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Putt-putting on freeway can mean a fine

Please help! Today I saw it again — six vehicles stacked up bumper to bumper going 55 mph in the left lane. The lead vehicle had a young lady in it with a child and she was on the phone. I suspected the other vehicles wanted to pass but she was staying in her lane. Why aren't the police out stopping people who ride the left lane instead of moving over to the right? I thought there was a law that required you to stay in the right lane and use the left for passing only?

— a reader

Despite the disagreement of one reader of this column, there are laws about driving in the left lane or impeding traffic, although in truth some of that disagreement was based upon if the vehicle was doing the speed limit or less than the speed limit. In your case, there are three that may apply, the last being the one we're using most often now because it's easier to make the case in trial. And we do enforce this law!

The first is ORS 811.130, impeding traffic. It says a person impedes traffic if the person drives in a manner that impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Of course then you need to determine what is "normal and reasonable" under varying circumstances. You are not in violation if you are turning or exiting the road. Violation under this statute would be a Class D traffic violation, with bail of $97.

The second is 811.315, failure of a slow driver to drive on the right. It states a driver violates the statute if they are operating a vehicle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing and the person fails to drive in the right-hand lane available for traffic. Exceptions being when overtaking and passing another vehicle or when preparing to turn left at an intersection, alley, private road or driveway. The offense described is a Class B traffic violation, with bail of $242. Of course in this one the determining point may come down to what is "less that the normal speed of traffic?"

So for ease of citing, we have been writing under 811.265, failing to obey a traffic-control device. This law states that a driver is in violation if the driver drives a vehicle and fails to obey the directions of any traffic-control device. The traffic-control device in this case is the white sign with black lettering (meaning it's an enforceable sign) that says "Slower Traffic Keep Right." This simply means if you're slower than other traffic, then you are required to move into the right lane or you're in violation. The offense of failing to obey a traffic-control device, is a Class B traffic violation, also a $242 bail.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.