Along with watching out for people driving too fast on Georgia highways, officers can now ticket those driving too slow.
House Bill 459, commonly called the “slow poke” law, went into effect Tuesday. The new Georgia law requires drivers in the left lane of a divided highway or interstate to merge to the right — even if they’re driving the speed limit — when faster traffic approaches from behind.
“If you’re in the left-hand lane, you should be passing a vehicle,” said Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
The bill was authored by Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, a former state trooper and head of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The bill was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal after passing 42-5 in the Georgia Senate and 162-9 in the House of Representatives.
“I probably got more notoriety than for any other bill that was introduced,” Hitchens said during this year’s legislative session.
The law is intended to cut down on traffic congestion, tailgating and confrontations among drivers. Hitchens contends that people driving slowly in the left lane are “holding up traffic and causing people frustration and several incidents around the state that have resulted in reckless driving and occasional road rage.”
Drivers ticketed for breaking the “slow poke” law could face misdemeanor penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and a year in prison. However, Hitchens has stated he doesn’t anticipate the penalties to be that harsh, and the essence of the law is to promote safety.
Though some drivers might want to “prove a point” by intentionally decelerating in the left lane to try to slow down speeders, Ehsanipoor said doesn’t solve the issue.
“Some people would say, ‘That guy shouldn’t be speeding,’ but the appropriate way to address that is not to hold up traffic,” he said. “To purposely slow down someone in the left lane is also against the law.”
The law does include several provisions allowing drivers to remain in the left lane:
• When traffic conditions or congestion make it necessary to drive in the passing lane
• When inclement weather, obstructions or hazards make it necessary to drive in the passing lane
• When compliance with a Georgia law or with an official traffic-control device makes it necessary to drive in the passing lane
• When a vehicle must be driven in the passing lane to exit or turn left
• On toll highways, when necessary to pay a toll or use a pass
• To authorized emergency vehicles engaged in official duties, or
• To vehicles engaged in highway maintenance and construction operations.