Left Lane Bandits

This week St. John Alexander at CTV News produced an excellent two part feature entitled “Left Lane Bandits” describing one of the most annoying and dangerous creatures on BC highways. The news piece caused quite a buzz on various social media sites. Drivers who camp out in passing lanes on multi-lane highways are not only breaking the law and infuriating drivers who they prevent from passing, but they are also dangerous.

While the role of speed as a cause of crashes is frequently up for debate, there is less question that speed variance (between vehicles) can raise crash probability. There is a bell curve of speed normalcy on all unobstructed roads and when just one driver becomes the outlier, there is not only an increase in speed variance but that driver can cause a series of reactions affecting many other drivers, as well as potentially their passengers. Every time a driver must change lanes to get around a vehicle, there are a minimum of two potential interactions increasing the probability of a crash. One inconsiderate driver could literally cause hundreds, or thousands (depending on trip length) of additional interactions between vehicles that would never have happened had he/she chosen to keep right.

There are generally two types of individuals who participate in bad driving (AKA Left Lane Bandits): those who don’t know better, and those who do know better and are generally quite deliberate in their actions. Neither of them should be driving and both have been tacitly encouraged over the years by the BC Government, ICBC, and the police − whose virtually single-minded focus has been to go after a broad swath of speeding under the guise of bad or aggressive driving. The dopes who bumble along in the passing lane because they see there’s less traffic in it (for a reason) and the self-appointed speed police who deliberately and maliciously block traffic, have flown virtually under the radar for your government.  As part two of the CTV story mentioned, there’s been 31 charges in five years in BC for impeding traffic. When you realize there are generally between 200,000 and 400,000 tickets issued per year in BC for traffic offences, it’s pretty clear where the emphasis is… not.

Why is that? For starters, successive governments have been on a mission to convince us that “speed is killing us” and it’s not a stretch to believe that many who believe that misinformation might see any kind of focus to free up lanes for vehicles to travel faster as a bit of mixed message. A sort of suck and blow if you will. Nobody wants a mixed message after all. Propaganda does work and they know it. ICBC’s Traffic Research dept found in 1990 in an attitude survey that “The issue seen as the greatest concern was slow drivers. Almost 85% of the drivers felt that slow drivers were occasionally, very frequently or always a problem. Almost 50% considered slow drivers as frequently or always a concern.”

In April, 1995 an ICBC “Speed Attitudes” public opinion survey found that “53% of residents [agree] that slow moving vehicles are more of a safety hazard than fast moving vehicles,”  This is further corroborated by a September, 1995, BCAA survey which found that “over one-half of members (57%) feel that slow-moving vehicles are more of a safety hazard than fast-moving ones, and that posted speed limits don’t mean much (54%).” This is what they found while they were attempting to ram photo radar down our throats by overstating the role of speed in crashes.

Once photo radar became the agenda, they completely stopped asking about slow drivers and the surveys that once reported 50-85% concern about slow drivers were now reporting nothing − zero percent.  The other major change was the attitude seen in ICBC and the government’s messages: from a nod to courtesy and cooperation to an us-vs-them mentality.  “Them” being the reckless speeders causing all the mayhem − which in reality was about 2/3rd’s of the motoring public when you looked at the predicted photo radar ticketing rates.

Back to Keep Right Except to Pass. Kevin Falcon who served as Minister of Transportation and Highways for several years, was bright enough to understand when we told him “Slower Traffic Keep Right” signs on BC highways were meaningless and ineffective and he ordered them to be replaced with the more direct “Keep Right Except To Pass” signs.

In spite of the fact that the police had been on record in the past asking for legislation to charge slow drivers and that at least one senior RCMP traffic officer assuring us he would order a ticketing blitz if we got the legislation, in spite of the fact that there are laws which are enforced all over the rest of the world for failing to keep right, your elected representative’s appointees have done nothing.

Kash Heed during his brief stint as Solicitor General, a former cop himself got it (or seemed to), but the issue died on the vine three conference calls into it with Superintendent of Motor Vehicles Steve Martin whose explanation for not wanting to act on the issue (beside the fact that it did not fit into his agenda) was that we could not produce nor could he find empirical evidence that such a specific law may have a proven safety benefit. Funny, he’s had no issue with other laws that have scant safety benefit either (the almost completely ineffective hand held device ban comes to mind). At least in the case of enforcing some lane discipline, we know the outcome would not be a new breed of driver staring at his or her crotch instead of the road.

While some in Victoria view some of the SMV’s accomplishments, such as Administrative Law enabling defacto on the spot convictions for various offences by police while thwarting due process, as progressive we think some of his ideas are a little over the top and trample rights while ultimately hurting the cause. Steve Martin, when it comes to driving, either pretends that he’s never driven outside of Victoria or he never has driven outside of Victoria.  Would you want someone indifferent to children responsible for teaching your kids? Either way, why on earth do we have people with no passion or little in depth knowledge of driving responsible for these ministries? Shirley Bond anyone?

BC is at an inflection point in our opinion; it’s got a resource industry and farming history which requires large heavy trucks and residents and visitors who enjoy their holidays towing campers and boats. These vehicles understandably need to travel slower because they are less maneuverable and take longer to stop. On the other hand, BC’s had successive governments who understood the importance of transportation infrastructure and have invested in world class roads and highways. It’s got relatively wealthy residents, visitors and immigrants who see how the rest of the world travels and they’ve got the money to do it. So we’ve got many different needs, types of vehicles and driving skill levels. Admittedly it’s a challenge to accommodate everybody and get them to behave. Notwithstanding, for many of those people in the latter group our speed limits are seen as amusing or infuriating annoyances.

Economist and co-founder of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Charles A. Lave, said it well, “Guided by the limit-rationale, police concentrate on those drivers who exceed the legal speed, and tend to ignore those drivers who disrupt coordination by traveling much slower than the norm.”

In many countries, it’s not only illegal to occupy the left lane for anything other than passing, but it’s illegal to pass on the right. Too many states to mention here are now enforcing those laws and there are also laws forcing slow moving vehicles to use pull outs. For the sake of minimizing speed variance, improving safety and improving the overall driving experience BC should do the same.

CTV’s “Left Lane Bandits” Part One:
CTV’s “Left Lane Bandits” Part Two:


  1. RaodRanger

    September 21, 2013

    HOV lanes are stupid! Totally against physics and road regulations. You must pass on the left. Passing on the right is dangerous. Yet, we have the HOV lanes and me going faster than the person in the HOV lane is actually passing on the right.
    In Europe they have figured this out already and logically the left lane is for faster traffic. You want to speed, you want to go faster than anybody else, go ahead, pass on the left lane. Simple and complies with traffic rules.
    So instead of complaining that you have the right to use HOV lane and blabla, start using your head instead and demand proper road rules. Pass from the left, learn to change lanes and if you are slower keep to the f#king right!

    • Mario

      April 24, 2014

      Thank you!!!!!!’!!’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Evelyn Danielle

    September 16, 2013

    My husband and I commute to downtown Vancouver from Coquitlam every day. We also drive our son to work in Burnaby. When we finally make it across 3 lanes into the HOV lane we often end up behind: a) an RVer on holiday in the HOV lane who doesn’t know where he’s going and crawls along while he thinks about; b) a super slow driver who believes he MUST NOT go one km over the speed limit – he’s right and the rest of us are all wrong; or c) HOV Cheaters who want to use the lane to pass everyone else, but are also carefully watching for cops, so they go slow just in case they have to change into the middle lane in a hurry.

    This is infuriating to us because we are legitimately entitled to use the HOV lane, but it proves useless when these others feel they should be there too. I believe the cops should be focusing on these people and giving them hefty fines – Lord knows no one is speeding on Hwy 1 on a weekday morning.

  3. Sue Wallace

    September 15, 2013

    Who the police should be paying attention to is the u-turners, tailgaters, eratic drivers who drive fast but are not in control of their vehicle (weaving in and out of traffic), people who hold up the left lane and refuse to move over even after you’ve flashed your lights. They wouldn’t get a way with it in Europe. The cars nowadays are safer and more areodynamic so that you can drive at faster speeds. I wish there was a phone number you could call to report idiot drivers that are driving out of control. Instead of the police hiding under an overpass pointing their radar guns at cars, they should be driving with the traffic so that they can see the drivers that hold up the left lane, and that are going well below the posted speed limit even when they’re in the right lane. Last but not least, those drivers who think they are NASCAR racers and weave uncontrollably in and out of traffic. Those are the type of speeders that cause the fatal accidents because they haven’t a clue how to handle their cars whether they’re beaters or high end cars. Our tax money has been spent on improving the highways to make them safer. The freeway is the only freeway I’ve ever driven on where the traffic comes to almost a stand still even when there hasn’t been an accident or it’s not rush hour! That is probably due to some stubborn ass who’s clunking along in the left lane which slows all the traffic behind them. It Europe it’s a privilage to get a driver’s licence not a right like it is here. The driving schools don’t spend enough time on freeway/highway driving so that they can learn how to drive fast but in control.

  4. Ali J.

    September 12, 2013

    Here is what I don’t understand. The HOV lane on the highway is also the left lane, meaning the “passing lane”. Why do slow drivers feel OBLIGATED, especially on weekends and evenings when the HOV lane on Hwy 1 is NOT in effect to drive in the left lane just because they have 1 or more passengers in their vehicle.

    I had a problem with a Greyhound bus last Sunday evening. The driver changed 3 lanes all the way to the left lane and driving below the speed limit. He somehow felt obligated to drive in the HOV lane on a Sunday night because he was driving a bus. Go figure…

  5. Steve

    August 23, 2013

    Abbotsford-mission hwy, need i say more? Drive it, live it, hate it

  6. Bob

    June 13, 2013

    EVERYDAY at 0540 hours, heading east bound from Boundary on the Hwy1…there is a light blue minivan that goes SIXTY KM’s an hour on the freeway. The driver looks like he is in a trance. EVERYDAY there is trucks, super B trains and passenger vehicles piled up behind him as he toodles along.

    You should hear the horns form angry motorists and truckers as they pass him.

  7. Wayne

    March 1, 2013

    Speed doesn’t kill, idiots that lack driving skills do. Speed fills govt coffers through speeding tickets. That’s why the “speed kills” excuse for writing tickets is so like by governments.

  8. Robert

    March 1, 2013

    Traffic enforcement in North America in general is almost exclusively focused on speed over the posted limit. I doubt that any of our officials such as Shirley Bond or the SMV has ever driven in Europe, where motorway speeds are much higher, and yet the safety record is equal to or better than ours. There’s are reasons for this; the level of driving there is significantly better than it is on our side of the Atlantic because their police pay attention to driving behavior that actually causes problems, as opposed to our police forces which focus almost exclusively on enforcing artificially low speed limits – to the detriment of overall safety. I have driven through speed traps on the Coquihalla with another car tailgating me and the police did nothing. Why not? Because we weren’t speeding, and that’s the only offence they were checking for to the exclusion of everything else.
    When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail as they say.

  9. James C. Walker

    February 28, 2013

    Locating, stopping, citing and prosecuting Left Lane Bandits is not very profitable. Posting artificially low speed limits and citing safe drivers for driving safely is VERY profitable.

    To change this predatory environment it is necessary to change the officials in charge of causing the environment – replacing them with officials who value safety above easy ticket revenue.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  10. Kevin Edge

    February 28, 2013

    As a travelling industrial sales rep I spend a lot of time in my car. In the last three days, I’ve experienced two significant issues of lane hogging with a number of drivers piling up frustrated behind an oblivious slow driver in the passing lane.
    I would like to see the same penalty for this as speeding. Additionally, I’ve read that if you cause an accident and were found to have caused it by driving too slow in Germany – you get a ticket for this accident causing action.
    Many traffic studies state ~ 80% of accidents are caused by failing to yield for example – going through a red light(ignoring traffic device), tailgaiting, etc.. I rarely hear drivers causing accidents are getting a ticket – why is this?

  11. Ryan

    February 28, 2013

    Left lane bandits & slow drivers in general should be getting equal attention from police around the province – but they aren’t, and they never have. At what point will the average Joe’s in this province realize that the real message behind “Speed kills” has nothing to do with safety but is actually “Speed generates a massive amount of revenue for the government”?

    If our government were truly concerned with safety on our roadways we would see much more enforcement directed at left lane bandits and slow drivers, not to mention greater emphasis on roadway improvements, and quite possible actually trying to teach people how to drive a car, not just teach them the rules of the road.

    • David

      February 28, 2013

      For one, people in Victoria are too concerned with cats scaring off birds in the neighbourhood. Ya, really. It’s an ongoing topic.

      The island is incredibly beautiful and I’d love to stay but from the revenue-generators (cops) to the druggies and homeless sleeping in city parks, Victoria is no longer for me. I’m in the process of moving off the island and out of BC.

      Good luck to all of you.

  12. Anon

    February 28, 2013

    Thanks for posting this. I agree, these people are complete asses and should be the first to receive tickets.

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