In Our View: Left Lane: Full of Fury

Despite complicated conversations, this driving law is pretty simple



One of the most frequent, polarizing and unresolved debates about driving involves the infamous left lane. Ah, life is so lovely over in the right lane. But one lane over you’ll find a furious and at times lethal controversy.

We suspect that with the mere publication of that first paragraph, blood pressures will rise among some readers. Seems like everyone has a strong opinion, and no one’s mind will be changed.

That’s too bad, because the law is really simple, and for the duration of this editorial we’ll refer to it as Rule No. 1: Driving in the left lane is illegal except when passing.

In Monday’s Columbian, a story about an increase in violations for speeding and aggressive driving revived the never-ending debate about the left lane. As Patty Hastings reported, the left lane is where trouble is magnified, not only with speeders, but with tailgaters. In dangerous contrast, many slower drivers deputize themselves to camp out in the left, ostensibly to slow down speeders but, in fact, often accomplishing nothing more than to increase the lethality of this deadly dance.

Our advice to both the hare and the tortoise: Go back and read Rule No. 1.

Sadly, such simplicity doesn’t work for many people who are obsessed with complicating the argument. Many of their complaints begin with, “Yeah, but what about (fill in the blank)?” But Rule No. 1 makes no mention of what-abouts.

Hastings reported that Clark County motorists received 2,305 citations for speeding, plus 406 for aggressive driving in the first two months of 2013. And that’s just the ones who were caught. We shudder to think what the overall guilty totals might be.

Annual statistics more clearly describe the problem in Clark County, where speeding violations increased from 11,179 in 2008 to 13,803 in 2012, and during which time aggressive driving citations jumped from 1,719 to 2,273.

Anyone fixated on complicating this debate can find plenty of fuel in the Revised Code of Washington. The part about staying in the right lane except to pass — RCW 46.61.100 — contains 571 words and five exceptions, the first of which has five attached subsections.

But don’t waste time diving into this legal mumbo jumbo. Just follow Rule No. 1.

Here’s an additional motivator: Compliance saves money. Maybe hundreds of dollars. Traffic violations cause spikes in insurance rates.

And ignoring Rule No. 1 might cost you your next job. Any employer looking to hire someone for a job that involves driving likely will want to review the applicant’s five-year record.

So let’s keep this simple. No need for what-about supplications. No reason to rank your intelligence higher than anyone else’s in this hackneyed hassle. No cause to go all Barney Fife on us and try to enforce the law, or take on the role of judge and jury so as to impart justice.

Just read Rule No. 1.

Left lane.

Passing only.