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State Patrol: 'Camp in the woods, not in the left lane' or get a ticket

File: Traffic on I-405. (KOMO Photo)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Are you one of those drivers who likes to just sit in the left lane on the freeway even if traffic is struggling to pass you by?

If so, that car stuck behind you might soon be a state patrol trooper.

Long considered one of the largest pet peeves of Seattle-area drivers, left lane "camping" will be the object of a statewide emphasis patrol through Friday by the Washington State Patrol. The law is intended to keep that left lane as a passing lane and a ticket will cost you $136.

Last year, troopers busted nearly 14,000 left lane "campers."

When can you legally drive in the left lane? Here are the specifics, courtesy of the State Patrol:

"According to the law, RCW 46.61.100(2), Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right hand lane then available for traffic, except for overtaking and passing another vehicle in the same direction, when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, when moving left to allow traffic to merge or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted."

Or more simply put: "Keep right, except to pass."

But while the left lane might be the "fast lane", it doesn't mean you get to ignore the speed limits there.

"It's certainly not a speeding lane, either," said Trooper Paul Cakle. "It's not against the law for people who want to travel under the speed limit -- that's fine. That lane is meant for those who want to travel the speed limit and to get around slower moving traffic. It doesn't mean that it's legal to do 75 in a 60 (mph zone) to get around someone doing 55 or 58."

And just because they're focusing in the campers doesn't give you a green light to ignore all the other rules of the road either.

"We will still be looking out for those individuals that are following too close... and we will be looking out for aggressive drivers as well," Cakle said. "Any other laws out there that contribute to collisions and things of that nature."


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