Left-lane campers cause frustration, congestion on NW roads – but it may be declining​

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The FINANCIAL — On the rare occasion when gridlock disperses on Northwest highways, drivers here are often vexed by another traffic-clogging culprit: the left-lane camper. But according to the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance, though a majority of Northwest drivers regularly witness the oblivious lane-hogging behavior, new data suggests it may be declining.

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, which surveys drivers in Washington and Oregon, 83 percent of them say they witness left-lane camping – obstructing the flow of traffic while driving in the left lane – at least often or sometimes.

But in Washington, where PEMCO has tracked drivers’ attitudes about the passing lane over time, the poll finds that fewer drivers say they witness left-lane camping today compared to 2011, which could suggest a decline in that behavior. About half of Washington drivers (49 percent) said they often witnessed left-lane camping in 2011, while just one out of three (35 percent) of those drivers say the same today.

“If those perceptions are true, the decrease could be thanks to state troopers conducting ’emphasis patrols,’ cracking down on drivers who impede traffic,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “It’s not just frustrating for other drivers trying to pass, it’s a safety issue for everyone sharing the road.”

While drivers may think they see the offense less often, the poll shows there’s room for more education. In Washington, half of drivers (53 percent) know that it’s against the law to camp in the left lane, but nearly the same amount (47 percent) aren’t aware that campers are breaking the law.

In Oregon, lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make left-lane camping illegal in that state, but the bill has yet to be approved. Surprisingly, 52 percent of Oregon drivers believe such a law already exists.

“The issue isn’t just left-lane campers driving below the speed limit. If they’re entrenched in the left lane and impeding traffic behind them, regardless of their speed, the law says they must move over: ‘Keep right except to pass,'” Osterberg said.

So who are the worst offenders? Just 12 percent of drivers admit to ever left-lane camping themselves. Of them, younger drivers are more likely to fess up to the offense. The poll reports that 20 percent of Northwest drivers under 35 say they often or sometimes camp in the left lane, while just 9 percent of older drivers say the same.

“Maybe left-lane camping is another one of those quirks shared by many Northwesterners,” Osterberg added. According to the poll, while one-third (35 percent) of drivers think there’s no difference in the rate of left-lane camping in the Northwest compared to other regions, at least twice as many think it happens more here than those who think it happens less in the Northwest (34 percent vs. 12 percent).


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