Left Lane Reserved For Passing?

The left lane is fast, but is it legal to use? We're breaking down the laws behind left-lane travel, helping you become a little safer on your daily commute.
Left Lane

Life in the “fast lane” is supported by law. On the highway, the far left lane should be used exclusively for passing. If the highway has high traffic volumes, however, the left lane is often used liberally.

Can Drivers Use the Left Lane?

Sometimes, it’s good to use the left lane. Even if you’re not passing, the left lane can be used for turns—or even for short cruising distances. This said, drivers are still required to use the right lanes unless they’re passing, primarily. Exceptions to the rule exist, but they’re just that: exceptions.

The Motor Vehicles Act states that a vehicle shall normally be driven in whichever lane is closest to the right-hand edge, or curb, of a highway whenever possible. Not doing so can result in a hefty fine: In some areas, costs can be a couple hundred dollars. If you’ve ignored a right-pass-only sign, expect to pay a couple hundred more.

State-By-State Passing Laws

This isn’t to say left-lane-passing laws don’t have a little flex to them. Highway passing laws change based on the state. In some states, going left simply requires the driver to drive faster. In other states, using the fast lane manifests as right lanes needing to yield to left lanes.

You can see a comprehensive state passing lane law list here. In most states, however, left lanes are only used for passing on interstate highways. Left-lane laws seem to follow trends in America’s Southern states, too, with Georgia and Indiana even having their own “slow poke” laws which were instated in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Different Passing Law Versions

While every state has some sort of lane passing restriction in place, the restrictions vary between them. In eight states, it’s completely illegal to use the left lane unless you’re passing or turning. These states are:

  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • West Virginia

At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to know your state’s driving areas. Whether you’re commuting to work or are simply passing through the area, knowing these restrictions could save your time, money and even safety.

Take a closer look at the state-by-state lane passing law page. Then, double-check your driving habits for any law-breaking behaviors. Sometimes, using the left lane might seem convenient. If you do it too much, though, you might be flirting with a ticket.