Last Saturday night, I began to fret because I didn't have a suitable intro for this week's column.

I wanted to write about the National Motorists Association declaring June to be Lane Courtesy Month - reminding people that traffic moves better when drivers stay to the right unless they're passing. I wanted to add that it's the law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Eventually, I gave up, and headed for home. Surely, something would come to me.

And sure enough: As soon as I hit Kelly Drive headed out of the city, a Prius was snarling both lanes as it rode side by side with the vehicle to its right. Slowly the Prius edged ahead, and frustrated drivers between my car and it began shifting to the right and passing from there.

Lest we think this is an eco-friendly, granola-munching, long-hair issue (my brethren), I later encountered a Chevy Suburban pulling the same stunt a few miles later on the Schuylkill.

So it seems you can't swing a dead pedal without hitting a Left Lane Bandit.

Let's be courteous: Naturally, my eyes lit up when I saw the news release about Lane Courtesy Month.

There's a cause I can back.

"It only takes a single motorist hunkered down in the left lane, whether intentionally or not, to tie up traffic for dozens of others on the road." Preach it, NMA.

"When all motorists adhere to the principles of lane courtesy, traffic flows more freely, uniformly, and therefore more safely." Right on, brother.

Who's behind this declaration? Gary Biller, executive director of the 7,000-member grassroots organization based in Waunakee, Wis., said the group got its start in 1982 fighting the nationwide 55 speed limit, and branched out from there.

The stances of the National Motorists Association have a libertarian leaning, taking a dim view of things like speed-limit enforcement and seat-belt laws (although Biller is quick to point out that reckless driving is another matter). And the group does not push for a law enforcement solution to "Keep right, pass left."

"We see lane courtesy as more of an educational issue than a law enforcement issue," Biller said.

I'll do my part, Mr. Biller.

Biller's group, which has members in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada, wanted to characterize Left Lane Snottiness in more agreeable terms than I do.

"We prefer lane courtesy because the operative word is courtesy," Biller said.

Still, it's not just a good idea: And, yet, all you Left Lane Hogs out there, know that you are breaking the law. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, at least.

Jenny Robinson, safety press officer for PennDOT Engineering District 6 in King of Prussia, cited chapter and verse on the law in the Keystone State that says, "Move it, Buster."

You can find it online www.dmv.state.pa.us or on Page 42 in the state driver's manual, also online and at driver's license centers.

"The bottom line is, yes, Pennsylvania law says you must stay on the right lane of the road except under certain circumstances," Robinson said.

Robert Gaydosh of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety sent me an e-mail that outlined a similar law for New Jersey's roads. Search online for New Jersey traffic laws at www.njleg.state.nj.us/

Certain circumstances: These laws both give you an out, Left Lane Oinkers - like when there's an obstruction. Or something parked on the shoulder. And, of course, when someone wants to merge into traffic. Or if traffic is just miles and miles of two or more full lanes.

You even have two miles to prepare for a left turn or a left exit.

When traffic is tight, sure, the rules change. But just because you're on a call, or afraid to change lanes, or can't be bothered?

Do your duty, Officer.

Kudos: Back to my Saturday night trip home. After I passed the Suburban, traffic seemed to open up a bit. I passed the Blue Route and headed up the hill toward Gulph Mills.

Up ahead, a Honda Civic pulled into the left lane, and I wondered, would this be number three?

The driver passed the car to his right, signaled, and went back into the right lane.

So, thank you, Mr. Courteous Honda Civic Sedan Driver on the Schuylkill around 11 p.m. Saturday. And I think the National Motorists Association would thank you as well.

Contact Scott Sturgis
at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.
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