There he was — that ever-so-frequent driver poking along in the left lane of the highway and tying up traffic.
“This man should’ve gotten over to the right lane,” said Eloise Kerbs, a motorist who frequently travels on Kansas Highway 10 between Lawrence and Eudora. “People were backed up behind him, and I went around him on the right side.”
It’s a controversial road rule violation that’s had people pounding their steering wheels and flashing their bright lights for years — slower drivers who have no business traveling in the inside lane.
In the past, it was a matter of courtesy to keep right. But on Wednesday, it became an enforceable law, and state law enforcement officers began pulling over and cracking down on left-lane hogs.
The new Right Lane Law says the left lane of a highway should be used only by motorists passing slower vehicles or preparing to turn left.
“Traffic driving in the left lane for prolonged periods does cause gridlock and backup, and it really defeats the purpose of having a multilane highway,” said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Edna Buttler. “You should remain in the right lane, if you’re slower traffic.”
On highways with three lanes of traffic — such as the Kansas Turnpike between Lawrence and Topeka — the law requires that motorists drive in the right or middle lanes and use only the left lane to pass.
David Wade, a Kansas driver who frequently uses highways in the state, said he was happy about the new enforcement measure because some people just didn’t understand the rules of the road.
“Too many times, people are in that inside lane and you’ve got people on the right that are passing them,” said Wade, of Overland Park, who traveled to Lawrence on Wednesday. “It’s just not safe.”
Buttler said drivers were still required to move to the inside lane when passing stopped emergency and maintenance vehicles and if traffic control devices indicated it was OK or necessary.
The new law, which was adopted by lawmakers during the most recent legislative session, applies to all highways in the state with two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction. It does not apply to stretches of highway within a city’s limits.
Buttler, who participated in enforcement and education efforts in Douglas County on Wednesday, said drivers pulled over for hanging out in the left lane would be issued a warning for the first year of the law. After June 30, 2010, violators can be issued a ticket with a hefty fine of $60, plus court costs of $86.
Troopers are hopeful the new law will prevent crashes, decrease road rage and increase the general safety of the state’s highways.
“It is a safety issue,” said Buttler, KHP spokeswoman. “We’ve got more traffic, more people out on the roads, more distractions out on the roads. Slower traffic needs to remain right, so the flow of traffic is running smoothly.”