Is it legal in WA to travel bit by bit in the freeway still left lane?

The most common traffic violation in Washington is driving over the speed limit, according to Swerve Driving School in Seattle. But what about driving under the speed limit?

Unless there is a good reason, driving so slowly that traffic comes to a crawl isn’t acceptable under Washington state law. This is generally true for most states. But how about driving slowly in the left lane on the highway?

Here is what Washington state law says about driving in the left lane, and whether or not there is a minimum speed limit drivers must abide by.

Washington law on left lanes

In Washington state, a person cannot continuously drive in the left lane if the road has two or more lanes going in the same direction.

However, the state law doesn’t explicitly indicate that it’s illegal to drive in the left lane if driving under the speed limit. In some other U.S. states, though, such as Maine, it’s illegal to occupy the left lane unless passing another vehicle going at least 65 miles per hour.

California law says that drivers can occupy the left lane for an extended period of time, but they must be traveling at maximum speed.

Tennessee targeted slow left-lane users in its 2021 “Slow Poke law.” Except for a few select purposes, drivers cannot occupy a left lane for a prolonged period of time.

Washington’s law is similar to Maine’s but is a bit looser regarding the speed limit and penalties. The Evergreen State’s rules simply say that it’s a traffic infraction to drive continuously “when it impedes the flow of other traffic.”

“Impeding traffic” means any driving behavior that doesn’t allow other vehicles to use the left lane for passing, Washington State Patrol Trooper John Dattilo told The News Tribune.

When can I use the left lane in WA state?

According to Seattle-based firm Zuanich Law PLLC, under Washington state law, there are four instances when a person can use the left lane:

  • A driver passes another vehicle

  • A driver is moving faster than other vehicles in right lanes

  • A driver is allowing traffic to merge

  • A driver is preparing to turn left at an intersection, exit, private driveway or road

Vehicles carrying a towing trailer or with a weight that exceeds 10,000 pounds cannot ride in the left lane or a roadway consisting of three lanes or more.

This tale was at first posted July 11, 2023, 9:47 AM.

Sherri Crump

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