Does Ohio need a ‘slow poke law’?

  • Keisha Rowe
  • Staff Writer
Dec 28, 2017
Several states have adopted “slow poke laws” which fine drivers who drive slowly in the passing, or left-hand, lane. Should the Buckeye State do the same? Bill Lackey/Staff

For many drivers, there’s nothing more exasperating than being stuck behind someone going below the speed limit or slower than the flow of traffic in the passing lane, the left lane.

Left-lane drivers going slower can also make for more hazardous traveling conditions by blocking those needing to pass, which has led to cases of road rage.

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States such as Oklahoma have recently passed new “slow poke laws,” which will fine drivers for driving in the passing lane for no reason outside of metropolitan areas where traffic is heavier. But should Ohio adopt a similar practice?

According to a listing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio is one of a handful of states including Maryland and North Carolina that has little to no regulation regarding passing lane use. Most states with tougher laws have requirements which either force people to yield to overtaking traffic when safe to do so or prohibit left lane use entirely unless passing or turning left.

States surrounding Ohio already have some left-lane laws in effect. In Indiana, the left lane is restricted to passing only, and in Kentucky, traffic must keep right except to pass in areas where the speed limit is at least 65. Pennsylvania is a little more lenient, as it allows left lane use in order to let other vehicles merge onto the highway. Michigan has drivers keep right except to pass heavy traffic or on three-lane highways.

Ohio’s statehouse has focused mainly on speed limits in terms of keeping an eye on maintaining the state’s highway traffic situation. Gov. John Kasich introduced legislation which would allow for variable speed limits depending on congestion in March. A report released by the Associated Press in November, however, noted there has been a spike in road-related fatalities in Ohio after the state increased the speed limit to 70 in rural areas in 2013.

Past studies have shown states that establish left-lane laws see a reduction in road rage incidents, but there has been no correlation noted between the adoption of left-lane laws and a reduction in road-related accidents or fatalities.

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