreme right-hand lane” when traveling on roads with “2 or more lanes for travel in 1 direction …” (MCL 257.634(2))
  • After a driver has used the left lane to safely overtake “another vehicle proceeding in the same direction,” the driver “shall take up a position as near the right-hand edge of the main traveled portion of the highway as is practicable.” (MCL 257.636(1)(a))

Violation of either law is a “civil infraction.” (MCL 257.634(4); 257.636(2))

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