Legislator proposes 'keep right' driving law

Of the Associated Press

SALEM — Frustrated by slow drivers who don't stay to the right, a state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to drive in the left lane of interstate highways unless passing another vehicle.

“If you're not passing, stay out of the left lane,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), the measure's sponsor. “It's really not that hard.”

Burdick, who commutes to the Capitol daily, testified in support of the bill Monday before the Senate Business and Transportation Committee. She said the measure would improve traffic flow by clearing the left lane for drivers to safely overtake vehicles that are on the right.

The law would not apply when traffic is heavily congested.

Under the bill, drivers could face penalties of up to $1,000. But Burdick says the proposal's primary purpose is to educate drivers, not penalize them.

A handful of other states have keep-right laws on their books, including Washington, which Burdick pointed to as a model.

Burdick's bill would amend a current state law that she said is “vague and imprecise.” The current law prohibits trailers, campers and trucks from driving in the left lane unless passing. The bill would expand this law to include all vehicles.

In 2012, Oregon state police troopers cited 125 drivers for left lane-related violations, according to police statistics.

In the same year, the Washington State Patrol stopped 14,241 drivers for left-lane violations. Of those stops, troopers ticketed 1,097 motorists, about 10 percent, according to Washington State police statistics.

“We treat this as an education issue rather than an enforcement issue,” said Robert Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman. He said there are some areas throughout the state where motorists can drive in the left lane. These spots are clearly marked by road signs.

“We treat this as an education issue rather than an enforcement issue,” said Robert Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman. He said motorists can drive in the left lane in some areas throughout the state. These spots are clearly marked by road signs.

The Oregon bill seemed to resonate with the committee members, who each had a story to tell about being stuck on Interstate 5 behind a slow-moving vehicle. But some had concerns.

“So will it make things better or worse?” committee Chairman Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, asked Ted Phillips, director of Oregon State Police Patrol Services.

Phillips laughed and said only that he has witnessed reckless driving resulting from drivers frustrated with slower vehicles in the left lane.

Committee member Fred Girod, R-Stayton, said he was worried the measure may negatively impact drivers like himself who use speed control during their daily commutes.

“The bill has nothing to do with how fast anybody's going,” Burdick clarified. She said the bill's aim is strictly to keep the left lane open so drivers can easily and safely pass vehicles.

Burdick said the bill has received a lot of support already and hopes it will be up for a Senate floor vote soon.


troy prouty

What's funny is some of their driving records for speeding. Maybe the question isn't so much being in the left lane, but rather the speed. I did a survey a few years back and found about 70% of people speed more than 5 miles per hour in certain areas. It would also be almost impossible on I-5 to enforce because the huge amounts of traffic. The vary in speed from one another including trucks that have a different speed limit.


Michael Tubbs Sr

Heck, all this time (for the last ten years anyway) I'd thought Oregon already had this law on the books.


It seems to me that simply encouraging drivers to 'stay right' is a better approach. Who gets to decide when a roadway has become congested? What about when it is a left lane exit- how soon may one move to the left lane?

I have read that police estimate that in any given situation about 80% of drivers travel at the correct speed for the conditions. Why not accept that? There will always be the occasional idiot, but most people use common sense.

Don Dix

To build, or have, a freeway system that is mostly two lanes, and require drivers to exclusively use the right, unless passing, is completely insane, but it will raise revenue. And that revenue is the goal. But there is a why to this activity.

There is never enough tax money to fund Oregon's lunatic spending. Hence, the legislature has morphed to tackle that problem.

Several years ago, all traffic fines were increased 50 -100% (and more), license and registration fees saw even more increases, as did permits for nearly every activity. But all this 'new money' wasn't enough to satisfy those feeding from the public trough (it never will be).

The solution, or so it seems, is to keep adding new ways to extract more money from the citizens. It's quite simple - pass more laws and collect more fines. This has been happening for some time, but we keep sending the same fools to Salem. And they spend most of their time figuring out how to screw the public out of more cash.

The real tragedy in this whole situation is the fact that none of this nonsense will stop until Oregonians send a strong message to Salem. Quit doing so much TO THE PEOPLE, and start doing something FOR them!

Matt Meador

About time! This wouldn't even be a problem but for three types of people:

1. Those morons who have absolutely no clue that anyone else is on the streets with them. They just poke along, blissfully unaware that traffic is piling up behind them while they match their speed with the car to their right, having no idea that that car on the right is even there.

2. Those motorists who consider it their Christian duty to make sure everyone else drives 55 or less. Heck, if 55 saves lives, then 45 must save even more! And what better way to make sure everyone else follows the letter of the law than to block the traffic and limit everyone to 50 mph?

3. The terrified timid rabbit who has no business being behind the wheel at all, much less on a busy freeway. I just love it when I'm on the freeway doing 85 in Southern California and I come across some tourist from Oregon in a dirty camper doing exactly 55 on an 10-lane interstate.

While I know you have nowhere to be and are in no hurry to get there, many of the rest of us operate on tight schedules.

Don Dix

One other thing -- hasn't it always been illegal to impede traffic? Why not just enforce that law, and then the legislature could spend time doing something useful? (Assuming they have a clue to useful)

troy prouty

So matt,

Do you think we need speed limits?

Nothing good comes from speeding. It's selfish behavior with dangerous consequences. For example if you go above 60 at night you will not be able to stop with the distance of what you can see within your lights (on low).

I would say your number two above is no better than a person driving full blast all the time.

This law won't work on multi-lane highways. There is already a law for being in the left lane compared to the right. This law would simply state we need only two lanes of traffic then because you will either be in the right, or passing on the left. (but not speeding to pass) btw....The moment you are not passing.... Well.. Then you must get back to the right.

Myself. I would vote no on the bill, since we already have a law that deals with it, just differently. Too many laws already.


Michael Tubbs Sr

I agree.


"Under the bill, drivers could face penalties of up to $1,000. But Burdick says the proposal's primary purpose is to educate drivers, not penalize them".

Does anybody actually fall for this stuff?

It's another tax, plain and simple.

BTW: Excellent comment Don Dix, you took the words right out of my mouth.

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