The left lane is for passing

Thank you, Vernon Hill, for bringing up the most annoying habit to grace our highways: cars residing in the fast lane, otherwise known as Fast-Lane Hogs [“Drive, He Said,” March 16 Xpress].

Nothing enrages me more than drivers taking up occupancy in the passing lane. On a recent trip, I was graced with a middle finger twice for tailgating in the fast lane while patiently waiting to pass. How screwy is that? I have learned that folks simply won’t budge and am forced to find an opening to pass in the wrong lane. However foolhardy, I have even gone so far as to pass fast-lane hogs, get in front of them and slow down to give them a taste of their own medicine. I am flabbergasted by the pandemic of thoughtless and discourteous drivers in this part of the world — or is it a nationwide problem? The words I call them while driving are unprintable.

I would happily donate to the N.C. State Troopers, who call for donations all the time, if ticketing fast-lane hogs were on their agenda. Knowing this is another “freedom” that will go unaddressed. I am reduced to putting a bumper sticker on my car that says, “The left lane is for passing.” It is next to the sticker that says “Being nice to people is a really good idea.”

In the meantime, I will continue to pass in the wrong lane, give fast-lane hogs a grimace and wave in thanks to those that do pull over into the slow lane in order to let me pass.

— Julia Brooke
Black Mountain

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44 thoughts on “The left lane is for passing

  1. Beaver Boy

    “On a recent trip, I was graced with a middle finger twice for tailgating in the fast lane while patiently waiting to pass. How screwy is that?”

    It is obvious that Julia doesn’t understand the local laws. Tailgating is considered aggressive driving and is illegal in NC. I am tired of how fast people drive in this town these days. Blatant speeding is just part of the new, rude norm. Tip: if you leave on time you won’t have to race around because of your own poor planning ;) .

    Although I can understand her frustration, aggressive driving has no place here. New York, Los Angles, etc. are much more suited to a driver like Julia. Maybe she would be happier there? I know I would be if she was.

    It is also dangerous to tailgate. If you don’t know any better, this may help you:

    • Harvey

      It is obvious that Beaver Boy believes he lives in the days of the horse-and-buggy. If you don’t know how to drive at a reasonable speed, perhaps you should walk.

  2. Dionysis

    Drivers who slow down traffic on interstates by remaining in the passing lane going too slowly do pose a source of aggravation as well as some risk; it happens frequently to me on I-26. However, passing them on the right and then slowing down to “give them a taste of their own medicine” is pretty childish, as well as compounding the problem.

    Oh, and troopers do not solicite money; those are scams that pretend to raise money for such things as “the families of officers killed in the line of duty” or, as a call I received some months ago stated, to “raise money for teddy bears for the children of victims of crime.” Look into these operations and you will find that virtually nothing actually goes to law enforcement…the funds collected go to pay the phone pests and their employers. That goes for the same kind of scam that tries to entice people into buying tickets to some country music concert (I onced asked a solicitor why it was only country music concerts, and not jazz or rock concerts…I got no answer; maybe they think fans of country music are easier to dupe).

  3. Mick Ballantine

    Why do I get the feeling the letter writer is one of those always in a hurry who wants to do 10 mph or more over the speed limit? And expect those doing 5 mph over, which cops will not ticket for, to move over so she can tear down the freeway? This is not a stressful, hurry hurry hurry, big northern city. This is a small laid back relaxed town. Let’s slow down closer to the limit and not get all flustered at those who do drive close to the limit. Besides, speeders don’t make up that much distance anyway. How often have we seen a speeder waiting at the same traffic light we come up to after they have blown by us a half mile up the road?

  4. WatchOut

    Watch out what you confess to in print! Getting in front of a car and slowing down to teach them a lesson is a DANGEROUS ***CRIME*** !!!

    Go around and keep going! The sea is not going to part for you, nor will the highway clear just because you’re in a hurry.

  5. bill smith

    Driving the speed limit in any lane is not against the law. The ‘left lane’ is not the ‘drive-as-fast-as-you-can lane’. Feel free to look up the law.

    Tailgating however, as others have noted, IS illegal.

    Did you know that leaving a few minutes earlier allows you to drive at a reasonable speed to your destination, without endangering everyone else? Or are you always on the way to an emergency?

    Why aren’t drivers required to take a drivers exam once every ten years or so?

    • Harvey

      Wow. Someone needs to read the NC Driving Manual again. The driving code explicitly states that you should pull over if you are going slower than the flow of traffic. The left lane is the passing lane. Poor transportation planning and bad driving are not your friends.

    • Misty

      People driving slower than the speed limit should remain in the right hand lane, otherwise they honestly could cause an accident. It’s common sense, don’t be foolish.

  6. Jill

    She is ENRAGED because a car in the left lane isn’t driving fast enough to suit her? I believe her traffic problems are probably the least of her problems.

    Others have addressed aggressive driving, road rage, and tailgating in complete and rational manner in their comments.

  7. b.c.w.

    While the original letter writer’s comments and motives seem a little ill-tempered and more offensively tinged than necessary (sounds like an aggressive driver to me!), her point (which is a good one) is getting drowned out by folks making an assumption that she is always wanting to race down the highway at unsafe speeds and in a reckless fashion. If anything, I find that most drivers around here are not focused at all on the world around them while driving, hence the overabundance of ‘left lane cruisers’, and quite possibly the genesis of the original writer’s point. Folks may not feel the need to be ‘in a hurry’, but at least drive with a sense of purpose and focus and adhere to the minimums AND maximums with regard to speed limits whenever possible. However, let’s look at the facts, folks… regardless of what the speed limit is or what the speed is at which you may wish to travel, you HAVE to keep up with the flow of traffic around you or you present a very dangerous hazard to your fellow drivers. This doesn’t mean I or anyone else condones reckless and unnecessary speeding. If you want to drive 55 while everyone else is going 65, then get in the right lane and stay there. You have no need to get in the left lane at all because you won’t be passing anyone, and that’s okay! If you get in the left lane at any point and are uncomfortable with traveling at or above the pace of traffic in order to maintain a safe, progressive flow (which you may have to do in order to complete a pass), then get out of the left lane. Don’t linger there! We all should strive to obey the speed limit, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen due to outside factors. If you try to be a ‘hero’ and force others to adhere to your perception of what is happening on the highway in a given moment, you are creating a very unsafe situation by becoming a ‘moving roadblock’, which is how you end up with both lanes traveling at essentially the same speed with no room for anyone in EITHER lane to make any sort of move. This is the kind of detached awareness on the highway that causes accidents. Plan your passes, watch the flow of traffic, and if you aren’t comfortable making a decisive move to pass and then get back in the right lane. Oh, and use your turn signal. This is another ‘lost art’ that is as much a problem around here as left-lane cruising!

    • Misty

      Well said b.c.w. 👍👍👍 I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you.

  8. Bjorn

    Julia, the solution is simple have ‘PRINCESS’ painted backwards on your hood!

  9. Ricky Party

    Pretty silly how many people are jumping to conclusions about the writer’s motives, when all she’s doing is highlighting one of the rudest, most thoughtless habits of many drivers in this area. You don’t have to be in a hurry to become endlessly frustrated with such a completely oblivious, inconsiderate act of non-awareness and encapsulated self-absorption.

    True, she shouldn’t be retaliating with aggressive driving, but she’s running up against a problem that exists before any poor decisions she makes in response. Let’s stop being apologists for bad driving of all types, okay kids?

  10. Just Me

    I still think there are people who just tailgate to tailgate. I’ve had people on my bum for miles when the left lane was clear for them to go around. I’ve actually, just as an experiment when there was little other traffic, moved over to that clear open left lane, waited as the car sped up and passed by, then got back in the right lane, all without changing my target speed (about 5-7 over on country highways).

    I understand it is fustrating, and even in some circumstances that have been pointed out, dangerous to use the left lane when going that slow. In the mountains we are frequnetly stuck behind people who don’t understand driving the hills and curves. But this constant, and almost mindless use of tailgating is much more dangerous.

    Good thing I know how to do that trick like in the cartoons where my car sucks in its sides (to slither around the oblivious driver on the phone who doesn’t have the right of way) and tucking the bumper in when the aggressiver tailgater gets all miffed that I slowed them down in order to negotiate the intersection (which was in an urban area with a 25 mph speed limit).

  11. invisiblefriend

    I think we should all get bumper stickers that say “Being nice to Julia is a really good idea”. And put another one next to it that says “Let her pass”.

  12. chops

    There’s nothing wrong with passing on the right. If you encounter a “fast-lane hog”, just pass them in the other lane.

    Problem solved.

    It may be more polite just to slow down and wait, but if you are justified in passing (read: not speeding) then it’s not illegal.

    I think the real problem here is the misperception that the left lane is for passing only, and also the misperception that the right lane is not for passing. They are, essentially both equal lanes if you are obeying all of the other laws.

  13. bill smith

    You know what I hate? Those people who jackrabbit in and out of traffic to get maybe ten yards ahead of a body of traffic all moving at the same speed. Not only are you endangering yourself and everyone else, you’re killing your brakes and transmission. Slow down. Plan ahead. Stop endangering everyone on the road with your inconsiderate ‘i’m-the-most-important-person-on-the-road’.

  14. Kriss

    Bill Smith and chops are absolutely right. The letter writer refers more than once to passing in the “wrong” lane. On any road of two lanes or more going in the same direction, there is no wrong lane for passing. It’s perfectly legal to pass in either lane. That you must pass only in the left lane is another one of those myths that got started and a lot of people believe, similar to the myth that it’s illegal to drive while barefoot.

    I have even gone so far as to pass fast-lane hogs, get in front of them and slow down to give them a taste of their own medicine. I am flabbergasted by the pandemic of thoughtless and discourteous drivers…

    I wonder who is really the “thoughtless and discourteous driver” here.

  15. HKUSP

    § 20?146. Drive on right side of highway; exceptions.

    (e) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, when appropriate signs have been posted, it shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle over and upon the inside lane, next to the median of any dual?lane highway at a speed less than the posted speed limit when the operation of said motor vehicle over and upon said inside lane shall impede the steady flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn.

  16. Kriss

    So who’s supposed to enforce that law? Julia? If somebody’s driving too slow in the left lane, then all you need to do is pass them on the right, and not make some big issue out of it potentially causing a road-rage incident.

    And if you can’t pass because there’s somebody in the right lane going slow as well? Then just relax and wait until there’s an opening. Getting all upset and frustrated helps absolutely nobody and usually makes the situation worse.

  17. Mick Ballantine

    “Julia, the solution is simple have ‘PRINCESS’ painted backwards on your hood!”

    LOL. I still suspect that the people whining about leftlane drivers who are driving the limit are those who want to do 10 mph over the limit. Recent arrivals from up north: learn to relax and enjoy your drive in this wonderful scenic area. It is not necessary to be in a hurry, ride people’s back bumpers, blow your horn, and get all frazzled over nothing. Relax.

    Thank you Southern Blockade drivers for encouraging fast driving transplants to slow down.

  18. mule

    When people tailgate me I tend to slow waaaay down; then when they pass me I tailgate them. And I mean REALLY tailgate them…as in maybe a love tap or two on their rear bumper. Usually I then follow them to wherever they’re going.

    But that’s just me.

  19. Wow. This could be the first letter I’ve read where pretty much everyone is in agreement.

    It takes under 15 minutes to get anywhere in this town.

  20. bikeman

    If I am exceeding the speed limit in the left lane to pass a car, then I will continue to move along at that speed until it is safe to merge back into the right lane.
    In fact, I may slow down just a little if I feel you are intentionally trying to intimidate me by following too close.

  21. at least drive the speed limit

    I like what b.c.w. said, at least drive with a “sense of purpose and focus”. In other words, WAKE UP before you get in your car. Why do locals insist that sleep-drivibg be their inherent right? Also, don’t drag the line: meaning, if you are in a line of traffic, keep a decent distance to the car in front of you – don’t tailgate, but don’t have a length of a 1/4 mile between you and the car in front of you. Some people have things to do: appointments, kids, jobs,…These days, it is your duty to drive the speed limit. Drive like you mean it – stop dreaming.

  22. dpewen

    I pass on the right because of the people who sit in the left lane and then it gets stacked up … this leaves the right lane open!
    I have often passed via the shoulder when 2 vehicles are running the same speed … got to get creative and I love to do that!

  23. Just Me

    I (local) do typically drive about 10 over, and on a curvy country highway, then it’s about 5 over on good stretches. Unless there is an influx of northerners in muscle cars, pick-up trucks and SUV’s, than it is by no means all non-lcoals (or even most) who are the tailgaters and road-ragers.

    Why does this has to be turned into a local/non-local or nothern/southern thing? There are crappy drivers everywhere of both aggressive and oblivious varieties.

  24. dpewen

    You are correct Just Me … I do not know why people try to make it a northern/southern thing either …

  25. WitchDoctor

    Oh hell no! You right-hand passers need to get your acts together. That is a dangerous practice and most highways have signs that say “Slower Traffic Keep Right”. I use the right lane for normal driving and the left for passing. It infuriates me when I move to the left lane to pass two cars that are going under the speed limit, then some impatient fool who’s going 10-15 mph above the speed limit squeezes between us and passes me on the right. Dangerous and inconsiderate. I have been known to speed up in an attempt to trap these “zig-zaggers” in the left lane.

  26. dpewen

    Many people have tried to block me but it does not work! That is when I pass on the shoulder!!
    I am usually 20 over the speed limit … or more!

  27. dpewen

    I have driven in many countries, left and right hand drives and have never been involved in an accident .. I have driven for 42 years.
    Try driving in crazy places like South Africa, Mexico, Vietnam, etc and you will learn to drive aggressively and defensely like me!
    I love to bend the rules … a lot of these places have no driving rules and that is where I excel!!

  28. Elzy Lindsey

    Yes, I’ve read all of your bumber stickers twice, so “coexist” and move into the right lane. If you don’t work for a living or live like you’re on an extended vacay, please remember that there are those around you (yes, sometimes behind you) who need to get somewhere. We are not retired, or trustafarian, or visiting. We work here and have to get our kids to school… Look in the rearview, if it appears that you’re holding someone up, move over and be a pal, would ya?

  29. Just Me

    Working class people also cannot afford speeding tickets or increased insurance premiums- or, at the least, there are better things to spend the money on.

    Funny how whenever a cop is around, suddenly no-one *needs* to drive over the speed limit.

  30. Thomas Todd

    While I’m surprised the writer would bother to pass & slow down to “medicate” her left-lane slow pokers, I have to agree that lolligag drivers in the left lane make our roads FAR less safe than if you just stay to the right. The guilty use the same mentality as those who watch shoplifting but say nothing – you’re still a problem.

    A few months ago I had to rush my wife to the hospital for what we though was a heart attack or stroke and we were blocked for a few miles by a single left-lane “justice” driver even though I had blinkers & horn going. I finally had to pass on the left shoulder when it was safe…meanwhile the left lane blocker is thinking “I’ll show those people how to be safe!” But no one was happier.

    Fact is – people will drive fast whether you like it or not. I would 100% support signage and ticketing for left lane bottle-neckers – no question. Besides – the state budget is so wrecked- how easy would it be to fine people for this most-common, mindless, traffic-ruining action and get a few million back in fines in a couple years? Is the state asleep at the wheel or driving slowing in the left hand adminstrative lane also?

  31. Rare At Posting

    I’m with Julia on this. But it’s not unique to this area. It’s the same old story everywhere. I call them “Left Lane Lovers” and they aggravate me to death. Where is the common sense? “Keep right except to pass!” I understand that you are just expressing your frustration and you are not indicating that you are a dangerous driver. Try driving like that on the Autobon in Germany and you will be arrested no doubt. I have often considered getting in front of these drivers and driving slower then they are driving but I have never actually followed through. It is especially aggravating when the right lane is taken and there is nobody in front of the car in the left lane and traffic backs up behind them. Yes, arrest these people and get them off the road! I have never posted to something like this but this issue gets my grit.

  32. dpewen

    I have gotten in front of the Left Lane Lovers and slowed way down just to see if they would pass me on the right … it’s good fun!
    I lived in Germany and loved driving fast on the autobahn but I knew which lanes to use …
    and … why don’t people pull over to the right lane when you flash your lights at them?

  33. getRealPeeps

    Hi everyone! Sorry I’m late. I was stuck in traffic!

    HKUSP hit the nail on the head… Here is the whole thing.

    Also, The NC driving handbook, Chapter 4, Page 62, clearly states, “Keep to the right, use the left lane(s) for passing”

    So, yes, there is a right and wrong lane for passing.

    I don’t tailgate(much). I do have a certain expectation though that drivers are aware of their surroundings, see that there is a half mile of cars waiting to pass in the left lane and get over.

    If I have enough time and space to safely maneuver into the right lane, overtake you, and get back into the left lane you obviously have enough time to safely maneuver into the right lane. right?

    What is really funny is when there are ten cars in the left lane waiting for the lead to get over, and won’t; Until of course a cop shows up and they can’t get out of that left lane fast enough!

    Is it too much to ask for people to be courteous to other drivers anymore?

  34. Tom Shesley

    This is too funny.
    Half the people in here think the other half is rude.
    Rude for not pulling to the right and rude for driving too fast!
    The only thing everyone here has in common is that we’re all upset about something.

    The Law is not myth as implied above.
    The left lane is for passing! Period.
    If you are not doing that, then get out of the left lane!
    I hold a current commercial license and have driven in every state except Alaska.

    The research was done and it was proven that drivers who speed are statistically better and safer than those who do not. The reason is that they must pay more attention to everything around them and at greater distances than those who do not speed. They are more active and attentive to their driving as a result. Also, looking out for the police is a requirement so these drivers then to be very much aware of their surroundings.

    For me, being a good driver means minimizing my impact on the other drivers on the road. Or, more succinctly, being a nice, considerate driver. As such, if I’m in the fast lane passing everyone and someone rolls up on me at 90, you bet that I’ll be moving over to let them go as soon as practical. If the police get them, then so be it. But, it’s not my job to enforce the law.

    This is no different than you left lane lovers that absolutely refuse to move over to the right.

    I can’t enforce the law on you either. But many of you are just as unsafe as the person going 90. Your lack of speed makes you think you’re being safe. The reality is that you are being unsafe and extremely inconsiderate.

    Consequently, you are causing much of the road rage.

    If all drivers we’re as eager as I am to move right for faster drivers, this issue would be gone.
    And I like to drive fast. Very Fast.

    The solution is to start allowing the police to pull people over just for driving rudely. They are the police. They claim to know aggressive driving so rude driving should be easy for them to spot.
    They would not issue a ticket but would simply waste your time, as you are wasting others, and explain to you that what you are doing, while not illegal, is rude and is causing the drivers around you to become frustrated and angry.

    Call it your 15 minutes of fame.

    Just ask yourself, would I like the police to waste my time that way.
    My guess is no.
    So, Please! Stop Wasting Our Time.
    Pull over and let us faster drivers get by.
    We’re really not trying to ruin your day.
    We just have places to go and things to do.
    And yes, we’re probably late.

    Oh yeah, it’s also the law…


  35. Dan

    A so called passing lane is not the Law in every state. In my state all lanes can be traveled for any duration providing you are traveling with the direction of traffic for that lane and obeying the speed limit.

    There an exception though. Commercial vehicles, ex: Tractor Trailers, are required to use the outer lane when not passing.

    I believe the anger people feel over this issue stems from 2 places.

    1) A belief, either real or based on misinformation that there is such a thing as a passing lane.

    2) A desire to travel in excess of the posted speed limit.

    Like I said not every state has laws limiting the used of the inner lane on multiple lane roads by passenger cars.

    I have often felt traffic laws should be uniform across all states as least on the interstate Highway system is actually a federal Highway.

    Unfortunately, traffic laws vary from state to state more than most people realize. For example:

    1) Most places warning signs are Orange (School Bus Yellow) other places they are neon yellow.

    2) In Nebraska you would never find a stop light or an intersection crossing an interstate highway but in Missouri you will. (I personally found this to be annoying when traveling)

    We need universal traffic laws.

  36. Bob Sherman

    Awesome post. It is 2014 and still a problem. Since the GA, FL, NJ, and WA have laws on the books.

    Reading through the comments most of the blockade drivers were quite clear they drive slow because the fast driver is most likely a Yankee in a fancy car. Well I am a Yankee and attribute slow drivers to rednecks.

    It is time for NC to pass a law like FL and GA. The right hand lane passing is very dangerous.

    • Harvey

      There already is a law. The people who think Julie is completely wrong are the standard ignorant NC drivers–they didn’t read the manual or the code.

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