This is written by someone who spent a good chunk of the previous decade commuting from Huntington to Charleston daily.
A lot of my West Virginia contacts on social media are happy about the anti-Ohio driver law making its way through the West Virginia Legislature. In simple terms, the law says anyone in the left lane of a four-lane highway who does not get over to allow faster traffic to pass can be ticketed.
OK, there is some logic to that idea. Putting the idea into practice doesn’t make a lot of sense, but we’re talking about a piece of legislation that appears to be aimed more at telling Ohio drivers how to act when they’re on West Virginia roads rather than offering a practical solution to a problem that exists only in the frustrations of West Virginians who refuse to obey traffic laws.
This proposed law has at least three problems.
First, at rush hour the minimum speed for traffic on Interstate 64 is 80 mph. That’s what the slowest drivers are doing, and that’s 10 mph over the posted speed limit. So if I’m in the left lane doing 80 because I don’t want to deal with traffic entering from the right a mile or two ahead and a guy behind me wants to do 90, I’m the person who gets a ticket?
Second, people who want you to move over tend to tailgate you. Who does the police officer ticket, the guy doing 80 or the guy tailgating him, which also is illegal?
Third problem: Who’s going to write these tickets? I almost never see any law enforcement presence on the interstate.
I put these comments on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. Then a guy who grew up near me in Ohio — we were in the same grade through school — and who now lives in southern West Virginia got me to rethinking my opinion.
He commented that he drives the West Virginia Turnpike and sees people driving in the left lane below the speed limit for miles. “They have plenty of opportunity to move to the right lane but won’t. I don’t like passing on the right because the other driver may move right when I’m beside them. But what choice do you have?”
That’s a good point. I haven’t driven the Turnpike on my own dime in almost five years. Most of what I remember about it is (a) staying off it at night and (b) not being anywhere near a tractor-trailer when it’s going down one of those steep grades.
My next conversation on the subject was with Lee Ann Welch, the newspaper’s obituary writer. She said she drives the left lane of the Turnpike because many times the right lane is so rough. That reminded me of U.S. 35 in Putnam County — same situation for a stretch just north of Winfield. If the Legislature wants us in the right lane, it should make them drivable, she said.
So now I’m less certain.
If nothing else, by passing this bill, the Legislature can make many of its constituents feel good about how their driving skills are superior to those of Ohioans. So it might be useful after all.
Maybe I’ll sit this one out.