Slower drivers stay right? Ohio gets it
March 6, 2007
BY MATT HELMS
FREE PRESS DRIVING COLUMNIST
There they were: traffic signs come down as if from the heavens, bringing clarity to all and civility and peace to weary travelers.
OK, so it was the Ohio Turnpike, one of the least exciting stretches of roadway on Earth, and the skies were gray and a bit of snow fell here and there last weekend during a trip to western Pennsylvania.
But the signs. They brought joy to my heart, not the least because they were so clear and concise: “Trucks & Slower Traffic Use Right 2 Lanes.”
If only we in Michigan could adopt such simple sense. But no.
Instead, we reserve simple laws like this only for freeways with two lanes each way. On expressways with three or more lanes each way, there’s no law saying the left lane should be reserved for passing only, or for faster traffic.
And that lack of uniformity is like a line in the sand.
On one side are folks like me who say get out of the left lane if there are people behind you looking to go faster. On the other side are the drivers who believe they’re perfectly fine hitting the speed limit and staying in that left lane as long as they please because they’re obeying the speed limit and so should everyone else.
In Ohio, that kind of self-righteousness doesn’t belong in the left lane.
“Sometimes we have people who want to regulate traffic on their own – that’s law enforcement’s job,” Staff Lt. Monte Morgan, assistant district commander for the Ohio State Highway Patrol division that polices the Ohio Turnpike, told me. “If you’re not passing, you should adjust your speed accordingly, get into the right lane, and then maintain speed with the flow of traffic in the right lanes.”
That even applies to people going the speed limit, which is 65 m.p.h. on the turnpike. The Ohio state patrol doesn’t take kindly to situations such as when three cars line up astride, all going the speed limit, while drivers behind them would like to go faster but can’t pass.
That's bound to cause road rage, and Morgan said the Ohio patrol doesn’t want slow drivers encouraging hazardous driving among other motorists.
Besides, Morgan said, “in most circumstances, are most vehicles traveling 65 m.p.h. on the turnpike? Probably not.”