DWI News Alert: Beware the Left-hand Lane on Garden State Throughways, Interstates and Parkways

Anyone who frequents this blog may already know that the police have more than a few avenues at their disposal when it comes to justifying a traffic stop here in the Garden State. As experienced DWI defense lawyers, my legal team understands the law and specifically how it applies to cases involving drunken driving, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), breath test refusal, possession of marijuana in a car, and numerous other offenses.

Aside from the obvious infractions that can get a motorist pulled over — such as speeding, failing to yield, making an illegal turn, etc. — there are other and more subtle ways in which a patrolman might effect a traffic stop. One is being identified as having an expired vehicle registration through what is known as a “mobile computer look-up.” Instances involving this kind of police activity, which may or may not lead to an actual traffic stop, only take an officer’s curiosity regarding the status of one’s vehicle registration, insurance coverage, owner’s license info, or even if the vehicle has been stolen.

For those who may be wondering, the odds of being stopped based on a random computer look-up could be rising as we speak, especially considering the burgeoning information sharing efforts between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the precedent is already set with this kind of indirect observation; police departments all across New Jersey have the authority (based on State v. Donis) to conduct random license plate look-ups for all manner of vehicle and driver information.

Now we know about an additional way in which a patrolman may be able to justify a traffic stop: the so-called left-lane bandit. Many motorists are already familiar with those individuals who slow down traffic progress by using the left lane as a cruising lane, rather than a passing lane. Sometimes “cruising” means going five to 10mph slower than the average traffic speed. By choosing to set fines for left-lane hogs, the state of New Jersey may be opening the door for yet another means with which police may soon be able to pull over a potentially drunk driver.

Based on news articles, the a recently passed bill would penalize drivers who clog up the fast lanes of the parkway and interstates by increasing fines from the current $50-to-$200 range to $100-to-$300. Considering the need for local and state government to gain more income, one can only assume that enforcement of the applicable laws will also gain in popularity, and with it potentially more DWI-DUI arrests.

Ironically, the article we ran across quoted a state assemblyman as saying that, drunken driving aside, failure to keep right is one of the most hazardous actions on New Jersey roadways. According to
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who also co-sponsored the bill, “One driver cruising along in the left lane can cause dozens of other drivers to become frustrated, leading to more incidents of aggressive driving and additional, unnecessary lane changes — which, in turn, lead to more accidents.”

According to the news article, the New Jersey State Police apparently have an unwritten rule that tells troopers not to pull a driver over unless he or she has been occupying the left lane for more than three miles. However, as we said, with higher fines there is no telling what the new unwritten rule may be in the future. If this bill is signed into law by Governor Christie, we can imagine more instances of traffic stops, more people being fined and potentially more drunk driving and drug DUI arrests.

Left-lane highway hogs could see fines double for failure to move over, NJ.com, June 25, 2013