DriveSmart BC – Is Slow Driving Unacceptable?

Argh! The driver in front of me is not doing the speed limit! Yes, I’ll admit that I often feel the this way, even when the speed differential is as low as 5 to 10 km/h. I have to tell myself to relax and follow along until there is a safe opportunity to pass by or even be satisfied with reducing my own speed to match and not worrying about it. The trouble is, that only works if you don’t have a schedule to keep and in some circumstances slow driving can be dangerous.

We seem to behave as if the speed signs are labelled minimum or exactly instead of maximum. If you aren’t doing at least the maximum speed, either get out of the way or get off of the highway. Perhaps the only place a lower speed might be somewhat tolerable is when the slow driver is using the right lane of a multiple lane highway.

Speaking from the point of view of the traffic laws, exceeding the posted speed limit is illegal. Driving at a speed less than the speed limit is not, as long as there is a good reason for doing so and the reduced speed is a reasonable one.

If the speed is unreasonable, police action may be taken by either requiring the driver to increase speed or by removing the vehicle from the road until the officer directs otherwise.

A responsible slow driver will monitor traffic in the rear view mirror and move out of the way to let others by. This is both polite and keeps safety in mind. If you obstruct an irresponsible driver you could easily provoke irrational or unsafe behaviour that results in a collision.

I’ve been told in past that “everyone knows that the police won’t write a speeding ticket for 10 over.” Observing the traffic around me when I drive, many seem to have adopted this as their personal speed limit. So, if at least 10 over is acceptable, why is at least 10 under not?

When I did speed enforcement, if I allowed the same tolerance under the speed limit as I did for those exceeding it and kept the advisory speed signs in mind, I constantly found drivers outside the upper limit but rarely found drivers under the lower limit.

Complaints about slow drivers usually come from people who are experienced drivers and comfortable with their vehicle’s operation. While they do make up the majority of road users, there are beginners of all ages and drivers who are ageing or suffer from health impairments who self limit their speed in order to be safe. We cannot expect the latter group to speed up to keep the former happy. They are licenced therefore entitled to use the highways within the law too.

Some single and combination vehicles are not powerful enough or designed to keep up to the posted speed limits. In fact, if the vehicle is capable of at least 60 km/h on level ground, it is able to use freeways posted at 120 km/h.

If you are a slow driver and have a collection of followers, remain at the slower speed and allow them to pass by when you reach a section of passing lane. If there is no passing lane and an area to pull over is available, use it. Remember to keep right on multiple laned highways. If you are a faster driver, don’t be a bulldozer and intimidate the slower driver hoping to pass. Being responsible keeps us all safe.

To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.


Constable Tim Schewe (Retired)

DriveSmartBC: Where better than average drivers satisfy their curiosity.

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