Move over: Washington law says stay right

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 5:22 PM

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Along the roads that crisscross Vancouver, J.A. Tosti and his red pickup truck have become highway housekeepers.

“Literally, I feel like I’ve got a broom and I’m sweeping the left lane,” he said. 

With little hesitation, the cars he approaches from behind ease to the right, as if they can read his mind. What they are actually reading is the top of his windshield. 

If drivers look at his truck from the front, the decal on his windshield appears to say “Revo Evom.”

But if they’re looking at it through their rearview mirror, it says “Move Over,” with an arrow pointing toward the right lanes.

“We might as well have some fun when you’re trying to get people to move over,” Tosti said.

He began selling the decals two years ago through his website, leftlanedrivers.org, which is dedicated to drivers who are frustrated by left-lane slowpokes. Another decal reads “Slower Traffic,” with an arrow pointing toward the right lanes. 

Tosti calls the decals polite -- yet firm -- reminders of the need for slower traffic to keep right, which is the law in Washington.

“The guys we really want to get the message to are the ones that tend to park in the left lane,” he said. 

Tosti admits to driving a little above the speed limit, but does not condone tailgating.

While the left lane is not meant for speeding, the Washington State Patrol said drivers traveling at the speed limit should still stay to the right when possible, unless they are passing a slower car.

“If people are in the habit of staying in those right lanes and only using left lanes when they need to, everything flows a lot better,” said Trooper Julie Judson.

To prove it, KING 5 News tried driving at or near the speed limit in the left lane on a short stretch of Interstate 5 in Seattle. In just two minutes, left-lane traffic ballooned with 11 cars stacking up directly behind the KING 5 vehicle. 

In these situations, WSP said it is concerned bad choices will follow.

“[Drivers] start making sometimes very high-speed lane changes,” Judson said.  “Am I going to do it faster than I normally would because I really want to get around those cars? Those are the kind of things that just end up in crashes.”

Perhaps the biggest fear is road rage. During the KING 5 test, one frustrated driver started tailgating the KING 5 vehicle for over a minute, flashing his lights before finally passing on the right and signaling his disapproval by displaying his middle finger.

“Unfortunately, there are some drivers out there who are just very angry and they want an outlet,” Judson said. “I don’t want to be a part of that outlet.”

WSP said it also wants to keep the left lane clear for emergency vehicles responding to calls. 

In 2011, state troopers pulled over nearly 13,000 drivers for violating the keep-right law.  Most got warnings, but more than 1,100 got tickets, including Darla Stiner.

“I think I said to [the trooper], ‘Are you really giving me a ticket for this?’” Stiner said.  “I had people actually argue with me that I got a ticket, saying ‘No, it’s not a rule.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah it is, I got the ticket.’”

The fine for violating the law is $124.

Stiner, who was driving the speed limit on State Route 167 when she got the ticket, went to court and ended up paying $150 to keep it off her record. 

On smaller highways, Stiner does not think the law is necessary, calling it “silly.”

But J.A. Tosti disagrees, supporting any efforts that get drivers to “revo evom.”

WSP notes that drivers should be cautious about posting decals or bumper stickers on their vehicles that could create heated situations with other drivers on the road.

Tosti said he has not had any negative experiences with his decals.

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