'Slow Poke Law' to get slow drivers out of fast lane

Tony Casey • Jul 22, 2016 at 4:48 PM

Traveling across Tennessee could become much more fluid with the state’s “Slow Poke Law,” which went into effect on the first of July.

Lt. Rick Garrison, with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, said he doesn’t think many tickets have been written just yet for slow drivers in the fast lane, because troopers’ law books haven’t been updated yet, but he expects strict enforcement of the new laws around Tennessee’s more metropolitan areas.

“When people are trying to get around each other, and the lane is blocked, it makes drivers drive more erratically,” he said.

Because the Slow Poke Law, or HB1416, applies to three-lane interstates and multilane highways, it won’t affect the Tri-Cities as much as Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, but it could speed things up for the East Tennesseans traveling through the Volunteer State.

The new law allows a $50 fine for the infraction.

For decades, Tennessee Code Annotated 55-8-115 has disallowed driving in the left lane of multilane except for passing, which is something that can be enforced at any time. But because lawmakers saw it as an easy and important amendment to TCA 55-8-115.

State Rep. Dan Howell of Bradley County is the lawmaker who endorsed the bill, but his colleague, Jon Lundberg, of the 1st District of the Bristol area, got behind it with a reason.

Lundberg drives more than 300 miles to the state capitol in Nashville and averages approximately 40,000 miles annually in doing so. That’s a lot of mileage to be held up by slow drivers. He told The Tennessean he hopes lawmakers will amend the law further to apply restrictions to two-lane roadways as well.

“There are a lot of folks, especially truckers, who get in the left lane next to each other and stay there at 55 miles per hour because they can’t accelerate like other vehicles,” Lundberg said in an interview with the Press.

That being said, Lundberg isn’t advocating for speeding, but he said this was an obvious clarification to make. He just thinks it will give state troopers another tool to help make the roads safer.

Garrison agrees.

The faster lanes, especially for state troopers, are used for patrolling. Whereas his fellow troopers are often running their radars, they need to get into the left lane and median to change directions so frequently, this could clear things up. The same goes for ambulances and other emergency service vehicles.

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