When people think of the most common—and dangerous—driving habits, speeding often comes to mind. Speeding is a factor in about one-third of fatal traffic accidents, but driving too slowly can cause problems as well. In fact, it can be just as dangerous as speeding. Traffic officials consider driving too slowly a traffic hazard that can frustrate and confuse other drivers. Slow drivers interrupt the flow of traffic. They are also often culprits of distracted driving, or they might be new and inexperienced. This can create problems for everyone on the road.
Traffic Tickets for Driving Too Slowly
Slow driving presents such a hazard that, in some states, a motorist moving well below the speed limit can be pulled over for a traffic violation. Officials note that, while it's uncommon, drivers can get a ticket if excessively slow driving blocks traffic or creates a road hazard.
While laws vary between states, many have statutes that prohibit driving too slowly. Though a law might not use the exact phrasing as “driving too slowly,” they typically describe this habit as failing to move with the flow of traffic. Usually, law enforcement will allow cars to drive slowly in the far-right lane and will only cite individuals driving too slow in the fast lane. However, if a car is driving so slowly that it causes all traffic to approach them at a dangerous rate, a person in the slow lane might be cited. In Texas, a driver can get a ticket for driving "so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." In Ohio, driving too slowly can result in fourth-degree misdemeanor charges and a fine of up to $150!
The most essential tool drivers have for preventing accidents on the road is common sense. Driving too quickly or too slowly is never a good idea and should be avoided whenever possible. Instead, they should drive according to road conditions and behavior of other drivers, as long as that behavior is legal and safe.
Types of Slow Drivers & Why They're Dangerous
People drive slowly for various reasons. Unfortunately, these reasons are usually additional factors that will increase the likelihood of an accident.
Distracted drivers account for about one-third of traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year. They are perhaps most known for colliding with other vehicles or striking pedestrians when they veer out of their lane, run a red light, or fail to stop in time. However, these drivers might also drive too slowly, placing others at risk as a result. A person who is eating, looking at their navigation system, or responding to a text might not notice how fast they're driving. They may gradually slow down, interrupting the flow of traffic and confusing other drivers. Faster drivers might not expect to encounter a distracted driver in the left lane. They may need to slam on their brakes, veer around the slower driver, or make other dangerous maneuvers that increase the chances of an accident. It all comes down to distracted drivers who do not pay attention to their speed and how it compares to other drivers, road conditions, and weather conditions.
Navigating traffic can intimidate new drivers. When a new driver first merges with traffic on a highway or freeway, they might drive slower than other cars, assuming that they are being safe by doing so. Unfortunately, they are only making matters worse. Driving too slowly while merging is particularly dangerous because other drivers must slow down as well, often quickly. This increases the chances of a rear-end accident. Being alert and patient is the best way to deal with new drivers who are driving too slowly.
Aging slows down drivers because of factors like poor vision, sore joints, and other physical limitations commonly experienced by senior citizens. Reaction time can also be affected by age. Some older drivers are more cautious, which is good in some circumstances but dangerous in others. An overly cautious driver may drive too far below the speed limit, particularly when making a turn or merging into traffic. This type of behavior increases the chances of a crash. Just as with new drivers, being proactive and patient around a slow senior driver will help prevent accidents.
Tourists and those who are interested in something happening on or near a road may slow down unexpectedly and without realizing it. Those who live in popular tourist destinations or near well-known landmarks should be ready to encounter slow drivers. Likewise, drivers near roadside distractions like accidents should be prepared to drive defensively until they pass it. Drivers who are new to an area, who slow down to look at an accident, or who are trying to spot landmarks all present serious dangers to themselves and everyone around them.
Slow Drivers & Traffic Accidents
A driver who insists on moving along well below the speed limit may incite other drivers to overtake them, particularly if the driver is at the head of traffic on a two-lane road. While only the passing motorist might be blamed if a collision results from this action, the slow motorist has certainly played a part in the accident.
All drivers should consider how their actions, including the speed at which they travel, will affect the safety of the people with whom they share the road. If you’re worried about being a slow driver, the best thing you can do is watch the cars around you. If it’s obvious that those near you wish to drive faster, there’s no shame in pulling over and allowing cars to pass you.
Slow drivers should keep to the right lane on a multi-lane road. On a two-lane road, they should pull over when safe to let faster vehicles pass. If they notice a faster driver attempting to overtake and pass them, they should move to the right and slow down further to make it easier for the other driver.
How to Deal with Slow Drivers Safely
If you find yourself near a slow driver, approach the situation with caution. If possible, pass on the left. If the slow driver is in the far-left lane, decrease your speed and keep your distance. When it's safe, pass on the right. In a perfect world, all slow drivers would merge to the right to let you by. However, this often doesn’t happen—especially when the slow driver is already ignoring the rules of the road! While passing on the right isn’t a great option, it might be your safest option.
Before overtaking a slow driver, do the following:
- Know your vehicle’s capabilities. If you can’t accelerate fast enough to safely merge with the traffic, maintain a safe distance from the slow vehicle until you can change lanes at the right time.
- Check if there might be a reason for the driver’s slow driving. Often, drivers can become frustrated with others on the road without realizing there’s a great reason for their behavior. If the driver in front of you is going slow, you should use the moment as a potential warning to look for dangers ahead.
- Check for other vehicles. Passing on the right is almost never advisable unless you believe you’re in danger because of the slow driver. Before merging to the right, look for other cars and smaller vehicles such as motorcycles. It’s easy to become frustrated and quickly change lanes—always take a moment to gather your emotions and look for others.
- Check yourself. If you need to pass a car on the right, ensure that you can do so legally and within the speed limit. Remember that slow drivers are often dangerous because of how others react to them!
When Should You Drive Slow?
While driving slowly is during regular traffic conditions is dangerous, there are times when conservative use of the accelerator is appropriate.
Moments when driving slowly are acceptable include:
- During bad weather
- When the flow of traffic slows
- Near railroad tracks
- Around school buses
- When animals are present near the road
- When there is an obstacle in the road ahead
Ultimately, it’s important to always factor in road conditions to determine if driving slowly is appropriate. If traffic around you is slowing down, it’s likely that doing the same is advisable. Being an alert and adaptive driver is the best way to protect yourself and others around you!
Injured Because of a Slow Driver? Our Car Accident Attorneys Can Help.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries during a motor vehicle accident caused by a slow or unsafe driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Our motor vehicle accident attorneys from Arnold & Itkin have successfully recovered billions of dollars in victories for clients. We know that car accidents change lives, and we fight to get clients the financial stability they deserve and need for recovery.