Keep right except to pass

The Adirondack Northway (I-87) is four lanes, two in each direction, north of Lake George — but six lanes south of that village. As you drive where this highway is six lanes, do you drive in the center lane most of the time, unless you are passing another vehicle? If so, you are likely violating a vehicle and traffic law (VTL) that very few drivers obey. Section 1120(b) of VTL which deals with driving on the right side of a roadway and its exceptions, states, “Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding 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,” etc., “except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.”

The key wording with this law is “upon all roadways.” The wording and the intent of this law applies to all roadways, including interstate and limited access highways and even the four-lane section of Route 11 just east of Malone, where most of the westbound traffic approaching the village stays in the left lane, knowing that the left lane becomes the through lane at Raymond Street. This is permissible but only if a faster vehicle doesn’t approach from behind. If it does, you must pull over to the right lane to allow the faster vehicle to pass.

Supporting all of the above are two regulatory signs stating: SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT or KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS. Although neither of these signs exist on Route 11 east of Malone village, you most likely have seen them in other parts of the state.

Of interest, a bill recently filed in the Florida Senate seeks to penalize drivers who “continuously” travel in the left-hand lane without the intent to pass. If passed, the bill would take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. Many states have enacted similar “keep right” laws to keep traffic moving in the fast lane, but the fine print varies from state to state.

In the case of the proposed Florida bill, “A driver may not continuously operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, when preparing to exit the road, street, or highway, or when otherwise directed by an official traffic control device,” the bill states.

On multi-lane streets, roads, and highways, these “keep right except to pass” laws require that drivers drive in the right-hand lanes to prevent impeding the flow of traffic resulting in dangerous driving situations. It also reduces the need to change lanes frequently because of slower drivers clogging up the faster lanes.

If driving on limited access highways, be considerate, and keep right except to pass. Even on Route 11 in Malone where this road is four lanes, there is no need to ride the left lane, as traffic is never heavy enough to prevent you from moving over at the point where signage states RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT as you approach the fairgrounds, or if eastbound, the sign in the vicinity of the Market Barn showing the right lane turns right (onto county Route 24, the Brainairdsville Road.)


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