Oklahoma drivers should be aware that House Bill 2312 will go into effect on Nov. 1, adding restrictions for driving in the left-hand lane on divided highways of four lanes or more.
The new restrictions state that a vehicle may not be driven in the left lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, other than in situations where traffic conditions or road configurations require the use of the left-hand lane in order to maintain safe traffic conditions. Drivers may be ticketed for violating the statute.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael C. Thompson said the new wording is an important measure to improve public safety on Oklahoma highways.
“Any step we can take to improve safety on our roadways is worth our collective efforts,” Thompson said. “As we are all well aware from recent events in the news, our roadways are increasingly volatile. It doesn’t take much for a minor traffic disagreement to escalate into a deadly road rage incident with tragic results. I am hopeful this legislation will reduce tension and also result in better access for public safety and first responder officials driving to emergency situations.”
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has installed “slower traffic keep right” and “do not impede left lane” signs in 234 locations along I-35 and I-40 from state line to state line, except in the metro area.
“Safety is always a top priority for ODOT, so we are pleased that this law moves to increase driver safety by improving traffic flow,” said ODOT Director Mike Patterson. “We are glad that we can support OHP in their effort to enforce this law and improve highway safety through new signage clarifying driver expectations.”
OHP officials recognize that high-volume traffic in metropolitan areas such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa may require all lanes to be occupied at times.
OHP Chief Ricky Adams said, “This is not a reason to hang out in the left lane. If you are driving in the left lane and a vehicle is behind you, you need to move to the right as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so. And although the left lane may be used to overtake slower-moving vehicles, that is not an excuse to exceed the speed limit when passing.”
Officials add that drivers should not attempt to drive slowly in the left lane to prevent others from speeding. Drivers are still expected to obey speed limits and all other traffic laws as always. Surrounding states have similar laws restricting travel in the left lanes.
“The safety of our citizens is always a priority in the House of Representatives, and many states across the country are implementing laws that prohibit driving in the left lane unless passing as a way to lower accidents and fatalities,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, author of the law. “I live next to State Highway 69/75 in Atoka, and I see firsthand the dangers of slow traffic in the left lane. We worked diligently with both the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation this session to get this law passed. Now, we need to quickly ensure that the public is aware of the change so they can adjust their driving behaviors.”