by Timothy Adams, Stevensville
For the sake of harmony on Ravalli County roads, I’d like to gently remind Montanans and our visitors of some of our traffic laws. Considering that I see so many people riding the left lane all the way to Missoula, including some of the Highway Patrol charged with enforcing this law, perhaps it’s a good time to be reminded of what the law says.
In 2017, at the request of a Hamilton resident who commuted to Missoula each day, the Legislature passed a bill requiring drivers to keep to the right lane on Montana highways where more than one lane exists. This means the left lane is ONLY to be used for passing vehicles, moving over for stopped and emergency vehicles and to prepare for a turn. In my experience, it appears older drivers who were perhaps unaware of the law change, as well as new residents who perhaps came from an area with more traffic and the left lanes were carpool or considered “safer” to be out of people’s way seem to be the worst offenders of refusing to yield the left lane.
When people ride the left lane they put other drivers in danger. From the state driving manual, “If you pass on the right, the other driver may have difficulty seeing you and might suddenly change lanes in front of you.” Please realize that when you ride the left lane unnecessarily, you force all other drivers into a more dangerous situation since all cars have blind spots.
There is also a provision asking slow moving drivers on two lane roads to pull over. From the manual, “When four or more vehicles are slowed up, slow-moving vehicles must turn off the roadway whenever there is sufficient room for a safe turnout.”
I’m also becoming very concerned about the numbers of people who seem to not be paying attention. I can’t count the number of times I look at another driver whose eyes are looking at their phone, not paying attention the road. We are all driving around an actual ton of metal at high speeds, so why would you risk killing yourself or others by distraction? Please utilize hands-free or pull over.
I’ve also wondered why people feel so comfortable pulling out and cutting off people on the highway. When someone is traveling at 70 mph or quicker, do you really think they have the room to stop when someone pulls out in front of them?
I wish the DOT would do more to educate people on the driving laws here, but until then I would appreciate if people just updated their driving knowledge and follow the law by getting out of the left lane except when absolutely necessary, stop giving their attention to their phones, and showing more courtesy by obeying traffic laws. And perhaps the Highway Patrol I see riding the left lanes could give out tickets instead of reinforcing the illegal behavior by doing it themselves.