A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Sad to say, right-lane bill advances

Written June 4th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
So what's wrong with using the left lane on freeway segments like this?

So what’s wrong with using the left lane on freeway segments like this in Lane County?

In the Keeping-Track Department: The right-lane bill in the Oregon legislature is advancing, and there’s no evidence that lawmakers are paying the slightest attention to reasonable objections.

In April the House passed HB 3414 by a vote of 33-26, with Republicans opposed, and the Senate Business and Transportation Committee unanimously endorsed the bill on June 1. The Senate will vote shortly.

The bill would require drivers to stay in the right lane on highways with two or more lanes in the same direction and speed limits greater than 45 miles an hour, except when passing, turning left, to avoid merging traffic, in congestion, or when following signs. It’s supposed to keep people from hogging the left lane and holding up traffic. It may be a good idea in theory, but not every idea has to be a law.

The practical effect will be to make the freeways more dangerous. Imagine trying to observe this law on I-5 between Salem and Portland, with three lanes in each direction and an on-ramp every couple of miles. No longer can you legally stay in the middle lane and avoid all that incoming traffic. You have to drive to the right and change lanes, slalom-like, every couple of minutes.

There and elsewhere on the freeway, if the left lane is fairly open and the right lane crowded, the bill says you can’t use the left lane unless you want to pass. The problem on our two-lane freeways is trucks and motorhomes. They generally are slower than other vehicles, so when truck traffic is heavy, which is much of the time, you have to stay in the left lane just to keep your spot. If you pull to the right after passing a truck, you may not be able to pass the next one for quite a while without pushing your way into the line on your left, risking your life and theirs.

And what about those freeway segments where the right lane has been chewed up and the pavement is rough? Why shouldn’t we drive where better pavement makes for a smoother and less noisy ride?

The Highway Division says that if the bill passes, the legislature might want to budget for new signs to remind people of the new requirement, especially on the freeways. Just what we need: More rules, more signs and more expense. (hh)

4 responses to “Sad to say, right-lane bill advances”

  1. James Carrick says:

    This bill, in its current state creates more problems (potentially) than it solves. Many of us are frustrated by drivers that camp out in the left most lane and refuse to budge. Some of them think that as long as they are going the posted speed, they have no need or reason to move to the right, this despite 85% of I-5 traffic…the “flow”….is doing 7-10 mph over in normal circumstances. One of the feature of modern interstate highways is that it allows vehicles to travel at the same speed.

    However, this measure…without changes to the speed limit for trucks…..will indeed force the “law abiding” into the “slalom-like” scenario you described. The speed differential between heavy trucks and passenger cars and vehicles will insure the 65 mph slalom will come to life….not a good outcome. After your first article on this measure, I did some snooping around on the oregonlive (Oregonian) site and read many of the hundreds of comments posted by readers there. Spend an hour reading those comments and you will get a real good grasp of the variety of opinions on the “proper” use of the left lane. Some of those readers clearly don’t belong on modern interstate highways.

    As for myself, I will continue to use my own rule which has kept me accident free for over 45 years now……When I’m in the left lane, I keep one eye on the rear view mirror. If I am in a line of traffic in the left lane, I’m not moving right just to satisfy the requirement of a stupidly written law. Common sense must prevail. Likewise, if I choose to drive a little slower than the “flow” of traffic, I am more than happy to move right to let others pass, as soon as I can do so safely. If someone is riding my butt, I move right more slowly than if they give me the proper distance from my rear bumper. Courtesy breeds courtesy.

    Readers in the Portland-Vancouver area mentioned that Washington law considers the left lane (but not the middle lane of 3) to be a PASSING lane, where Oregon (currently) regards the left lane as just another traffic lane, despite the many signs that instruct slower drivers to keep to the right hand lanes. If you are in the left lane you need to be passing traffic to your right IF there are people behind you wanting to go faster than you. If you notice people passing you on the right, then YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

    Having said all that, there aren’t very many drivers that pass me on I-5. I keep up with most of the faster element just fine and I rarely have trouble with people wanting me to move to the right. But that being the case, I encounter MANY drivers that seem to think they are doing the State Police a big favor by somehow “pacing” the traffic on the left at whatever speed THEY deem to be appropriate. THAT is a big problem…both the act and the attitude.

    I guess it always comes down to the same old sense that: “If everyone would just drive like I do, there wouldn’t be any of these problems…..” and left lane hogs would be a thing of the past……without a VERY poorly written law, the text of which is at this link:


    The “spirit” of this proposed law is well placed, but the implementation of it as written, will be an unenfoceable disaster.

    One would think that a “legislator” should be able to “write” legislation. I guess my naivete’ is showing.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    We can only hope the State Police exercise some COMMON SENSE and not enforce this law as written.
    In many of the congested areas between Salem & Portland, all lanes are full.
    Through traffic tends to stay in the left lane. It’d be sad to see them immediately trying to pull into a right lane if traffic happened to speed up briefly in that lane, as it often does.
    The police can currently ticket those that “impede” traffic. That’s enough regulation in this matter.

  3. Warren Beeson says:

    Having made a couple of trips along I-40 in N. Arizona through Texas to Oklahoma, I noticed that even though there are many trucks, there are far less backups and blockages. I attribute this to the speed limit being the same for trucks as for cars – primarily 75 mph. In relation to accidents; I suspect the increased speed for trucks is counter-balanced by the decrease in the different speed rates for cars and trucks. It would be interesting to know if there are any studies that analyze the accident rates & severity of the comparable systems. In any case, we should never forget about our Democrat legislature that liberals don’t care what you do as long as its mandated.

  4. Shawn Dawson says:

    Another frustrating bill from this session. It seems like the legislature does not listen to input from the people with reasonable objections, but rather believe that every ‘good’ idea should have a law to enforce it.

    You are correct, as are the others here and elsewhere, that this would be another bad law. I expect police can likely already cite people that do cause issues in the left lane with existing laws.

    I’m much more worried about the people who ride my butt on I-5 in the right lane, those folks who are so close I can’t even see their headlights in my rearview mirror, than left lane slow drivers. I wish the police would start pulling over those drivers, but I have never seen it happen.



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