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Slow Drivers: No Where to Go

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No doubt about it, speeding is dangerous.  It’s one of the main reasons for fatal accidents on U.S. roads.  But driving too slow can be just as bad.

Slow pokes think they are being safe by driving under the speed limit.  In reality, they are putting other drivers at risk.  That’s why states have minimum speed limit signs on roads and highways.  No one should routinely drive over the speed limit, or under it, unless there’s an emergency.  In each case, they should pull off the road as soon as possible.

While speeding has received the most attention in recent years, slow pokes deserve scrutiny too.  They are a major reason for road rage and tailgating.  The pile ups they cause tempt others to drive recklessly.

If a slow poke blocks the passing lane on a freeway, and cars pile up behind it, and an even slower driver blocks the middle lane, approaching cars may veer into the right lane at a high rate of speed to get around them.  That sets up a dangerous situation.  Cars in the right lane could be slowing down to exit the freeway.  Others may be driving up an on ramp to merge into oncoming traffic.  Rear end collisions at high rates of speed are likely outcomes.

On two lane roads, drivers trapped behind slow pokes may try to pass in no passing zones or pull out to pass in front of an oncoming car.  They may pass going up hills even though they can’t see cars coming up the other side, risking another head on collision.

In some states, fines for slow drivers are larger than fines for those who are caught speeding.  It’s a moving violation in New York State to block or impede traffic by driving under the speed limit.  First offenders are fined $195.  Texas law is much tougher.  In Texas, fines for left lane violators start at $200 and go up from there.  Offenders are also charged with a Class C misdemeanor.  In the Lone Star State, the left lane is only for passing.  Under Texas law, drivers must move back into the right lane as soon as it is safe after passing another vehicle.

Some 29 states have laws on the books that forbid travel in the left lane unless one vehicle is passing another.   California has a law aimed at slow pokes on two lane roads.  Drivers must pull over if five or more cars are stuck behind them.  In Virginia, drivers who stay in the passing lane, after passing a slow driver, can be charged with negligence.

While all drivers need to be careful around speeders, they should also be on the lookout for slow pokes.  People driving under the speed limit usually fall into four categories:  sightseers, seniors, inexperienced teen drivers and those who are lost.  Anyone encountering a slow poke on the road should exercise caution.

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