10/24/2011 7:51 PM ET|
Slow drivers can get ticketed, too
Yes, you can be too careful. A traffic ticket for driving too slowly can ding your driving record and cost you more on auto insurance.
You're a careful driver and always travel at or below the speed limit, so you're shocked when you're pulled over on the freeway during your commute home.
The officer takes your registration and license, spends 15 minutes on his squad car radio making sure you're not an escaped serial killer, then brings you back your prize: a traffic ticket with "Below minimum speed" circled as your offense.
Wait a second. You can get pulled over for driving slowly?
That's right. Every state has a law on the books that says something along the lines of: "A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed so as to impede or block the normal and reasonable forward movement of traffic."
But does anyone ever actually get pulled over and ticketed? Absolutely -- and the ticket counts the same as any other violation against your driver's license and car insurance.
Making matters worse, the laws relating to slow driving and road safety can differ from state to state.
Some states specify a minimum speed limit for highway driving. In Florida, that minimum speed is 40 mph on highways with at least four lanes; Michigan's minimum speed limit on freeways is 55 mph. Iowa's law says that a vehicle that can't attain and maintain a speed of 40 mph can't go on the interstate system.
Additionally, laws in most states require a driver going slower than typical traffic flow to occupy the farthest right lane to allow other drivers to pass.
Safer to go with the flow
A couple of decades ago, Jim Gussler was pulled over while driving 60 mph in a 55-mph zone on Interstate 5 in California.
"Traffic was crazy and whizzing by me," he says. "It was the first time I'd been to California and the first time I'd encountered traffic like that."
He thought the officer was going to issue a ticket for driving 5 mph over the limit.
"Nope," Gussler says. "He politely explained that I was impeding traffic and needed to match the flow of traffic. He also explained that a slower vehicle was more dangerous than a speeding vehicle."
Gussler got off with a warning, but there's at least some research out there that supports that officer's claim.
In 1964, a U.S. government researcher named David Solomon wrote a paper on the subject of speed and crashes. He found that drivers going the median speed of all traffic -- not necessarily the speed limit -- had the lowest risk of collision. He also found that the crash risk increases more sharply at speeds below the average traffic flow than above.
"What that indicates is that law enforcement should pay at least as much attention to slow drivers as it does drivers going a few miles per hour over the speed limit," says Gary Biller, the executive director of the National Motorists Association.
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I don't mind slow drivers so long as they're on the right. Not everyone is comfortable zooming down the highway at 70+ mph. That's okay, but MOVE OVER.
Or, if you look at the other side of the equation, just because you're going the speed limit doesn't mean you can camp out in the left lane. MOVE OVER.
My wife and I currently live in Germany. There are a lot of differences in traffic regulations and things go much smoother than back in the Seattle area.
1- If you signal, they let you merge. People don't speed up so you can't get in, especially when merging onto highways.
2- Autobahn official speed is just over 80mph. You can go faster but if you have an accident, it also becomes reckless driving. The crashes they have are more spectacular but they have less of them.
3- If you are not passing, you MUST keep left, no exceptions and it's a pretty hefty ticket. You can't pass on the right here, that's an even bigger ticket.
4- You must go to a driving school to get a license and it costs a lot of money. Driving is truly treated as a privilege here, not as a right like in the states.
5- The police do not mess around. They enforce things like cell phone use and illegal lane use. They have also cracked down on aggressive driving, especially on Autobahns.
6- Any accident, no matter how small, requires a report. If you bump someone's car in a parking lot, you don't leave a note, you wait for the person. If you hit a sign post or back into a building, same thing; it's an accident and must be reported. When we bought our first car, they had to report a scratch because a police report had been filed for it. I couldn't even find it until the dealer pointed it out to me. A car is usually your second largest investment after your house and that's the way they treat them here, as an investment.
I truly believe that #4 is why it is so much better to drive here. People spent well over $1000 just to get their license and have to pass more rigorous tests. They do not want to lose what took them so much time and money to earn.
All states should pass and rigorously enforce a "Keep Right Except To Pass" law. Slow drivers are almost always behind any screw up on the roadways. I drive interstate everyday to work that has a lot of hills and turns. A slow driver that refuses to move right to allow a pass can cause a lot of frustration and headaches, also accidents.
they need to do that here in texas, people here so effing dumb its unbelievable. interstate 20 has signs out saying left lane is for passing only. guess what you have to pass idiots on the right cause they cant read. people need to take a driving course in nascar and learn what drafting is. as a matter of fact retake the whole driving test all over.
here they merge on the highway at 20 mph, thinking you have to yield the right of way.
Also, turn signals-FOR THE LOVE OF GOD-PLEASE USE THEM! Many people could save money buy not having them built into their cars since they do not use them. NOT USING THEM CAN CAUSE ACCIDENTS-defensive driving must be in place even more because of this
Driver training is sorely inadequate in this country. I took a driver's test in Oklahoma where I lived at the time and as long as you could make the turn signals blink, make the car stop and go, and parallel park the car you'd pass the test. Many states are not too far from this low of a standard. Then, we wonder why driving is such a joke in this country. The training is not extensive enough. The test standards aren't high enough. The penalties aren't high enough. A driver's license is so ridiculously easy to get in this country that no one values the privilege (yes, PRIVILEGE) to drive. The Germans have this one right....extensive training, formidable cost, then you get to drive. And then, once you're driving, stiff penalties for breaking the laws. The right lane on a highway is called the driving or travel lane. The left lane(s) are called the passing lane(s). There is a reason for this and the law requires that they are used according to their descriptionAgreed. Highway driving should be a REQUIREMENT for all driver exams. This includes merging [and by extension: ACCELERATION GETTING ON TO A HIGHWAY!], proper use of the left lane, etc.
"Speed kills." No, it does not. Speed differential kills. This is why driving too slow for conditions, ie, not keeping up with the flow of traffic, is dangerous; similarly, driving too fast for conditions.
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