B.C. is cracking down on left lane hogs. Will this be happening here too? I thought it was already the rule everywhere to stay out of the left lane if you're not going the speed of traffic — but they just don't enforce it. — Derek, Toronto.
Until B.C. makes good on its threat, Quebec's the only province in Canada where the left lane of a highway is reserved for passing.
If you're hoping for Ontario to catch up, you'll be stuck waiting.
"I think we have the appropriate measures in place right now in Ontario," Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said last week. "We have no plans to follow B.C. on this particular item."
In Ontario, section 147 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) says any "vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane…"
In other words, slower than normal traffic has to keep right or face a $105 fine.
But normal doesn't mean the speed of other traffic. It means the speed limit, said Ontario Provincial Police.
"The speed limit is the maximum speed at which vehicles should be travelling," said OPP communications Sgt. Peter Leon.
So, if you're going 130 km/h in the far left lane of Highway 401 and the guy in front of you is going 90, he could be charged with blocking the left lane.
But, because you're going more than the 100 km/hr speed limit, police could also charge you for speeding.
"If somebody is on a highway and travelling at a slower rate than the posted speed limit, we do ask that slower traffic move to the right lane," said Leon. "We don't encounter vehicles travelling too slow on multilane highways too terribly often — but we do on occasion and we certainly deal with it."
Every other province except Quebec has a similar rule — slower traffic should keep right.
But no other province reserves the left lane specifically for passing.
On Quebec roads with a speed limit above 80 km/h, you're not allowed to be in the left lane at all unless you're passing a vehicle in the right lane. Passing on the right is banned.
Keep right except to pass?
Last week, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he will introduce a bill this spring to make it easier for police to ticket drivers who aren't using the left lane for passing. Last year, the province raised speed limits to 120 km/hr on some highways.
Chris Klimek, founder of stop100.ca, wants Ontario to do the same — but he said it will only work if the province hikes speed limits.
"Because our traffic usually flows much faster than legal... 'keep right except to pass' is seen as a contradiction and to be condoning speeding," Klimek said in an email statement. "The police are much more interested in 'speed kills' than 'keep right.'"
Klimek wants speed limits on 400-series highways raised to 120 km/h in urban areas and 130 km/hr everywhere else.
After Stone's announcement, the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs said it worries drivers would interpret new left lane rules as permission to break the speed limit.
"That's what it kind of indirectly does sometimes … it says exceeding the speed limit in the left-hand lane becomes a kind of right with people," said the association's Neil Dubord. "And we have to be so cautious with that because that isn't what we want to encourage. We still know that speed kills."
Stone later said new rules wouldn't penalize city drivers who were stuck in the left lane because of traffic congestion.
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