What is the Tennessee Slowpoke Law? 

The Tennessee Slowpoke Law was first enacted in 2016. This law was designed to prohibit an individual from operating a vehicle in the passing lane on an Interstate or multi-lane highway that has three or more lanes in both directions. In 2020, the Tennessee legislature expanded the slowpoke law, and this expansion was designed to help speed up traffic on roadways other than interstates and multi-lane highways.

What the 2016 Law Did

During the Tennessee legislative session, there were notable changes made to motor vehicle laws. In 2016, the state implemented a “Slow Poke Law,” which prohibits driving in the passing lane of any interstate or multi-lane divided highway with three or more lanes in each direction unless overtaking or passing a vehicle on the left. The passing lane refers to the leftmost lane or the lane to the right of the HOV lane.

There are exceptions to this rule, including situations where:

  • Merging into a non-passing lane is not safe due to traffic
  • Inclement weather or traffic control devices necessitate driving in the passing lane
  • Obstructions or hazards exist in non-passing lanes
  • Traffic needs to be avoided from acceleration or merging lanes
  • Highway design requires driving in the passing lane to exit or turn left
  • Emergency or maintenance vehicles are engaged in official duties

Violating Tennessee’s Slow Poke Law is considered a Class C misdemeanor and carries a $50 fine.

How the 2020 Law Changes Things

Changes to the Slowpoke Law were implemented on July 1, 2020. The recent changes to Tennessee’s motor vehicle laws include an expansion of the “Slow Poke Law” to include interstate and multi-lane divided highways with as few as two lanes in each direction. Additionally, the legislature has introduced a new category called “personal delivery devices” (PDDs) that qualify as motor vehicles. PDDs are electric-powered devices primarily operated on sidewalks and crosswalks for transporting property on public rights-of-way.

The updated law regarding PDDs mandates that they must yield to and not obstruct the right-of-way of other traffic, including pedestrians. If operated during nighttime, the PDD must have front and rear lighting visible from a minimum distance of 500 feet. They are not allowed to transport hazardous materials or exceed speeds of 10 mph. PDDs must also be equipped with owner identification, contact information, and a braking system. Interestingly, PDDs are exempt from requirements related to driver’s licenses, titling, and registration, although local ordinances can still prohibit their use.

The PDD additions to the law sought to get ahead of the inevitability of various types of slower delivery vehicles that will hit the roadways across the US, not just here in Tennessee. Usually, these vehicles only cover shorter distances, but they could still be enough of a hindrance to impede the flow of traffic throughout the state.

Construction zones/areas and roadways that are under 45 miles per hour are exempt from the Tennessee Slowpoke Law.

Slow Drivers – Are They a Hazard?

Most people do not think about slow drivers being hazards. The focus, as far as safety is concerned, it’s typically on drivers operating above the speed limit. However, as we see more and more states implement laws like this one in Tennessee, we have to examine whether or not slow drivers are indeed dangerous.

Drivers operating lower than the speed limit or slowly in passing lanes could be dangerous to those around them. Slow drivers impede the normal flow of traffic and can prevent proper passing on busier roadways. There are a variety of reasons individuals drive slowly in areas where they otherwise should not. Some of the main reasons drivers operate below the speed limit include:

  • They are operating while distracted
  • They are new drivers
  • They are elderly drivers
  • They are looking at things around them (rubbernecking)

Accidents can occur if drivers are operating well below the speed limit. If the drivers behind these individuals attempt to pass the slower-moving vehicle, it could lead to a serious collision. While a passing vehicle could be blamed for the collision, a slower driver may certainly have contributed to the incident.

Every driver on the roadway needs to consider their actions, including how their speed affects others around them. We all know that driving too fast is dangerous. In fact, speeding is a leading cause of traffic accidents and injuries each year in the state of Tennessee. However, if you are in a passing lane and driving well below the speed limit, it is important to be courteous and change to a lane where your speed is more suited. If you are worried about being the slow driver on the roadway, the best thing you can do is observe the vehicles around you. If it is obvious that those around you wish to operate their vehicle faster, there is nothing wrong with pulling into a different lane to allow other cars to pass.

If you find yourself near a slower driver, you need to proceed with caution. If it is possible, you can pass the driver on the left. However, if the driver is in the far left lane (which is usually the passing lane), you should decrease your speed and keep your distance. You can pass on the right side of the slower-moving vehicle, but only if it is safe to do so.

Working With an Attorney After an Accident

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by the negligent actions of another driver in Tennessee, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Accidents involving slower-moving drivers can be challenging, particularly when it comes to determining liability. It may be difficult to prove that a driver was operating slowly, and it could be even more challenging to show that the slow driving led to the collision.

When you work with a car accident lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee, you will have an advocate ready to investigate the circumstances surrounding your collision and help you recover any compensation you may be entitled to. Ultimately, the goal is to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage expenses, pain and suffering losses, and more.