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'Slowpoke' laws target left-lane plodders

States throughout the country are cracking down on drivers who poke along in the left-hand lane. They're imposing new laws, strengthening existing laws, or stepping up enforcement of laws that penalize those who drive too slowly in the left lane, or who tool along in the left lane, rather than using it as a passing lane.

So while speeding could earn you a traffic ticket, along with points on your driver's license, fines and higher car insurance rates, going too slow in the fast lane often can bring the same penalties.

In some states the law targets those who go below the speed limit in the left lane; in others it's aimed at those who block traffic in the left lane, regardless of how fast they're going.

In some states the law applies only to those traveling on the interstates; in other states it applies to anyone driving on a divided highway.

A slower driver in the left lane can prompt other motorists to weave in and out of traffic, trying to pass them. "With each lane change, there are more opportunities for a crash," says Capt. Stephen Jones, spokesperson for the New Jersey State Police. New Jersey increased its penalties for slow drivers in the left lane last year.

"I have seen cases where someone is trying to zip in between the guys on the right when the one in front is going slow, and those are dangerous maneuvers," Northeast Florida Safety Council director Jerry Webster told the Florida Times-Union when his state's law went into effect. "And when people get frustrated, they will forget to use turn signals, and you don't know what they are going to do. They will be tailgating and there are rear-end collisions when the person going slow on the left slows down even more."

Slower traffic keep right

The latest state to climb on the bandwagon is Georgia. This year both the state House and the state Senate have approved a new law that allows officers to ticket slower drivers in the left lane. It now awaits signature from Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

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