Highway

Minnesota law enforcement say that a law authored by Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, designed to keep slower drivers from camping out in the right lane on highways, is doing its job. (Metro Creative Images)

Five months after the so-called “Slowpoke Law,” authored by state Sen. John Jasinski, went into effect, Minnesota law enforcement say the Faribault Republican’s bill has had a positive effect, helping to reduce the number of slow drivers hogging the left lane.

Under the law, approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of the Legislature, a person must move out of the leftmost lane to allow another vehicle to pass if a road has more than one lane going in the same direction.

The law doesn’t precisely define how slow is too slow for a driver occupying the left lane. Instead, it simply states that the law applies to those “proceeding at a speed that is sufficiently low as to create a traffic hazard.”

Officers can also make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, based on road conditions, weather and other circumstances. The law was designed to codify previous law, which barred drivers from restricting traffic.

Jasinski began championing the law when first elected to the Senate in 2017. He says he took a particular interest in the issue because so many of his constituents regularly travel up and down I-35.

“It seemed like a common sense bill,” he said. “I thought it was a really good idea for public safety.”

Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn says that he doesn’t believe that his department has handed out any citations for the law, but deputies have given out some warnings. Dunn said that he likes the law, although circumstances can still make it difficult to enforce.

Troy Christianson, a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol, said that drivers need to know that the change was intended to improve the law, not encourage speeding. In Minnesota, drivers are allowed to drive up to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit while passing.

Christanson said that when drivers hold up traffic in the left lane, it can lead to additional lane changes and road rage, substantially increasing the risk of a crash. He added that while the issue is less common in the winter, it’s still a major issue on Minnesota roads.

However, the Highway Patrol hasn’t placed nearly as much of an emphasis on the Slowpoke Law as it has on the hands-free law, which came into effect the same day. The patrol says it’s focused on educating drivers about the law but hasn’t held a special campaign to focus on citing violators.

The patrol is also placing more emphasis on speeders, as speeding continues to be one of the biggest safety issues for Minnesota drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that speeding is involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities.

Reach Reporter Andrew Deziel at 507-333-3129 or follow him on Twitter @FDNandrew. © Copyright APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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