Lawmakers Seek to Penalize Slow Left-Lane Drivers

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Speed up, or pay up. That's the message some Iowa lawmakers say they want to send with a proposed bill in the state House of Representatives that would penalize slow left-lane drivers on the state's highways and interstates.

"There is an issue here, and the issue is, is we have some people who like to hang out in that passing lane, and they're not even going the speed limit," said House Transportation Committee Chairman, Rep. Josh Byrnes (R-Osage).  "We're not trying to promote people to be in that passing lane, or this bill is not trying to encourage people to go faster. That's not the purpose. The purpose of the bill is, we want people to get out of that lane, and move over, if they're not going to be driving that speed limit."
Rep. Byrnes says he and his colleagues began to notice the issue after numerous complaints from the public - many from the state's metropolitan areas where traffic is high.
"And especially in the Des Moines Metro Area, that flow of traffic is essential to keeping that city moving and flowing, and when you've got someone that provides any sort of hiccup in that system, it can really back-log things," he said.
The bill would allow police to pull a driver over for going more than 10 miles per hour under the speed limit in the left lane of the highway. Elizabeth Todd of Ames says her commute every morning into Des Moines is plagued by slow drivers hogging the left lane, and supports the idea.
"Often on the commute, the left lane will get backed up a lot as we're all behind one car trying to pass in a lane. So that happens a lot," she said.
Suzanne Hicks of Des Moines says she's in favor of the bill simply because of safety.
"Especially during rush hour, for some reason, people are out a lot on the freeway doing below the speed limit," she said. "And it's just dangerous. Or if you're approaching the freeway, coming on, you have to hit the speed limit and these people are not doing that. It's just dangerous."
The bill was just introduced to the House Transportation Committee this week. It'll move to a subcommittee now, and lawmakers expect to take it up for a vote on the House floor sometime later this session.



  • John Smith

    Wow, the Legislature is sure avoiding such tricky topics as “Water Quality” this session, aren’t they?

    Maybe they’ll still have time after they tackle all these pressing concerns. Lord only knows, the Governor’s vehicle would never be caught going too slow, no matter what lane.

    • marcopolish

      Yes, exactly right, it’s the look here in this hand, so you won’t see what the other hand is doing, or not doing, as the case may be, with something far more significant.

      • John Smith

        I seem to recall that I-235 used to have a 40 MPH minimum speed. I can’t imagine why that would have been done away with, in any event. But, what works on a four-lane highway and what works on a multi-lane freeway are not necessarily the same thing. The “left lane” isn’t necessarily for the same use.

        Still, I can’t help but think that the Legislature will try to make that square peg fit into a round hole. And, I expect it will be a very shiny object for the general public.

  • Rebecca Hergert

    My husband says, ‘it’s illegal in Germany, loitering in the fast lane’.
    We see this a lot on hwy#30!!

    • jj216216

      Yes, Germany illegalizes this on the Audubon…but it’s by necessity – the passing lane must be strictly held a passing lane when a Ferrari can scream down the road at 170 mph & approach a vehicle legally travelling 70 mph. If the vehicle at 70 mph sits in the passing lane, tragedy becomes a real risk. This is qualitatively different than Iowa & vehicles in the passing lane at 70 mph blocking a soccer mom from travelling 75 mph & shaving 5 min. off her commute time. And if you really want to look to Germany, there is no eating, drinking (anything), cellphone usage, etc., whilst driving. And fines are not arbitrary – you pay scaled to your income. This hokey bs in Iowa is just a means for squeezing more funds from the people – $100 fine…?! For what? Not going the speed limit?-again, the limit… Or will we be allowed to cross the limit? Or will cameras be set up to make sure people travel in a narrowly defined speed window? The idea is just nonsense…

  • Vicky Weil

    The left lane should be for passing only even if you are going the speed limit or for some reason you turning to the left.

  • Wilson`s

    This is a HUGE problem around the metro period! I have been saying this for a few years now. Finally the state noticed. Thank you law makers. It is all around the metro but one area my wife and I drive everyday is Hickman from Waukee to Des Moines. Almost everyday, 2 cars, side by side, driving 35 mph in a 55 or 45 mph zone and talking on the dang phone! From Waukee to the Casey`s in Clive, on Hickman, the speed limit is 55MPH. Stop holding up traffic, we have places to be!

    • Potsie Weber

      I’m with you, it’s gotten worse over the years. Iowa is simply catching up with most states and making things more black and white by spelling out an exact infraction. You can get a ticket in Iowa for traffic obstruction, with one of the qualifications going slow in the left lane and obstructing the flow. I know for a fact tickets get issued for this in the metro, because I know police officers and one state trooper who have written them. This law will simply put the pinheads who block the hammer lane on notice to move over, or else pay up. I have a friend who is an Arizona trooper who writes tickets for this infraction all the time. Even if you’re going the speed limit, but traffic is running 10-15 over, and you’re a hazard, he’ll write you up….as he should.

      Some folks think its cute to block off the left lane and p/o the driver behind them. That, I’m sure, is a huge contribution to road-rage. This law should help alleviate some of that, I’m hoping.

      • Harold Peedmont

        If a driver is travelling the speed limit, regardless of lane position, why will law enforcement cite that driver? What will the charge be? The lawful driver is not the cause of a hazard in your scenario-it is the lawbreakers travelling 10-15 mph over the speed limit. Using your logic, speed cameras could be used to cite people observing the law if others are breaking it for the sake of traffic flow. Good luck getting a conviction arguing that the speeder’s right to speed trumps another driver’s right of lane selection.
        Drivers always in a hurry will disagree, but the left lane is not solely a passing lane…it is also aptly used as a through lane to avoid entering and exiting traffic when you have a long distance to go before you need to exit. Statistically, controlled-access roadway accidents are most often caused by lane changing, not speed-limit drivers in the hammer lane. It would be wiser to bring back the minimum speed limits on certain roadways-then drivers could decide to choose another route if they do not wish to drive at the maximum speed. In some states, trucks are required to drive in the left lane to even out the road wear-something Illinois has never figured out and it shows by their severely worn and damaged right lanes and their posting of slower speed limits for trucks.
        I agree with the earlier posters that suggest that this matter is a distraction to fly real issues under the radar. Don’t these legislators have more important matters to address?

      • Ruby

        WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! Hence the word ” LIMIT” a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass. OR The point, edge, or line beyond which something ends, may not go, or is not allowed. Take your pick. If said driver is going the posted Speed LIMIT, they should be fine. Unless, the cops want to stop their “Fund Raising Efforts a.k. a. speed traps” that say cities like Windsor Heights” likes to hold ever moment of everyday because they are land locked. I use the left lane as well, I go the posted limit, but There’s always someone that wants to SPEED up behind me and flash their lights as if I am going slower than the posted limit. You wanna pay the ticket fine , go AROUND me and fly… otherwise learn to be courteous to your fellow drivers. Something that has been lost in this modern world.

    • Potsie Weber

      Yeah, because fat boy Chet Culver is clueless driving slow in the left lane, while stuffing his fat face with fries and a triple cheeseburger. All this while his old lady is chain-smoking a pack of cigarettes, the cabin is so filled with smoke you’d swear Cheech & Ching were in the car. So naturally tubby doesn’t know what lane he’s in!

  • tom sullivan

    another waste of time from our out of touch law makers… if you go down the road with a can of beer in your hand on the steering wheel or a glass bong a cop can pull you over… but if you have your cell phone on the steering wheel with your thumb texting 100 symbols per minute the cop cant touch you under the current law, that’s right, the cop has to have another violation to pull you over…. hey law makers….why don’t you talk to the cops on the street and find out what they need..

  • Mike Cee

    What a waste of taxpayer money. While it may make it to law, it will be another law that doesn’t get enforced and another lawmaker exercise is futility.

    It’s a shame that our state legislators can’t find something worthwhile to debate. Perhaps if they spent their time more wisely, they’d actually find ways to cut spending and funnel more funds into road and infrastructure repairs rather than simply raising taxes. But then that would require legislators with a bit of common sense-something that it’s clear we don’t have. Instead we have legislators getting their panties in a twist over which lane someone drives in.

  • Carrie

    In order for this to really be enforceable, wouldn’t they need to increase the minimum speed or change the interstate structure to eliminate the left lane exits? IE: Interstate 80 on to 35 north? At this point, people have to be in the left lane. Yes, I drive the speed limit in good conditions and I avoid the left lane as much as possible, but what happens when the weather is less than perfect and the need to slow down is there. Way too many problems with trying to enforce this one in my opinion.

  • Becky W.

    As someone who drives 70 miles each way in the interstate every day, I would love to see something like this! It happens at least once a week that I pass someone who is driving slower than the speed limit in the passing lane because they were passing a semi and didn’t get over after they passed the semi.

    • Michelle

      Worse yet, sometimes it’s a slow semi driver passing an even slower car…and neither are doing the speed limit!

  • Frustrated Driver

    Right lane is for DRIVING!!!! The Left lane is for PASSING!!!! Turn
    SIGNALS were put on a car for a reason too!!!!! People in Iowa need to learn how to use them!
    Other states will pull you over and give you a ticket for lingering in the left lane.

    • Harold Peedmont

      Those who claim that the “Right lane is for DRIVING!!!! The Left lane is for PASSING!!!!” are correct only where it is so posted. When was the last time anyone saw a “Keep Right Except to Pass” sign? They certainly don’t exist here in Iowa like they once did, especially in the metro areas because the left lane is also for cruising, especially if you do not anticipate the need to exit the freeway anytime soon. Those that claim otherwise do so for self-serving reasons to feel better about tailgating people driving the speed limit in the left lane, as it impedes their “right” to blast down the left lane as fast as they want to go, speed limit be damned, as if they have more of a right to the left lane than others. The primary goal should be to avoid lane changes on limited-access highways whenever possible, as statistics show lane changing to be the number one cause of accidents on these roadways. And I agree about the turn signals-they should be used a lot more than they are.
      Another good reason the be in the left lane if not passing (although this has very limited application in the metro) is to enhance safety when a strong crosswind is coming from the left, as the road crown make it a bit easier to handle by tilting the vehicle into the wind, particularly in high-profile vehicles like trucks or campers.
      If everyone planned for plenty of time to get where they need to be and were as courteous to other drivers as they demand others to be to them, the freeways would be a much safer and more pleasurable pathway to travel.

      • Mike

        The left lane is not for “cruising”. People who “cruise” in the left lane and force others to pass them on the right are much more of a danger than it is to move into the left lane to pass, then returning to the right lane after the pass is complete.

      • Paul

        There is no good reason to be in the left lane except to pass, then get back where you belong. The keep right needs to come back and be enforced. As a 30+ year trucker I can understand your comment about the crown aiding in driving but if it’s that much of a problem, park your vehicle.

      • R

        First of all, this ISN’T Germany. the bill proposed here is specifically for people going 10 miles or more UNDER the POSTED speed LIMIT in the left lane. Partial Quote” this bill is not trying to encourage people to go faster. ” HINT : Not meant as a free pass to go whatever speed you heart desires people. It also does not state that it’s for “ONLY IF YOUR PASSING.” I will continue to follow the POSTED Speed LIMIT and drive in the Left lane when I need to.

  • Rod

    The people don’t have to speed up or pay up, just don’t stay in the left lane. Keep Right except to pass, pass with a purpose and then get back to the right side lane.

  • A

    Ha! I find it interesting how some people just completely missed that part in driving school. If you are in the left lane and people are having to pass you in the right lane, you need to get over. You should never be cruising in the left lane. If you are in the left lane and you are not actively passing someone or about to turn off, you need to be in the right lane. Its not just a suggestion, it the rules of driving. I seems to be certain states that are worse than others. In my home state MN I have never had trouble with it. If I was getting close to someone in the left lane, they knew they needed to move over for me. I was so shocked when I moved to Iowa, it was a daily struggle just to get around people that were cruising along in the left lane and forcing drivers to try to pass in the right! It really is a huge problem here.

    • Harold Peedmont

      If you are “getting close” to someone in the left lane who is cruising at the speed limit, then the problem is not them-it’s you.

      • Mike

        Ahhhh, the “right” to impede others. Gotta love the “it’s all about me” selfish attitude of people like you. So you would rather put other lives in danger by forcing some to pass you on the right just because you don’t want to move over? Wow.

      • JJohns

        I think some folks are trying to be a bit self-rightuous in saying the world needs to revolve around me because I am going the speed limit. For those who say ‘I’m not going to move over because I’m going the speed limit’, you may want to consider that someone else may actually have a valid reason to try to go around you…medical, etc…fill in the blank for a number of reasons. Speeding is a separate statue and is not the reason behind this effort…it’s about traffic flow. It’s reasonable to try to better the traffic flow on our roadways, and is cheaper than adding an additional lane to handle all the vehicle on the roads.

  • Rebecca Hergert

    This is what I saw this morning running errands!!
    Light fog this morning in Boone County!!
    I can’t believe how many people didn’t have their car lights on this morning!!
    2 cars-vans on hwy#30 abandoned!
    What’s up with that??

  • JodyJ

    This will Just make those “speedy” drivers .. drive faster. They already exceed the speed limits. Just because you are in the “Fast Lane” Does Not Mean you EXCEED the Speed Limits. I Always considered that “lane” the “Passing Lane” and Only use it to Pass SMV’s. I drive 55mph no matter what. Saves tons of gas from putting the pedal to the metal at 65mph. Now that the Governor is Talking Gas Tax hikes after Low Oil Prices. I can see the gas at $4 a gallon this summer. One More Thing? If Des Moines Would INCREASE “By-Passes/Expressways?” We would be up with the times on Traffic flow. The “Purple Heart Hwy / Bypass” .. We Need More Of Them !! Check out Kansas City. They have Tons ! Going Every Which Direction. So does Oklahoma City. You take I-35 to “The Valley?” You do NOT even See Dallas/Ft. Worth do to the new design of I-35. Not even a glimpse! That is What Des Moines Needs Badly !! The Traffic here is Way to Congested, Way to Dangerous, Not enough Lanes, Not Any Options .. But to take SW 9th, Fleur Dr., SE 14th., Army Post Rd., Watrous, McKinley, .. HINT HINT !! All traffic is diverted to GO THROUGH DES MOINES and there-fore congesting every residential /school .. neighborhood there is. WHY ARE WE 20 YEARS BEHIND OTHER STATES ON OUR HIGHWAY / INTERSTATE / EXPRESWAY SYSTEMS?

  • Call 911 To Report Slow Drivers

    It’s about time Iowa passes a law, making it illegal for idiots to drive slow in the left lane. During Rush Hour on I-235, I’ve seen these idiots refuse to get over, out of meanness. I’ve seen these idiots impede traffic by 10 minutes and the lane ahead of them, clear for a mile. The law should allow for good drivers to call 911 to report these idiots, then run them off the road.

    • francis

      It is illegal to drive in the left lane. The law says slower traffic keep right. There is NO specification as to speed limit. The left lane is a passing lane, if there is some one behind you, move to the right, it is the LAW. If you are driving in the left lane at the speed limit and there is traffic behind you, you are obstructing the flow of traffic and in violation of the law, chapter 321 of the Iowa code. The law is SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT. Prove you are a safe driver and move to the right.

  • Fuzzy Egg

    John Smith has got it right! Diversion is one of the oldest political tricks around. I suspect all those against speed cams and red light cams now want everyone out of their way so they can speed even faster. Of course there is another thing to think about. It’s called adding and abetting. If you let some one pass you, and they have a wreck, have you aided and abated that accident. Thai’s the kind of meat lawyers thrived on.
    If their real concern is safety, then start cracking down on those divers that ddo9n’t use turn signals, that have only one head light, that drive after dark with NO headlights on.

  • Hugo S LaVia

    We already have a 2nd amendment — can we just shoot ’em and keep lawmakers working on REAL ISSUES???!!!

  • Lauren

    I guess I’ve never gotten behind someone going less than the speed limit in the left lane before.
    However, I have been behind slow drivers entering the interstate and that has been very dangerous. Even more so when there are vehicles in the lane we merge into that could definitely move over and I’m trying to yield to them while also trying not to run into the slowpoke in front of me.

  • bjertbjaeger

    My favorite ones are the idiots who wait till you’re a car length behind them and then whip over into the left lane and proceed to pass a semi at 1mph faster so they hang out beside the truck for 5 minutes, which of course makes the truck driver annoyed, and backs up traffic for a mile.

  • JJohns

    Oddly enough, IA Code already exists that could be used for enforcement today. “321.299 OVERTAKING A VEHICLE.”

    “The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
    Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of the overtaken vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.”

    In a nutshell, it defines the method and sets the expectation of how we should be passing or allowing other vehicles to pass. The slower car needs to yield the right of way and allow the faster vehicle to pass (no mention of speed here folks…that’s a different issue).

    This boils down to this…you have no idea the reason for the other person needing to pass you, maybe they need to get to the hospital, whatever and who knows…I’m not arrogant enough to second guess their reasons for wanting by me. That’s Law Enforcements job. But if I am in the far left lane and I see someone coming up behind me…I’ll gladly get out of the way and allow them through. It is called courtesy, and is the respect for other drivers sharing the road, hopefully everyone can reciprocate. And if they get a ticket in a mile or two…feel free to grin as you go by.

  • mj

    the problem is what is considered fast enough for the fast lane. when I tried going the speed limit in the fast lane I got surrounded by semi trucks going 20 mph over the limit. they forced me to go their speed until I finally found a spot I could go to the left grass strip to get out of the way.

  • Rick

    Yes. Left lane for passing only. It is not others driver’s job to enforce the speed limit. Left lane for passing. Another law we could use… get to your cruising speed before you get to the highway. Too many people slowpoke down the on ramp at 40 mph, then hit the highway and decide to hit the gas, slowing down traffic, or forcing people in the right lane to move the left to avoid a collision. These people defeat the purpose of the on ramp.
    Yield and merge properly, left lane for passing, hang up cell phone. Lets pull out heads out of our collective butts, and then drive our cars.
    I wish it was like Germany, if you don’t want to go 90 mph, that’s what the county roads are for.

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