Jan 232005
Authors: Jill Krisl

As of Jan. 1, the Colorado State Patrol has been ticketing Colorado drivers who use the left lane of highways for anything but passing.

The "Keep Right Except to Pass Law" states that on any multi-lane highway where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour or greater, the left lane is for passing only. Exceptions to the law include rush hour or when traffic is too heavy for drivers to merge into the right lane, said trooper Eric Wynn of the Colorado State Patrol.

"If the volume is too much and you can't move over, you are not in violation," Wynn said.

Drivers who do violate the law will receive a $35 fine, with a $6.20 surcharge and a three-point deduction from their license, Wynn said.

The law went into effect in July 2004, but until recently troopers have only given written warnings to violators.

"Before, we were really just trying to educate people," Wynn said.

The state patrol presented the arguments and support for the law's passage to the state legislature, said Stacey Stegman, director of public information for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"We wanted those slowing down the flow of traffic in the left lane to move over," Wynn said. This applies to both commercial and personal vehicles.

Katie Breslyn, a sophomore psychology major, said the law is a great idea because people who drive too slow in the left lane can congest the flow of traffic.

"I have been in that situation and it is so frustrating," Breslyn said.

The question of whether a driver is in violation of the law often comes down to officer discretion, Wynn said. If drivers are actively passing several cars, but an officer feels that the driver could merge over and didn't, then a violation of the law has occurred.

Breslyn's concern was exactly how an officer would determine if a violation has occurred. It might be tough to distinguish if a driver were still passing slower traffic or should be moving over.

"I would definitely have to think about it more," Bresyln said, "and be more cautious of what I am doing."

In an effort to remind drivers of the new law, the CDOT has posted 42 new signs with "keep right except to pass" or "slower traffic keep right" messages and plans on adding another 40, Stegman said. Prior to the new law, CDOT had 180 signs posted with similar messages.

The signs are placed throughout Colorado, especially in areas the state patrol reported were the most problematic.

Wynn said the law comes down to practicing driver etiquette on the road.

"Be responsible and courteous drivers," Wynn said, "and adhere to the traffic laws."

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