By Ben Felder
Motorists can no longer legally drive in the left lane of a multilane roadway, although the Oklahoma Highway Patrol admits the new law will be enforced with discretion -- especially along roadways with heavy congestion or where right lanes are in need of repair.
"We are not going to enforce this thing during rush hour in these congested areas or in these busy four-lane city roadways," said Trooper Dwight Durant, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.
But Durant said motorists should pay close attention to the new law along the turnpikes and other interstates and highways outside of metro areas.
He also said troopers would be mindful of state roads where the right lane might be in worse shape than the left, which often leads to motorists cruising down the left lane to avoid potholes.
"We travel these roadways ... we know why you are there," said Durant, referring to a right lane in disrepair. "Are you breaking the law? Yes, technically you are. But we have discretion just like we do in other laws."
Impeding the normal flow of traffic in the left lane had already been against the law. But beginning Wednesday, any motorist in the left lane who is not passing another vehicle, even without any other traffic in the area, is violating the law and could face a $235 fine.
Oklahoma's adoption of a law restricting left-lane driving comes as several other states have also worked to keep motorists to the right.
Nearly all states have laws that require motorists to move out of the left lane when another vehicle comes approaches from behind. But several states -- which now includes Oklahoma -- have banned left-lane driving completely.
That means left-lane driving is now illegal even if a motorist approaches from behind while exceeding the speed limit, Durant said.
"You are obligated to obey the state law," Durant said. "That is not your responsibility to worry about that other person."
Supporters of the ban say it improves safety by reducing the number of lane changes a faster driver might make in trying to pass a slower vehicle in the left lane.
"It does get a little frustrating when a slower car is in the left lane and you are going the speed limit," said Michael Blair, an Oklahoma City resident who said he was unaware of the new law.
"But I'm for it, especially if it cuts down on slower trucks driving in the left lane."
Moving into the left lane when passing an emergency or stranded vehicle parked on the right shoulder is still the correct response.
"But as soon as you can you have to get over in the right-hand lane," Durant said.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has already put up signs along the highway, and a spokesperson said the agency will remind motorists of the new law with messages on digital signs across the state starting Wednesday.
(c)2017 The Oklahoman