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I've heard of left-lane hogs, but I was driving with a friend who called me a centre-lane hog. I do stay in the centre because I like having space on either side for emergencies. My friend said centre-lane hogs are a menace and I'm legally supposed to keep to the far right lane unless I'm passing somebody. Who's right here? — Tyler, Oshawa

You're allowed to be a centre square — but it's usually smart to stick to the right if you can.

"Simply put, if you don't need to be in the left lanes, you should keep to the right," says Jim Kilpatrick, regional trainer with Young Drivers of Canada. "You don't want to be sitting in one lane for the sake of sitting in one lane if there's no reason to be there."

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In Ontario, the law says that slower traffic should keep right. But, if you're not going below the posted speed limit, you're allowed to be in any lane — left, centre or right.

"Generally, the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) does not specify which lane a driver must occupy when travelling at the posted speed limit," Ontario's Ministry of Transportation says in an email.

Some other provinces have more strict rules about the left-most lane, but those rules usually don't apply to the centre.

For example, in Quebec, section 324 of the Highway Safety Act says you have to drive in "one of the right-hand lanes" unless you're passing another vehicle.

And in B.C., proposed new limits on left-lane hogs only apply to the left-most lane and not the centre lanes, B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says in an email.

Centre lane for trucks

Even though you're legally allowed in the centre lane anytime, Ontario's driver's handbook says to keep it free so trucks can use it for passing.

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"On many freeways with three or more lanes in each direction, large trucks cannot travel in the far left lane and must use the lane to the right for passing," it says. "Get into the habit of driving in the right lane, leaving the other lanes clear for passing."

Another reason the right lane might sometimes be right? The centre might not be as safe as you think. If you stick to the centre, you could get boxed in by traffic and have nowhere to go in an emergency.

"Traveling in the centre lane may actually be increasing your risk because you have traffic on both sides," Kilpatrick says. "If you're in the right lane, you have the shoulder you can use for emergencies."

Kilpatrick says it's probably a good idea to use the far-right lane unless you're passing. But, you have to decide which lane is safest. There are times where you might decide that staying in the centre lane is safer than darting in and out of the right lane.

"If you're on the Don Valley and every thirty seconds you're dealing with merging traffic, it might be better to remain in the centre," Kilpatrick says. "The driver should be asking, 'At this point in time, which is the safest lane to allow my driving to be smooth, legal and defensive?'"

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