Tennessee has joined the brigade of states enacting and enforcing so-called “slow poke” laws— edicts that attempt to force slow-moving drivers out of the left-hand lanes when they’re impeding traffic. The Volunteer State’s “Slow Poke Law,” which went into effect at the beginning of July, levies a $50 fine against those found abusing the passing lanes.
The Tennessee slow poke law states, “On interstate and multilane divided highways that are three (3) or more lanes in each direction, a person shall not operate a vehicle in the passing lane, except when overtaking or passing a vehicle that is in a nonpassing lane.” Sadly, while any Tennesseeans caught blocking the left lane will be forced to hand over a bill with the much-loathed Ulysses S. Grant's face on it, they will not receive any points on their license for the infraction.
Almost every state already has some sort of legalese dealing with minimum speed limits and extra-slow moving vehicles, so roadblock laws don’t bother with specific numbers. This kind of legislation is about making roads more efficient, and—in the words of Tennessee state representative Dan Howell, who shepherded this slow poke law through—cutting down on the number of people weaving through traffic to avoid the absent-minded camped out in the left lane.
On top of the accident and road-rage issues, congestion is a growing problem, which is likely why such laws are hitting the books across America. Indiana ushered one in last year, and Georgia did so in 2014; Florida added license points to the infraction in 2013, and New Jersey upped its fine to $300 that same year. The Georgia law starts with a fine of about $150, but maxes out at $1,000 for a left-lane driver blocking “at least one car.” Nearly 600 Peach State drivers were ticketed for slow poke law violations in the first nine months after it took effect. Indiana’s maximum fine is $500 for “a driver blocking three or more cars.”
While these laws are well and good in principle, we at The Drive would like to see someone study slow poke laws to see if they actually work—or better yet, if they are more effective than proper driver education. California’s law issues a minimum $35 fine, but the state would probably be better off amending its driver’s license handbook, which essentially instructs new drivers to pick any lane on the highway. Or perhaps states should take a single line, if not a page, from Germany’s driver education: Passing on the right on the Autobahn is almost uniformly illegal.