Why is Everyone driving in the Left Lane?
More and more often when I drive on a busy highway I’m finding much of the traffic jammed into the left lane, each driver trying unsuccessfully to get ahead of the others. One would think that this situation would be akin to being the proverbial kid in the candy store for anyone in traffic law enforcement, violations everywhere! Slower traffic failing to keep right, following too closely, unsafe lane change, cross single solid line, failing to signal lane change and, depending on your point of view, the root cause of much of this: attempting to exceed the speed limit.
No one likes a left lane blocker. This statement is not proven by enforcement activity however. There were a grand total of 24 tickets written under section 150(2) MVA in the entire province for failing to move right in 2015. We’ll see if anything has changed with the introduction of section 151.1 MVA when I receive ticket data for 2016 from ICBC.
If you missed it, this is the new law requiring that you exit the leftmost lane when another vehicle approaches from behind when you are driving on highways with a posted speed of 80 km/h or higher and traffic is moving at a speed of at least 50 km/h. There are exemptions to this, no need to move over if you are using an HOV lane, preparing for a left turn, passing another vehicle, allowing someone to merge, or following the slow down, move over law.
When I worked traffic enforcement I always saw following too closely as the greater evil when compared to failing to move over. This may be the prevailing view because there were 2,400 tickets for this written to the drivers of light vehicles and 34 to drivers of commercial vehicles in 2015. The driver in front was often already driving faster than the posted speed limit and that indicated to me that the tailgater was trying to go faster still. No sense hanging back at a safe distance and hoping the driver in front will move over, is there?
Crossing a single solid white line to change lanes is forbidden. Those who are trying to get ahead using the HOV lane are frequent violators. They will move out of the HOV lane, pass on the right using the leftmost or “fast” lane and then move back into the HOV lane again. About 1,800 of these violation tickets were issued in 2015.
Please, tell me that you are going to change lanes by using your signal light, preferably in advance of doing it. A defensive driver always signals, even when they think that they are the only vehicle on the road. 1,800 tickets were issued to those that failed in this task in 2015.
That leaves us with speeding. Speed related charges amounted to 163,213 in 2015, That’s almost 37% of all tickets issued that year. This is a reduction compared to 2014 where 176,320 or about 39% of tickets were for speeding in some form.
Perhaps it’s time to let automated enforcement deal with some of those speeding tickets and have the police refocus their attention on dangerous behaviours that need to be dealt with in person.
Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.