graphic by Michaela Flonard

New law makes roads safer, likely increases number of tickets

Road safety will likely improve with the new left lane law.

As of November 1, it is a ticketable offense to drive in the left lane without passing on any highway with more than four total lanes. Drivers are now unable to drive in the left lane unless they are actively passing another vehicle on the road. However, driving in the left lane is still allowed if it is necessary due to traffic or road conditions. Like speeding, police will now give out tickets to drivers who are driving in the left lane without intent to pass other cars. Previously, the law stated that drivers were allowed to stay in the left lane if they were not impeding the flow of traffic.

This law was passed in hope that it would help reduce potential car accidents across Oklahoma’s streets and roadways. In order to get this message across, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has installed new signs in locations across the roadways of I-35 and I-40 barring metro areas. These signs state “slower traffic keep right” and “do not impede left lane.” However, some fear that left-lane laws blame potential victims of car crashes rather than people who are speeding. I think that this new system will provide a safer driving environment on Oklahoma streets by limiting the potential for accidents.

House Speaker and author of the law, Charles McCall stated on his personal experience, “I live next to State Highway 69/75 in Atoka and I see firsthand the dangers of slow traffic in the left lane. We worked diligently with both the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation this session to get this law passed.” By removing the left lane as a regular lane, the government hopes to prevent potential problems that occur due to traffic mishaps between drivers.

Oklahoma is also following a precedent set by other states. A report in March showed that five states, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee, currently had left lane laws while Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia were in the process of enacting these laws. However as these laws were only recently created, there is very little data to back them up. Clearly, it is a common issue throughout the country.

However, some argue that some of the reasoning behind left lane laws is flawed. People against left lane laws state that removing the left lane will prevent road rage due to minimum speed drivers driving in the passing lane. The problem with this idea is that it blames law-abiding drivers for the problems of their fellow drivers. It is more important to catch people speeding and breaking the law than it is to attack the legal driver.

During Indiana’s creation of a similar bill in 2015, Indiana State Senator Karen stated mockingly, “You can be driving down the road at 70 miles per hour, doing the speed limit, and some joker comes up from behind doing 90 and you’re the one who gets a ticket?” The victim of the road rage is being blamed for another person’s crime. Therefore, the solution is not to remove the left lane but rather to focus on catching the real criminals involved. In response to these allegations, supporters such as state representative Jud McMillin stated, “Let’s be clear: Speeding remains just as illegal as it always has been. This is about safety and common courtesy. We should use the roads the way they were designed to be used.”

While this bill will not completely fix car crashes, it will help lower the amount of them in the coming years. According to a University of Texas study, there is no perfect connection but there are three noticeable things that determine the rate of car crashes: speeding, speed variation and traffic conditions. This left lane bill focuses on erasing the issue of speed variation which is the difference in speed between two cars. With this bill, drivers on the slower end will be separated from the faster drivers. Therefore, there will be less massive changes of speed erasing a series of potential errors on the road.

In a response to the bill, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said, “Any step we can take to improve safety on our roadways is worth our collective efforts… I am hopeful this legislation will reduce tension and also result in better access for public safety and first responder officials driving to emergency situations.” This bill will lessen the chances for car crashes and provide a safer system for driving. Through extended efforts towards road safety, Oklahoma can reduce the amount of car crashes and the terrible loss of life or property that comes with them.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle