Stay within the lines of the left-lane law

By: Eric Czarnik, | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 14, 2017

METRO DETROIT — Living life in the fast lane on a Michigan highway can sometimes be against the rules of the road, though drivers often are unaware of the law’s specifics, according to Michigan State Police traffic safety experts.

Michigan State Police First Lt. Jim Flegel said the state’s rules on left-lane driving under Vehicle Code 257.634 say that a roadway having two or more lanes of travel in one direction generally requires the driver to drive in the farthest right lane of the road. However, passing, relevant roadwork and some other circumstances offer exceptions, he explained. 

Flegel said those exceptions include when “the lanes are occupied by vehicles moving in substantially continuous lanes of traffic” or if a vehicle is within “reasonable distance” of making a left turn.  Another exception involves wider freeways, he said.

“If you have a freeway having three or more lanes of travel in the same direction, then it does not prohibit a vehicle from traveling in any of the lanes on the freeway,” he said.

Flegel still recommended driving in the right lane when possible and letting faster vehicles pass, even when it’s lawful to be in any lane.

“The best circumstance and the safest circumstance for everyone is free-flowing traffic so there’s not stop and go,” he said. 

Violating the left-lane rules is a civil infraction, Flegel said.

According to Michigan State Police First Lt. Michael Shaw, the prohibition of remaining in the left lane most commonly applies when a freeway is only two lanes. In such cases, the leftmost lane is for passing only, though emergency vehicles can use the left lane to go wherever they want to go, he explained.

“If it’s three or more, there is not a requirement that the left lane is a passing lane,” Shaw said. “Naturally, we would like people to drive more often on the right.”

Within metro Detroit, most of the freeways and highways exceed two lanes, Shaw said. In any case, left-lane drivers must abide by the speed limit, and drivers are expected to be courteous to one another to avoid road rage incidents, he added.

“It’s a good reminder for people, if they’re not actually passing or anything like that, (that) it’s kind to get over to the right,” he said. “ Be courteous’ is probably the most important thing we tell everybody.”

Find out more about the Michigan State Police by visiting www.michigan.gov/msp.