• Arizona
  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

Area Info

5 minutes reading time (948 words)

Letter to the Editor: PCSO is wrong

Recently, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page posted a video and information regarding the prohibition of drivers from using the left lane of a roadway except for passing, purporting that 28-721 - Driving on right side of roadway; driving on shoulder; exceptions; education (azleg.gov) indicates such. Unfortunately, the Sheriff has misinterpreted this statute, to wit:

Subsection (A) of 28-721 reads:

A. On all roadways of sufficient width, a person shall drive a vehicle on the right half of the roadway except as follows:

  1. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing the movement.
  2. When the right half of a roadway is closed to traffic while under construction or repair.
  3. On a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable on the roadway.
  4. On a roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic.

Note that this subsection refers to the "right half" of the roadway, not the right "lane" of the roadway; therefore, it has no relevance whatsoever to an idea that people shall drive in the right lane of the roadway unless passing. What this subsection is referring to is crossing the center line of a roadway, entering the left half of the roadway. This subsection indicates when this crossing of the center line of the roadway is allowed (e.g., when passing a vehicle by crossing the center line in an area not designated as a no-passing zone or when entering a center turn-only lane). One might want to argue that, on a divided highway, each side of the divider is considered a separate "roadway" per 28-601(22) - Definitions (azleg.gov) so drivers would then have to stay on the "right half" of that one-directional "roadway" by staying in the right lane; but 28-721(A)(4) would have to be taken into consideration, as, although each half of that divided highway would be considered a separate "roadway," each half would then be "a roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic" and would then be exempt from this misperceived requirement that, per sub(A), drivers shall drive in the right lane of the roadway (this is exactly what's shown in the video included in the Facebook Post - a divided highway - so the one half of the divided highway on which the Sheriff makes the traffic stop is a "roadway" in and of itself... and, further, it is a "roadway designated and signposted for one-way traffic"... therefore, this misperceived requirement of sub(A) to drive in the right lane would not even apply, as drivers would be excepted per par(4)).

Subsection (B) of 28-721 reads:

B. On all roadways, a person driving a vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall drive the vehicle in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

Now, this is the only subsection that does have to do with specific "lanes" of traffic and does indicate when drivers are required to use the right-hand lane. But... this subsection indicates that drivers are only required to use the right-hand lane... and can then only use the left lane(s) for passing or turning... when they are "proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic." Therefore, nothing here in sub(B) prohibits a driver who is driving at or above the "normal speed of traffic" from driving in the left lane, even if not passing... and even for an extended period of time.

The state of Arkansas previously had a traffic code [Arkansas Code § 27-51-301 (2020) ] that read somewhat similarly to Arizona's 28-721, and the Arkansas State Police Facebook Page actually also misinterpreted it and posted that erroneous information several years ago (so I guess the Sheriff is in good company ?). But Arkansas passed an amendment to their statute just last year, by way of 2021 Arkansas Act 1090, that changed sub(b) of the statute and added the required verbiage that actually does now restrict driving in "the left lane of a multilane highway" (admittedly, this amendment is poorly worded, including the misuse of the statutorily-defined term "highway," as "roadway" would've been the more appropriate, consistent term here... and they failed to properly indicate "the left lane of the 'right half' of the roadway" (to ensure it was understood that they meant the left lane of one side/direction of the roadway, not the leftmost lane of the entire "highway," which would be all the way on the other side/edge of the highway), but their intention (i.e., "spirit" of the law) to prohibit drivers from unnecessarily occupying the left lane is clear). Unfortunately, Arizona has not passed a similar amendment, so the information in your Facebook Post is inaccurate.

This is one of those misperceptions of the law that many people (even Sheriffs) have grown up learning, believing,... and sharing with others. It seems that many followers of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office Facebook Page actually buy what the Sheriff is selling here... and the Sheriff seems to enjoy the attention of numerous video views (even if the information provided is wrong?), so I can't imagine he'd be willing to admit to his mistake and correct it, but I do urge that he does so... for the sake of accuracy and integrity. I also urge that the Sheriff ensure that he and his Deputies are properly educated on this and all AZ state laws.

Thank you... and stay safe!

JC
IntegrityinLE
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