Our Northwest

Olympia ponders higher fine for left-lane hogs

Wednesday, January 25, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

young man in car driver's seat with open window talking to copWashington’s Legislature is discussing a bill (SB 5052) that would bump traffic fines for left-lane camping from $48 to $70.

As we’ve learned from our own PEMCO Polls, drivers in Washington and Oregon are frustrated at often seeing drivers stick to the left lane and obstruct traffic. Many refer to that side of the road as the “fast lane,” but in reality – and by law – it’s the passing lane.

If you’re not passing, allowing traffic to merge, or giving clearance to a vehicle parked on the shoulder, you must … well, our highway signs say it best: KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS.

A Washington State Patrol spokesman told MyNorthwest.com, “Congestion is an issue, but it’s also from a safety standpoint. A number of our collisions involve aggressive driving. And there’s that frustration we all get when we are stuck behind someone camped out in the left lane … and that may cause a motorist to take risks they may not take because of the frustration.”

There’s also a perception among many drivers that it’s illegal to pass on the right, which can compound the lane-camping problem. So I checked with the State Patrol. Is it okay to pass on the right, if you use caution?

Sign that says Keep Right Except to Pass “On a multi-lane highway where there are two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, it is legal to pass on the right,” said Sgt. James Prouty, citing Washington state law.  “RCW 46.61.115 covers when overtaking on the right is permitted.”

In Oregon, lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make left-lane camping illegal in that state, but such a bill has yet to be approved.

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