Police campaign targeting left lane drivers enters homestretch

A state police campaign to get chronic left-lane drivers to move over is entering its second month.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - As a Michigan State Police campaign to reduce the number of chronic “southpaw drivers’’ enters its second month, it’s likely that more left lane hogs are going to take a hit in the pocketbook.

“This year, you can almost expect to get less verbal warnings and more along the lines of a ticket to educate you,’’ said Michigan State Police Lt. Chris McIntire, who oversees the state police post in Rockford. “The education process is going to come through a ticket.’’

The left lane enforcement campaign got underway in March and runs through the end of April. Much of the enforcement handled by the Rockford post is along U.S. 131 in Kent and Montcalm counties.

A two-month campaign last spring by state police posts in Rockford and Lakeview resulted in 639 traffic stops. More than 90 percent of left lane violators were let off with a warning.

McIntire says data from this year’s campaign has not been tabulated for the Rockford post, but anecdotally, it appears more drivers are being ticketed. Those cited can expect to pay a fine of about $100.

The Lakeview post has issued 119 verbal warnings so far, Lt. Rob Davis said. Its territory includes Int. 96 between Portland and the Kent County line.

Troopers assigned to the Lakeview post have issued 10 tickets for left lane drivers. Four of the left lane stops resulted in a drunk driving arrest, Davis said. “A lot of what we’re doing is still an informational campaign,’’ he added.

McIntire says verbal warnings last year played a key part of the educational process. “There were very few tickets written for left lane driving,'' he said. “But the reality of it is now, we’ve seen some change, we’ve seen it get better, but it still isn’t where we need to see it.’’ 

Left lane drivers, he said, have a way of sparking road rage among fellow motorists.

“The biggest thing that we see is not accidents that are caused from driving in that left lane,’’ he said. “The bigger issue we see is the road rage that comes from people that are violating that law. It makes folks mad because they can’t get around them.’’

Michigan already has statutes against chronic left lane driving, but one state lawmaker says they’re somewhat confusing.

State Rep. Robert Kosowki, D-Westland, in January introduced a bill that would make it a civil infraction to stay in the left lane of the freeway when other drivers are trying to pass.

Michigan State Police for years have tried to encourage chronic left lane drivers to move over. The state has even erected signs along freeways, including Int. 96 between Grand Rapids and Detroit, telling motorists to drive right and pass on the left. “It’s the law,’’ the road signs point out.

On freeways with three or more lanes, Kosowski says drivers can use any lane available. Staying in the left lane, he says, shouldn't be an option.

“The driver of a vehicle in the extreme left-hand lane shall not continue to operate his or her vehicle in that lane if he or she knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed,’’ House Bill 4062 says.

No action has been taken on the bill, which was introduced Jan. 18. It has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

A handful of states in recent years have passed laws setting harsher penalties for left lane hogs, including Georgia, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee. Fines elsewhere range from $50 to $500.

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