Tampa police: Left lanes are for passing vehicles, per Florida law

How fast or slow a vehicle travels in a left lane can be a polarizing topic among Florida drivers, but state law requires all drivers to treat it as a passing lane. 

Even if you’re driving the speed limit on the furthermost left lane, and another vehicle – driving faster than you – approaches you from behind, Florida law states you must move out of the left lane, Officer Roy Paz with the Tampa Police Department explained on Good Day Tampa Bay.

This goes for any road with two or more lanes heading in the same direction. It can be a street or an interstate. 

Paz said the only exemptions are if a driver is making a left-hand turn or if they're passing another vehicle.

“Now, a lot of people have a hard time with that. They say, ‘Well, you know what? If I’m driving the speed limit…I shouldn’t have to move anywhere,'" Officer Paz said. "Well, that’s not what the law says.  The law says regardless of their speed, if another car comes up, you’re supposed to move over and let that person pass.”

“It’s not only the courteous thing to do, but it’s the law,” Paz added.

He explained the purpose is to keep traffic flowing. If a driver refuses to budge from the left lane, it can make other drivers emotional, which can be dangerous, but it’s not an opportunity to display road rage.

“What happens is people are traveling, and they’ll come up behind the car that’s not moving over. They’ll get so upset. They’ll tailgate that car. They’ll flash their lights. They’ll honk their horn,” Paz continued. “Please don’t do that, guys. If you drive up on someone that’s not moving out of the left-hand lane, just drive around them…and just go about your business.”

At the same time, he cautioned, the passing lane should not be treated as a “fast lane.”

“We’re not condoning speeding out there,” Paz added. “When you’re traveling in that left-hand lane and you’re traveling faster than the rest of traffic, you’re taking that chance of getting a speeding ticket.”

The bottom line is, according to Florida law and law enforcement officials, move over if you see another driver – traveling faster than you are – approaching you from behind on the furthermost left lane. 

Read the full state statute below, or click over to the Florida Legislature website.

On a road, street, or highway having two or more lanes allowing movement in the same direction, a driver may not continue to operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane if the driver knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed. This subsection does not apply to drivers operating a vehicle that is overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or is preparing for a left turn at an intersection.