Slowpoke drivers, keep right

A new state law that takes effect Thursday will prohibit Minnesota drivers from lingering in the left lane, except to pass. Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz approved it earlier this year, aiming to cut down on road rage incidents where drivers become upset with someone blocking the lane in front of them.

Also of note is what the law doesn’t allow: it doesn’t let people drive over the speed limit to pass. Lawmakers had initially included such a provision, but ultimately stripped it out.

“It is a matter of common courtesy,” said John Harrington, the state’s public safety commissioner. “If you’re passing, pass in the left lane. If you’re done passing, get out of the left lane and get back to the right lane as quickly as possible.”

The fine for failing to move right is $50. State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said troopers would not aggressively enforce the law, choosing to focus instead on speeders and distracted drivers.

Starting Thursday, the State Patrol will have another new law to enforce: the state’s new prohibition on drivers using hand-held cell phones and GPS devices.

Drivers must use wireless or one-touch technology to make phone calls. GPS usage is allowed if the device is mounted on the dashboard.

The hands-free law aims to cut down on deaths caused by inattentive driving. Overall, Minnesota is on pace for 350 road deaths this year, Harrington said. 

Changeable message signs over Minnesota freeways will begin warning people about the new law, Gov. Tim Walz and public safety officials said.

“If you are that motorist that hasn’t listened to us as we’ve been warning people, you should expect to get pulled over, and you should expect to get a citation or a warning and some discussion about your behavior with the new law,” Langer said.