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The “Passing Lane Law”

This article addresses Colorado’s new “Passing Lane Law,” which became effective on July 1, 2004. However, the Colorado State Patrol allowed a grace period of six months in which only warnings were issued to those who violated the new law.The objective of the state patrol, during this grace period, was to educate the driving public on this significant change on our state’s highways. Effective Jan. 1, 2005, troopers began writing penalty assessment citations as an enforcement of this violation.The new law is designed to prevent drivers from restricting the flow of traffic in the left passing lane and to hopefully reduce incidents of road rage. The law now places specific restrictions on when a person can drive in the left passing lane of a highway. Prior to the new law, drivers traveling in the passing lane at the posted speed limit were frequently tailgated, cut off, received obscene hand gestures and experienced flashing headlights from cars traveling behind them.The new law states a vehicle cannot be driven in the passing lane of any highway where the speed limit is 65 miles per hour or more, unless the vehicle is passing another vehicle(s) being driven in the non-passing or right lane. There are a few exceptions to the law. The left passing lane can be used to turn left from the highway, when allowed, or when the volume of traffic does not permit the vehicle to safely merge into the non-passing lane.Simply, the new law is intended to have drivers travel in the right lane or the non-passing lane whenever possible. The new law is intended to address two serious issues we have in Colorado: aggressive driving and emergency vehicle right of way. Prior to this law, often times a road rage incident was started in the passing lane. With the left lane regularly occupied, the aggressive driver would typically weave in and out of traffic and sometimes even pass on the right shoulder. The hazards these actions expose should be apparent to everyone.An additional outcome of this law is to allow emergency vehicle safe and timely access to emergencies. No law can force courteous driving on our state’s highways, but laws like this will hopefully help to reduce negative encounters between drivers and make our highways a safer place.

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