Governor McMaster signed into law S.C. Code Section 56-5-1885, which is now being called the “Slow Poke” law in South Carolina and became effective on August 15, 2021. The law states clearly that you may not drive a vehicle in the farthest left lane of a controlled access highway except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, with eight (8) listed exceptions as follows:
(1) when no other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle in the left lane;
(2) when traffic conditions and congestion make it impractical to drive in the right lane;
(3) when snow and other inclement weather conditions make it safer to drive in the left lane;
(4) when obstructions or hazards exist in the right lane;
(5) when, because of highway design, a vehicle must be driven in the left lane when preparing to exit;
(6) to law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, or other emergency vehicles engaged in official duties and vehicles engaged in highway maintenance and construction operations;
(7) when a driver of a tractor-trailer commercial motor vehicle combination is unable to move into the right lane safely due to another vehicle overtaking or passing his vehicle to the right; or
(8) when a driver of a vehicle requiring a commercial motor vehicle license to operate is unable to move into the right lane safely due to a highway grade or another vehicle overtaking or passing his vehicle on the right.
There are three (3) very important details in the law to know as a licensed driver in South Carolina.
- The first important thing to remember about the new “Slow Poke” law is that a violation of this law is a $25 fine and does not constitute a criminal offense. However, it is not a criminal offense, but just because you receive a ticket for violating this section does not necessarily mean you are guilty of the violation. The law provides drivers the right to challenge these tickets by either a trial by judge OR jury. And equally as important is the State has the burden of proof to prove you guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. Should you be convicted of a violation of this law, the statute provides that you can appeal that decision to the Court of Common Pleas. That sounds like a criminal offense but is specifically excluded as a criminal offense in the statute.
- The second important thing to know about this law is that a violation of the “Slow Poke” law cannot be used as evidence in a civil action against you. This becomes critically important if you are involved in a car accident while driving in the farthest left lane. The law clearly states that a violation of the Slow Poke law is not negligence per se, nor contributory negligence.
- The third important thing to know about this law is that Law Enforcement cannot use a violation as a basis to search your vehicle. In fact, law enforcement is not allowed to request consent to search a vehicle, the driver, or the passenger of a vehicle SOLELY because of a violation of Slow Poke Law. That is significant protection for the drivers of South Carolina.
The hope by enacting the Slow Poke law is that it will decrease the number of automobile accidents in South Carolina. The thought being that slow drivers in the left lane cause a danger to other drivers and can become a hazard on the road by causing or contributing to car wrecks. Currently, South Carolina ranks 31st in traffic congestion, but second in the United States for traffic fatalities. Will the Slow Poke law change any of these statistics?
If you have any questions about the Slow Poke law or are charged with a violation of the Slow Poke law, please contact our office at 864-225-9155.