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New signs remind slow drivers to keep right — it's the law

Published: Friday, Feb. 1 2013 4:35 p.m. MST

Signs reminding slow drivers to keep right are going up along the Wasatch Front. The Utah Highway Patrol says drivers who impede traffic can force other drivers to pass on the right, which can be dangerous. It can also lead to tailgating and accidents.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Slow drivers in the fast lane frustrate most travelers and can even be hazardous. Now signs are going up to remind drivers that slower traffic must move to the right.

It's the law.

Utah Highway Patrol troopers are keeping an eye out for slowpokes in the fast lane.

"It does get kind of frustrating when you're trying to do the speed limit and somebody is in the left-hand lane going significantly slower," UHP Sgt. Jeff Nigbur said.

The Utah Department of Transportation has received a number of complaints about drivers impeding traffic, and it sees the problem as a growing trend. So new signs that read, "It's the Law: Slow Traffic Keep Right" are going up on the interstates along the Wasatch Front. Troopers will pull over drivers who are in the fast lane impeding traffic to let them know why that’s dangerous.

“It impedes the normal flow of traffic and forces other drivers to pass on the right and make other unsafe lane changes that catch other drivers by surprise,” UDOT spokesman John Gleason said.  

Impeding traffic can also lead to tailgating. "You'll get eight, nine, 10 cars that are backed up in the fast lane. That begins to promote following too close," Nigbur said, which is one of the top causes of crashes.

"(When there is an accident) then that backs up the freeway, it causes secondary crashes, and that's what we see every day in rush hour: the freeway is backed up for 2 miles, and it takes you an hour and a half to get home," Nigbur said.

Impeding traffic can sometimes cause road rage scenarios as well, he said.

Impeding traffic was already a violation when, in 2007, the Utah Legislature added this to the law: "An operator of a vehicle traveling the left general purpose lane shall, upon being overtaken by another vehicle in the same lane, yield to the overtaking vehicle by moving safely to the right."

Drivers should check their rearview mirror from time to time to see if a vehicle is coming up on them quickly, or if one is riding their tail, troopers say. If that’s the case, the driver needs to move over to the right and let that vehicle pass — even if they are going the speed limit.

UHP officials say it’s not the driver’s job to slow that motorist down, even if they might be speeding.

"It just comes down to being courteous to the drivers around you," Nigbur said.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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