Traffic situations can cause frustrations to boil over. The frustration can be especially acute on highways with two lanes going one direction (multilane roads) where some “slower” drivers remain in the left/fast lane of traffic instead of only using the left/fast lane of traffic to pass slower traffic in the right/slow lane.
Ohio law is clear that the left/fast lane may generally only be used when passing someone in the right/slow lane, but this law is understandably hard for law enforcement professionals to enforce.
Perhaps the most notable multilane road in our region is U.S. Route 30. Our region has a particularly high number of roads that cross U.S. 30 without an overpass, underpass, entrance ramps or exit ramps. In other words, many county and township roads in our area (simple, two-lane roads) intersect with U.S. 30 such that yielding to U.S. 30’s traffic is required to cross U.S. 30 or enter into the traffic of U.S. 30.
Such an intersection of note in our region is where Thayer Road and U.S. 30 intersect. In fact, the Thayer Road/U.S. 30 intersection has been the site of two fatal accidents in 2019 alone.
For drivers traveling on a simple, two-lane road who are crossing a multilane road, simply getting across the multilane road can be difficult. However, usually, our vehicles are able to accelerate fast enough from the stop to get through the intersection and not impede the traffic on the multilane road.
A much more challenging situation is where a driver makes a left-hand turn from a simple, two-lane road (such as Thayer Road) onto a multilane road (such as U.S. 30). In other words, simply crossing a multilane road is easier and usually safer than attempting to merge into a multilane road’s existing traffic.
This is primarily because yielding to oncoming traffic does not mean that we “beat” the traffic to the intersection when we are entering into the traffic on the road for which a yield is required. Otherwise stated, the responsibility of a driver to yield when merging into traffic includes the responsibility to accelerate to the speed of the traffic following in that lane.
For example, a driver entering a roadway and merging into its traffic cannot simply enter a lane and drive so slow in that lane (even if accelerating) to cause vehicles behind the driver to not be able to slow down fast enough to avoid an accident.
Most of us think that when turning left onto a one-direction multilane highway, we are required to first enter and establish ourselves in the closest lane going left (the left/fast lane) and then change lanes to the right/slow lane.
However, Ohio law allows direct entrance into the right/slow lane in such instances, as long as the driver “squares into” the turn and yields to the traffic in both lanes.
Simply put, when we must accelerate to enter traffic on a multilane road, we are legally permitted to immediately enter and do our accelerating in the lane that usually has slower traffic.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.