Minnesota + Wisconsin Drivers Must Obey Left Lane Law, Regardless Of Speed Limit
With Labor Day weekend upon us, traffic on Minnesota and Wisconsin highways will be busier than normal. Of course, that is the case many times throughout the year for a variety of reasons.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation used Labor Day Weekend as the perfect opportunity to remind motorists of the Left Lane Law that exists in Wisconsin as well as many other states, including Minnesota.
The Wisconsin DOT message was a reminder stating: "Labor Day weekend is a great time to go camping, just not in the left lane. Please pay attention to this weekend's message board - drive on the right, pass on the left."
While that's a cute way to say it, there are motorists who may not know that it's the law and drivers should avoid staying in the left lane indefinitely, regardless of how fast they're traveling.
The "Left Lane Law" basically condones speeding. Take a look at Wisconsin’s Wis. Stat. § 346.05(3):
(3) Any vehicle proceeding upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn or U-turn at an intersection or a left turn into a private road or driveway, and except as provided in s. 346.072.
The key here is that the words "normal speed of traffic" are used and not something like "traveling under the posted speed limit." In other words, if you're on the highway and the overall speed of traffic is faster than the posted speed limit, you must be going at least that fast to utilize the left lane to pass slower traffic in the right lane.
I have witnessed this a lot while driving and I bet you have too. There are times when it seems the vast majority of vehicles are traveling significantly faster than the speed limit and I admit that when that happens, I increase my speed as well.
That means a vehicle in the left lane going slower than the speed of traffic becomes a hazard and could cause an accident. Based on the law, which also exists in Minnesota, that left lane driver is the problem, even if they're traveling at the posted speed limit. They should remain in the right lane until they approach someone going slow, at which time they can use the left lane to safely pass that slower vehicle.
According to the M.W.L Law Firm, studies have shown that 98% of drivers exceed the speed limit. Twenty-one percent of drivers think it’s perfectly safe to exceed the speed limit by 5 MPH. Forty-three percent saw no risk in going 10 MPH over, and 36% say there’s no harm driving 20 MPH over the speed limit.
Those statistics would lead one to believe that in more instances than not, we can expect traffic to be moving at speeds faster than the posted speed limit. That doesn't mean everyone needs to speed, but if everyone follows the law and utilizes the left lane only to pass slower traffic, the highways will be a safer place to be for everyone at all times of the year.
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