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Hawkins: Tennessee’s original slow poke laws

dfox • Dec 3, 2015 at 6:00 PM

“There are a lot of people who will get in the left hand lane on the interstate, set the cruise, and they never look in the rearview mirror.” – Rep. Dan Howell of Georgetown (Bradley County)

Tennessee newspapers and television stations recently reported that an East Tennessee state representative has introduced a bill called the “Slow Poke Law.” 

Q. How would this “Slow Poke Law” work?

The proposed law, pre-filed on Oct. 9, 2015 as House Bill 1416 by Rep. Dan Howell, applies only to highways with three or more lanes in each direction. 

HB 1416, if passed, would generally make it illegal to operate a vehicle in the far-left passing lane, except when overtaking or passing a vehicle that is not in the passing lane. Violators would be subject to a Class C misdemeanor conviction and a $50 fine.

The media have failed to report, however, that Tennessee already has three “slow poke laws” passed 60 years ago, in 1955.  

Q. What do Tennessee’s existing “slow poke laws” say?

1. TCA 55-8-115 states that “a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway,” except when passing slower vehicles, turning left or when yielding to construction, repair or emergencies. Punishment: Class C misdemeanor, $50 fine.

This existing law does not apply to roadways “divided into three marked lanes for traffic.” This is where the new “Slow Poke Law” would apply.

2. TCA 55-8-123(4)(A) requires that, where passing is unsafe, any “slow-moving vehicle,” behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, “shall turn or pull off the roadway wherever sufficient area exists to do so safely, in order to permit vehicles following it to proceed.” Punishment: Warning on first offense, then $20, then $50.

3. TCA 55-8-154(a) states that “no person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” Punishment: Class C misdemeanor, $50 fine.

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