Why Slower Drivers Shouldn’t Hang Out In The Right Lane

The right lane is for passing and slower traffic should keep left. It’s one of the first things you learn when you get your driver’s licence, yet so many drivers forget it or don’t understand it. Here’s a detailed explanation for why this simple rule is so important.

This video, from the Vox YouTube channel, explains why driving in the right lane is not only more dangerous for you, but more dangerous for others around you in addition to making traffic much worse. [Note: The video was made in the US, so the lanes are in reverse. Nevertheless, the principle remains the same everywhere.]

When slow drivers are in both the right and left lanes of a highway, faster drivers have to weave back and forth to maintain their speed. And as it turns out, the biggest predictor of an accident is actually a driver’s variance from the average speed of traffic around it, not speeding. That means all that slowing down, weaving between lanes, and speeding up by fast drivers to get around slow drivers is what causes the most car accidents.

In fact, a car in the right lane going 8km/h slower than the flow of traffic is far more likely to cause an accident than a car going 8km/h faster — even if the slower car is already going the speed limit. That’s why we have a law delegating right lanes to passing only. So if you get a ticket for hogging the right lane, now you know why.

Why you shouldn’t drive slowly in the left lane [YouTube]


  • Perhaps the states should change the law from ‘you must not stay in the right on a road more than 80kph unless overtaking’ to ‘you must not stay in the right on a road more than 60kph unless overtaking’.

    It would be interesting to hear how many people have actually been fined anyways.

  • There already seems to be quite a few signs stating “KEEP LEFT UNLESS OVERTAKING” that no one takes much notice of.

    I don’t think we need yet more rules. Enforcement of existing rules might be a good way to start.

    • honestly I’d say the biggest problem is that those signs are only in English with no graphic (not that I’d know what to use as a graphic).

      Of course the solution to this problem in Europe is that drivers will just come up behind you in no time and sit 10cm from your bumper until you get out the way.

  • “That means all that slowing down, weaving between lanes, and speeding up by fast drivers to get around slow drivers is what causes the most car accidents.”
    So, it’s not the slower drivers causing the accidents. It’s the inappropriate actions of impatient, low-skill drivers that cause the accidents.
    People driving slow in the passing lane is an annoyance, but if that annoyance makes you drive dangerously, then perhaps you need to examine your suitability to be a driver.

    • and some of us have places to be and dont want to get stuck behind the idiot in the overtaking lane doing 10km/h under the limit.

      if you cant travel at the speed limit then hand in your drivers license for a myki

      • When I first got my motorcycle I thought suddenly everyone was speeding whilst I was plodding along at 60 and travelling ath esame speed as many other motiorists.
        It wasn’t until I connected a GPS that I found out 60 on my speedo was moe like 50.
        The ADR has some tollerances, which my bike is no doubt outside of.

      • Because your convenience should take priority over other peoples safety. You, sir, are a prime example of someone who should not be allowed to drive.

        • Idiots traveling slower than the surrounding traffic cause traffic jams, they are also a danger to other drivers as they require them to continuously overtake them to stay with the flow of traffic.

          • I’d stop posting now, if I were you. Every time you comment it shows how bad a driver you are.

          • No, he is correct. Just because more accidents happen when faster drivers are weaving in and out of slow people in the the right hand lane, doesn’t mean they are bad drivers, it just means they are undertaking a statistically more risky maneuver (as opposed to just driving in a straight line), one that wouldn’t be necessary if the slow person wasn’t sitting in the overtaking lane (which incidentally, has involved more risk on their part, as opposed to them just staying in the left lane they entered on to). And if you just say “well just put up with it”, then he is also correct that traffic is then being slowed down and blocked up only because some ignorant, lazy or selfish person doesn’t want to get out of the way.

            The outside lane is an overtaking lane, for faster traffic, the inside lane for slower, it is an ordered, rational rule. It is the people not following it who are the problem.

            In Europe they are far more strict about this rule, and they have far fewer accidents than in Aus, even on their unrestricted highways, case in point: people disobeying this rule leads to more accidents. Its also clear that it is in fact them who are the bad drivers, because they either don’t know this basic rule, are too scared to change lane (not a sign of a good driver), are oblivious, and/or selfish.

    • So fast drivers are low-skilled? People driving slow in the passing lane, failing to recognize that there is a car behind them looking to pass and not moving aside, that tells me that the driver lacks awareness of their surroundings or not “skilled” enough to move aside.

      I have seen drivers who stay in the overtaking lane while there are cars banked up behind them and they refuse to move aside to an empty left lane. Then all of these angry drivers undertake them and then they whip out the high beam like they did nothing wrong. Road awareness is more important than who is going at what speed. If that driver is in a hurry and is speeding, its none of my business i’m moving aside. Keep left unless overtaking.

  • What is equally dangerous is drivers going faster than 100 in the right lane.
    Yes, the right lane is for overtaking, but it’s not for speeding. I’ve been driving in the right lane on the freeway for overtaking or if it is congested (which is perfectly legal), but many drivers drive over 100 and get dangerously close behind me. I’m not speeding up just because I’m in the right lane. 100 is 100, regardless of which lane you’re in.

  • It’s one of the first things you learn when you get your driver’s licence

    I notice an infuriatingly high number of driving instructors having their students plod along in the right hand lane. The problem is that this has become a culturally ingrained behaviour, and one that needs to be resolved by (as @magani suggests) enforcement of existing rules.

  • I have to say that I rarely see vehicles travelling below the speed limit in the right hand lane. Before everyone starts thinking ‘That’s because the idiot hogging the right hand lane is you!’, I’d suggest that those who do routinely observe such behaviour are actually experiencing cognitive bias. In my experience, a vast majority of drivers either travel at, or exceed the speed limit. As @complete_it_pro and @seekerofknowledge have hinted, its likely speeding drivers that ‘notice’ this phenomenon because they tend to be impatient with anyone preventing them travelling any speed they see fit. Excessive speed is a factor in FAR more crashes than is hogging of the right hand lane. Anyone travelling the speed limit cannot be legally overtaken (with the exception of emergency vehicles) as doing so would require exceeding the speed limit.

    • Except for that part in the very article above that says travelling in the right hand lane 8kph slower than everyone around you causes more accidents than travelling 8kph faster..

      My simple checklist would be:
      Are you overtaking? No.
      Is there a car in front of you? No.
      Is there a car behind you? Yes.

      If those are your three answers, get out of the right hand lane (though for the strict rule, only the first two questions apply).

      Notice that ‘are you doing the speed limit’ is not one of the questions. It is irreverent (to this debate, obviously doing a sensible speed is of paramount importance.)

  • this is the thing that grinds my gears the most. two people sitting side by side in a 60 zone. FAAAAAARRRRRKKKK! the amount of times ive dreamed i had the cheat code horn from need for speed 2, to make my commute more pleasurable.
    i really wish they would make keep left unless overtaking 50kph and up.

  • When i was on my P plates a something like 14 years ago, i was driving down to Wilsons prom, got abused because “right lane is for overtaking only”, i was doing 100 (maybe 105 to be truthful) on an otherwise empty road, the only reason to overtake me was to break the speed limit even more than i was, the jackass (who was towing a caravan) then proceeded to speed off at 140.

    Perhaps i was in the wrong being in that lane, but the issue with a lot of the rules are they don’t explain why, so people question them. If the road is virtually empty, i’m doing the speed limit (or more), no one can legally be overtaking me (except perhaps a cop/emergency vehicle). I think that is more of a reason to keep the right lane clear, for emergency vehicles to pass.

      • ill have to just assume by lower lane you mean in the left lane, i already said as much.

        Still jackasses think that they can use that lane to do whatever speed they want.

    • So you’re allowed to define what ‘acceptable’ speeding is?

      Undertaking is a major cause of accidents (that is what this article is talking about).
      People when merging further out should expect and check for cars coming up quickly behind them in the lane they are merging into, they don’t expect cars to be travelling faster than them when they merge into an inside lane.

      It is illegal to undertake, so you can’t just sit in the outside lane on an empty road an expect people to go around you. This is why it is also illegal to sit in the outside lane…

      Put a bunch of Australians on any European road and they would quickly learn these rules..

      • Thats exactly what I was going to point out. I drive in Europe quite regularly and it is so frustrating returning to Australia (in a driving context). I kind of wish every Australian driver was mandated to do 2 weeks of driving in Europe to learn how to share the road with other motorists (including motorbikes, scooters and bicycles).
        I do note that the police dont seem to enforce the “keep left unless overtaking” rule in Australia. If they did, I think they could ditch all the revenue raising cameras, they’d make a mint purely off people who ignore this one road rule.

  • I use to try to keep left (often do) but everyone not in the upper lane is traveling slower than the 100km/h posted limit whats the point?

    Oh the idiot tail gating is not going to make me go faster or move over…. if anything it will make me stay in the upper lane longer just because your being a jerk

    • “Oh the idiot tail gating is not going to make me go faster or move over…. if anything it will make me stay in the upper lane longer just because your being a jerk”

      This article was tailor-made just for you.

  • That sentance is simply presenting a statistical relationship. Whilst ‘correlation is not causation’, it is still reasonable that a slow right lane driver should think about the fact that their action is correlated to a very undesirable outcome.

  • In South Australia, the law is – if the roadway has a speed limit of 90kph or above, you must stay in the left lane UNLESS YOU ARE OVERTAKING ANOTHER VEHICLE. FULL STOP. NO EXCEPTIONS.END OF STORY. Some roadways with lower speed limits have signs about keeping left. These are not advisory signs – they are mandatory instructions.

    Watching large trucks weaving in and out of the rolling roadblocks caused by slower vehicles in the RH lane is terrifying, not to say dangerous.

    When I learned to drive – a long, long time ago – the rule of “Keep Left” was pounded into my head. And it is surprisingly easy to do!!

  • The one thing no one has mentioned is what about emergency vehicles? Just because you are traveling at the correct speed limit in the right hand land, more than likely you will not see an emergency vehicle until it is on top of you. It then becomes dangerous for it to be weaving in and out. And if the emergency vehicle is several cars behind you, you will never see it.
    Next time you need an emergency vehicle think about what could be holding it up!

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