Why is slow driving an offence in BC?
It may come as a surprise to some drivers that it’s actually an offence to be driving too slowly on BC roads. There are actually several BC Motor Vehicle Act offences that involve the act of slow driving. To the average driver, it’s probably a bit confusing that in a province where speeding is the number one cause of traffic fatalities, that doing the opposite would be a crime.
But slow driving is an offence. Four different offences, in fact. Each of the slow driving offences come with a ticket and between two and three Driver Penalty Points.
BC’s Motor Vehicle Act lays them out as follows:
s. 145(1) – Slow driving. $121 fine. Three penalty points.
s. 150(2) – Fail to keep slow vehicle on right. $109 fine. Three penalty points.
s. 151(g) – Slow moving in wrong lane. $109 fine. Two penalty points.
s. 151(3) – Improper use of leftmost lane. $167 fine. Three penalty points.
What are the intentions of laws against slow driving?
It’s not every day, but police can and do issue violation tickets for slow driving. The reason for some of the slow driving offences seem obvious. The s. 145(1) slow driving offence states that its intention is to penalize drivers moving so slow that they “impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” A later subsection clarifies that if a driver is blocking traffic, they must comply with the instruction of any police officer to increase their speed or to get off the road until otherwise directed by the officer.[pullquote]Allowing officers to ticket drivers for slow driving allows police a lot of discretion to stop drivers who are just being safe on the road.[/pullquote]
The requirement to keep right on a road is relatively new to BC’s law books. The provincial government decided after a review in 2014 that drivers were “hogging” left lanes, and that this was a safety concern for people in rural areas. S. 150(2), however, deals with particularly slow moving vehicles, such as those who can’t move up to the regular speed limit. Think farm tractors, less powerful scooters, or big trucks that take longer to accelerate or decelerate.
S. 151(g) applies when there are signs or traffic signals telling slow moving traffic to stay in a certain lane. Recall the signs, often along highways, that say “slow moving traffic must keep right”? Legislators were also cognizant that the right lane may not always be suitable, for example, in some places it may be preferable to keep slow traffic in a different lane where there’s more space.
Finally, s. 151(3) is related to the whole issue of “hogging” lanes. The actual wording of this subsection asks drivers to remove themselves from the leftmost lane when approached by another vehicle coming from behind. By “leftmost” lane, the law means the furthest left lane available to regular traffic – so this doesn’t include HOV lanes or bus lanes, even if they’re on the far left. Of course, there are exceptions to this law, such as when a driver needs to make a left turn, when passing other cars, or even allowing cars to merge safely onto a road.
These rules seem to make sense. Why the fuss about slow driving?
This is one of those times when the intention of the law can be at odds with what police are trying to accomplish on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps an officer wants to pull over a slow car just to check the driver’s sobriety, but the act of slow driving had nothing to do with impeding traffic? Or if the officer suspects they are trailing a known criminal, and wanted an excuse to pull them over?
Allowing officers to ticket drivers for slow driving allows police a lot of discretion to stop drivers who are just being safe on the road. We recently had a client who was in this kind of situation. The officer pulled him over for, according to the cop’s report, “driving deliberately slow.” The officer ended up giving our client a Notice of Driving Prohibition, which we successfully challenged. The judge even pointed out that, as a Novice driver, our client may simply be driving cautiously.
In a case out of Revelstoke, police even testified to court that they pulled someone over for slow driving just to see if a suspect they were looking for was inside. The judge called the officer’s actions “misleading” and found the driver’s Charter rights were breached, since the officers did not notify the driver promptly of the reason reason he was being detained.
Pulled over for slow driving?
It is not surprising police will use everything at their disposal to investigate alleged offences. However, we do not believe the slow driving law should be abused as a reason to stop drivers, especially when the driver has done nothing other than drive at a safe speed. Allowing officers to stop drivers for slow driving as an excuse to investigate for other crimes should not be the intention of the slow driving law. If you have been pulled over for slow driving, and suspect police deliberately did so to investigate for other crimes, give us a call. We will review your case to determine if your rights had been breached.