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SC slowpoke left-lane drivers issued hundreds of tickets in new law's first year

Traffic law sign 2 (copy)

A digital message board reminds drivers to keep right under a SC law passed in 2021. Drivers who back up traffic in the left lane of controlled-access highways can be fined $25. Seanna Adcox/Staff.

COLUMBIA — In just over a year, nearly 500 tickets have been doled out to drivers who back up traffic by driving slowly in the left lanes of major highways.

A law that went into effect late in 2021 requires drivers on interstates who are not passing traffic to move out of the fast lane or face a $25 fine — the same penalty for not wearing a seatbelt. 

Additionally, the "slowpoke" law required the state Department of Transportation to erect signs reading “slower traffic move right” on South Carolina's interstates every 35 miles. 

"The point of doing this is to take every step possible to make sure we communicate to the drivers of the state that if you're not passing somebody, get over to traveling in the right lane," said state Rep. Micah Caskey, R-Lexington.

The law went into affect on Aug. 15, 2021, but officers did not start handing out tickets until Nov. 1 of that year. Since then, law enforcement officers have given out 490 citations to dawdling drivers, according to numbers from S.C. Highway Patrol.  

"(490) is more than I would have thought," Caskey said. "I think it's a number that says that law enforcement is going to enforce the laws of the state and people need to bear that in mind."

An early version of the proposed law set fines at $200 and could send violators to prison for 30 days. Lawmakers later approved a compromise to drastically lower fines and prevent officers from searching cars that had been stopped solely for violating this law. 

"Slow drivers in the left lane are terrible," Caskey said. "So this small fine seemed like a reasonable compromise."

Officers enforce the law visually, in the same way they would enforce other traffic laws, said Trooper Nick Pye, spokesman for the S.C. Highway Patrol Troop 6.

"It's no different than a seatbelt violation or a speeding violation or any other violation," Pye said. "If you're doing it … and a law enforcement officer sees it, then you're likely to get pulled over."

The law does not serve as a blessing to speed, Pye said. It's intent is to improve traffic flow and prevent collisions, as well as limiting road-rage altercations, he said. 

"We can't keep track of how many fatalities of bad collisions were prevented," Pye said. "I would venture to say that if there was a way to keep track of that, that number would be a lot higher (without this law)."

Reach Leah Hincks at 843-830-2555. Follow her on Twitter @LeahHincks

Leah Hincks covers Lexington County for the Post and Courier in Columbia. She is a Massachusetts native who studied journalism at the University of Richmond, and spends her free time running and reading.

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