Sign up for The Wire Newsletter!

Looking Both Ways

Lane Restrictions and Changing Lanes

By John Mueller
Posted Jun 25th 2013 10:05AM

blog_logo_1.jpgThis post of Look Both Ways should help you comply with state lane restriction laws and some useful tips for safe lane changes.  


Lane restriction violations adversely affect both Carrier CSA scores and driver PSP reports.   Law enforcement officials appear to be “awarding” citations to commercial drivers for these violations on a more frequent basis. Many times drivers are not aware that they are violating any law until receipt of the violation.   Keeping trucks out of the left lane reduces accidents or incidents potentially caused by the truck’s blind spots (which happen to be the greatest on the right side), and also promotes safe traffic flow.   Some folks are aware of the old driver courtesy known as “keep right, pass left”.   Surely one of the most important rules I learned in Drivers Education Class in 1975.   This courtesy is one of the reasons that the Autobahn is successful in Europe.   A comparison of rules of the autobahn to America’s roadways.


The German autobahn network is patrolled by unmarked police cars and motorcycles equipped with video cameras; this allows the enforcement of laws (such as tailgating). Notable laws of the autobahn include the following:


        The right lane should be used when it is free (German translation: Rechtsfahrgebot) and the left lane is generally intended only for overtaking, unless traffic is too dense to justify driving only on the right lane; drivers using the far left lane for prolonged periods of time when all other lanes are free could be fined.

           Forcing slow drivers on the left-hand lane to change lane (even if they are occupying it illegally), for example by flashing lights or tailgating, could be considered coercion and is best avoided.

      Overtaking on the right (undertaking) is strictly forbidden, except when stuck in traffic jams. Up to a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) it is permitted to pass cars on the right side if the speed difference is not greater than 20 km/h (12 mph) or the vehicle on the left lane is stationary. This is not referred to as overtaking, but driving past. Even if the car overtaken is illegally occupying the left-hand lane, it is not an acceptable excuse; in such cases the police will routinely stop and fine both drivers.


In America states legislate their own lane restriction laws.   Every state’s road network is patrolled by marked and unmarked police cars, State Highway Patrol cars and Department of Transportation officials.


·          In America it has become common practice that automobile operators are “entitled” to drive in whatever lane they choose, even while texting or talking on the phone, applying their facial make-up and also eating their meals.   Not so for the operator of a Commercial Motor Vehicle in America – they are held to a different standard.   Only operators of CMV’s seem to be fined for lane violation restrictions while car drivers are not.

·          Forcing slow drivers in the left-hand lane to change to the right lane is illegal in America as in Europe and could be considered coercion.   It is best avoided.   The “entitled” person in the left lane also has the right to issue a single finger salute.   Don’t dare respond with the same single finger salute in retaliation because you could offend them which could be considered harassment.

·          In the American society today, overtaking on the right (undertaking) is now common practice and many times the only option for passing a slow moving vehicle.   Be careful as the “entitled” person occupying the left (passing) lane may notice that you are attempting to pass which will cause them to accelerate.

Ever feel like you are being held “hostage” while driving on the roads in America?



revO evoM

New Windshield Sticker for American Cars and Trucks

States making their lane restriction information available on the information highway for Commercial Motor Vehicles are listed below.   Definitions of Commercial Motor Vehicles may vary by jurisdiction.


AZ – Drive on right side of roadway except when passing.

CA – Right lane.   If four (4) or more lanes then two (2) most right lanes.

CT – Pass left, keep right.

CO – Drive on right side.

FL – Drive on right side except for passing.

IN - Except when passing a slower vehicle, entering or leaving a highway, or where a special hazard exists that requires, for safety reasons, the use of an alternate lane, a person may not operate a truck, truck tractor, road tractor, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer on an interstate highway in any lane except the far right lane.

KY – Drive on right side except for passing.

MI – If the road has two or more lanes in one direction, vehicles shall be driven in the extreme right-hand lane. If all lanes are occupied by vehicles moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic then a driver can use any lane available. A driver may also use the left lane for a reasonable distance when preparing for a left turn. On a freeway having three or more lanes, a driver may use any lane lawfully available. A commercial motor vehicle is prohibited from using the third lane on a freeway.

MO – Drive on right.

NC – Keep right.

NY City – Keep right.

PA - Drive on right side of roadway except when passing.

SC – Keep right, yet will not issue “points” for citations – just collect money!

TX – Drive on right side of roadway except when passing.

UT – Vehicles with GVW greater than 12,000 lbs. may not be operated in left lane of freeway where posted.   This applies to all vehicles commercial or non-commercial.

VA – Keep right.   Driving Commercial Motor Vehicle in left lane of interstate is 3 points.

WA - Left-Lane Restrictions Any vehicle towing a trailer, or other vehicle or combination over 10,000 pounds, may not be driven in the left-hand lane of limited-access roadways that have three or more lanes in one direction, excluding HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. This includes commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, vehicles towing boats, and any car or truck towing a trailer. Commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVW are prohibited from HOV lanes, even with the minimum number of occupants specified on signs. This law affects any limited-access roadway that has three or more general purpose lanes in one direction. The law primarily affects I-5, portions of I-90 and I-405 in King and Snohomish Counties, and portions of I-90 in Spokane. It does not apply to HOV lanes, or to drivers of affected vehicles who are preparing to turn left at an intersection, or exit onto a private road or driveway. WSDOT will have signs posted in those areas where the law is in effect. Failure to obey the law in areas where signs are posted will result in a citation by the Washington State Patrol (WSP).


As a Motor Carrier our company has seen lane restriction violations given to our drivers on a more frequent basis from the states of IN, MI and NC.    


Move Over Laws require drivers approaching a scene where emergency responders are present to either change lanes when possible and/or reduce speed.



Changing lanes properly can greatly reduce your risk of being involved in a crash. Some safety tips when changing lanes:


·          Change lanes only when necessary.    Every lane change exposes accident risk.

·          Prevent accidents by giving "right-of-way" until it is apparent that right-of-way is being given by the other driver.   Generally the driver who arrives last gives right-of-way to those who were already there.  You give right-of-way when changing lanes. You move into your intended path or direction only after you are assured you will not conflict with other traffic.   Others should never need to brake or speed up to avoid you.



Tips when changing lanes in traffic moving in the same direction as your vehicle


Before changing lanes, check your mirrors.   Double check the mirror on the side to the lane to will be moving into. After making sure that no other objects obstruct your path and there are no rapidly approaching vehicles from the rear in the lane you intend to move into, use your vehicle's turn signal to indicate your intention to change lanes. The presence of a solid white line lane divider indicates that lane changes are prohibited.


Tips Changing lanes in opposing traffic in order to pass a vehicle


Before changing lanes into approaching traffic you should be certain that you have ample visibility, time, and clearance to pass the vehicle in front of you. You should also verify that you have unobstructed travel into the opposing lane from vehicles attempting to pass your vehicle from the rear. You should be cautious of vehicles you are attempting to pass that may be slowing to make a left hand turn (without using turn indicators) which may turn into your path. Exercise caution when passing a vehicle slowing to make a right hand turn as cross traffic may attempt to enter the intersection and into your path; especially in situations when your vehicle may be blocked from view by the turning vehicle you are attempting to pass. Solid yellow lines dividing lanes indicate no passing zones.





Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.

 Click here to read more of my blogs!


Till the next blog,  Thank you drivers for all you do!. Please be safe!


John Mueller, CDS, COSS


Please sign in or sign up to post a comment.  Or sign in with Facebook.