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LEGAL MATTERS: What’s Legal: Rightie or Leftie?

By Kathleen G. Moriarty, Peters & Moriarty, Attorneys andCounselors of Law

Legal Matters is a regular column intended to address general legal concerns. Since every client walks in the door with a different set of circumstances, you should not rely on this column to provide specific legal advice. If you are in need of specific legal advice, please consult with an attorney; he or she will provide advice that is unique and tailored to your legal needs.

It’s a touchy subject, but most drivers understand the battle for the left lane. Last week, I received the following question from a reader: “Do I have to drive in the right lane, or is it just a courtesy to faster drivers?”

NY Vehicle and Traffic Law (s. 1120) requires drivers to drive in the right lane except when passing another vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian or obstruction, or when traveling on a roadway having more than two lanes. There are other, less common exceptions, as well.

It’s understandable to prefer the left lane as a driving lane. Some people just like the “open road” and don’t want any drivers in front of them; others feel more comfortable being able to see the left shoulder to gage where they are in the road. The bottom line, however, is that the left lane is for passing only. Once you’ve passed the slower vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, or obstruction, the law requires you to get back into the right lane.

This law does not justify following a slow left lane driver too closely, flashing your lights, or passing on the right. The slower driver may be elderly, ill or intoxicated. Thus, the safer alternative is to follow at a cautious distance and be patient. If you are concerned about the person driving too slow, please pull over and dial 911 to alert law enforcement.

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