Legalese — New Slow Poke Law

photo credit: Lori Duff
photo credit: Lori Duff

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new “Slowpoke Law” that went into effect July 1st. What has changed, exactly? What are you supposed to do or not do? It wasn’t entirely clear from the articles I read.

There was already a law on the books that prevented people from impeding the flow of traffic. It said, “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.” This provision is still part of the law, and it makes sense. If you are going 35 miles an hour down a 55 mile and hour road for no particular reason, that’s a problem.

The new law, however, expands upon that. The new law says that when two or more lanes go in the same direction on a road, you can’t drive “in the passing lane once such person knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.” In layman’s terms, if you’re in the left lane on I-20 and someone comes flying up behind you, move over to let them by.

The purpose of this law, as I understand it, is to decrease incidents of road rage and tailgating and aggressive driving. Although I generally don’t offer opinions in these columns, I am going to offer some opinions here: I don’t like this law.

In theory, it codifies common sense and basic courtesy. If you are in someone’s way, you should get out of that person’s way. There is nothing more frustrating than being on the highway and stuck behind two cars pacing each other that are both going five miles under the speed limit. It’s the kind of thing that makes you shake your metaphorical fist and say, “There oughtta be a law.” And thus, the law came to be.

What I don’t like is the way it is written. There are exceptions to the ‘move over’ requirement. They are: 1) when traffic conditions or congestion make it necessary to drive in the left lane; 2) when there is weather or a road hazard that makes it necessary; 3) when compliance with a law or a ‘traffic control device’ makes it necessary; 4) when the left lane is the exit lane; 5) on toll roads; 6) ambulances and police cars; and 7) highway maintenance vehicles.

All of that is reasonable. On the surface, anyway. It will be interesting to see how this law plays out. Because imagine this scenario: You are driving in the right lane eastward on I-20. There are two eastbound lanes. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour. The car in front of you (along with the six cars and three tractor trailers in front of it) are going 70 miles an hour. You want to go 79 miles an hour, so you pull into the left lane to get around this long line of cars and trucks that are going the frustratingly slow speed limit. You get past two cars and one tractor trailer when flying up in your rear view mirror is a jacked up pick up truck going what has to be at least 95 miles an hour. There is no reason why you have to stay in the left lane – there is enough space for you to safely move back over into the right lane – but you don’t want to slow your pace because, for crying out loud, you are already going 10 miles over the limit and you have the cruise control right where you want it.

This law would require you to move over so the truck can fly past.

I’ve got a problem with that. I’ve got an inherent problem with a law which encourages fast, out of control driving. I’ve got a problem with a law which encourages bullying behavior by giving the traffic bullies their way. (When someone tries to drive into the trunk of my car to make me move, I consider them a bully.) If I had written the law, I would have included a provision that made sure you weren’t required to make it easy for others to break the law.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It is hard to believe that a police officer would charge you under this law if you were going 15 miles an hour over the speed limit and you don’t move over to let someone going 30 miles an hour over the speed limit by. Especially in a school zone. But technically you could be charged.

What do you think about this new law?

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here.

About Lori Duff 74 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."
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