Effective as of August 1, 2019—alongside the state’s new hands-free cellphone law—is the state’s new slowpoke left lane law. This law authorizes police officers to issue citations for motorists who refuse to change lanes to yield to faster-moving vehicles. Thus, if a motorist is slowing up the left lane, then s/he can be cited. Whereas Minnesota already has laws on the books that require slower vehicles to yield to faster ones by merging right, effective August 2019, drivers could be fined for impeding traffic in the fast lane.
The impetus for this law arose from the impediment that a slow-moving vehicle causes to normal traffic flow—and the increased potential for road rage occurrences. Police troopers would have the discretion to determine whether to issue citations or warnings to slowpoke drivers. Included in the omnibus transportation bill, this law seeks to address the harm to the flow of traffic motorists driving even a few miles below the speed limit in the left lane have been shown to cause, according to the bill’s author House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-31A). The Senate’s version of this bill was introduced by Senator John Jasinski (R-Faribault).
Prior to this law, simple courtesy dictated whether slower drivers would move from the left lane to the right. Now, however, it is law that applies to drivers on any freeway and two-lane road. For single-lane roads, slow moving drivers must move as close to the shoulder or curb as “practicable” to let other vehicles pass; however, many drivers continued to impede the fast lanes, particularly on more rural stretches of roadways between metropolitan cities.
As mentioned, police now have the discretion under the law to issue tickets to slowpoke drivers. These drivers can now be assessed a $50 ticket plus a $75 surcharge for a $125 fine per occurrence. Tickets will only be issued to those motorists who are impeding the speed of other drivers in the left lane and fail to move over to the right to let them pass.
Exemptions to the law
The law is not applicable to vehicles that are in a left-hand highway exit, vehicles that are turning left on a four-lane expressway, and vehicles in a specifically designated left-hand lane such as a carpool lane. Emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances are also exempt.
Further, as is sometimes misinterpreted, this law does not permit motorists to increase speed in the left lane. Speed limits still apply; however, accelerating to five miles per hour over the speed limit specifically to pass another vehicle is acceptable.
Essentially, if someone is driving the speed limit in the left lane, then there is no reason to merge right to let other vehicles pass. Instead, this law is intended for those vehicles who are traveling under the speed limit in the left lane which must merge right to let vehicles behind them pass.
Additionally, once a driver passes traffic in the left lane, s/he should move back over.
Lawmakers stress that they do not advocate tailgating behind slowpokes who may be driving in the left lane. Instead, they suggest calling the police if the slowpoke driver is causing any traffic issues and let officers handle the situation. Lawmakers also stress not trying to enforce others’ speeds by staying in the left lane to slow down speeders. Again, let the police handle any potential problems.