Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the state Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee enjoyed a venting session on Monday, delving into the topic of “slow drivers in the left lane.”
Committee chair Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, put it gently, “A lot of people feel like there’s too much slow traffic in the left lane.”
Sen. Mike Stuart, more jokingly said, “This is one of the great perplexing social annoyances in the history of mankind. I think they think it’s their right to just hang out in the left lane forever.”
West Virginia State Police Lt. Anderson told the senators that state code says drivers should keep to the right when driving at less than the posted speed limit, or when overtaking and passing another vehicle going the same direction.
In other words, the left lane is for passing, not traveling, senators agreed.
Anderson said some states, such as Ohio, allow traveling in the left lane as long as it’s not below the speed limit.
When he’s on traffic duty, he said, he often pulls over out-of-state drivers who don’t know West Virginia’s left-lane laws and are going to slowly in that lane. While he sometimes issues tickets for that, he prefers educating the drivers.
Division of Highways Chief Engineer of Operations Greg Bailey said this is a complicated topic. Sometimes people may be passing in the left lane, driving just 1 or 2 mph below the limit, with someone in a hurry right on their tale. In these cases it’s not someone driving too slow but someone else driving too fast.
“Primarily, this is an enforcement issue, we believe.” And it is hard to enforce. What DOH can do would primarily be educational.
Other senators mentioned other problems. Sen. Chuck Swope, R-Mercer, said tractor-trailers will pass other slow-moving tractor-trailers, but also going slowly relative to other traffic, and dangerously plug up both lanes.
Sen. Mark Hunt, R-Kanawha, talked about highways in such bad shape that the right lane is impossible to use, forcing everyone into the left lane.
Senators suggested various possible measures to try to help the problem a bit. Clements suggested interstate signage saying “Keep right except to pass.’
Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, said some states have different speed limits for different lanes.
The committee reached no firm conclusions. Bailey is taking some ideas back to DOH and Clements said the committee will revisit the issue at a future meeting.