When we think of “unsafe” drivers, we often think of fast drivers, weaving through traffic like they’re on their own personal race track. So you might be surprised to learn that slow driving can actually be … unsafe. Find out when it’s dangerous. And what to avoid.

1. Driving too slowly in the left lane

Did you know the left lane is actually for passing others on the freeway?

Yep. Which means if you’re enjoying your status as a “left lane bandit,” you’re actually holding up other cars. Remember that you aren’t in charge of singlehandedly slowing down the flow of traffic. Even if you think people should be driving a little slower. In fact, you might just get a ticket depending on where you live.

2. Not using a turnout

Headed out for a little R&R with your RV or boat? Good for you! But not everyone on the road wants to slow it down just because you’re struggling to accelerate while towing the extra weight. If you’re on a road with a single lane in each direction and you have at least 5 cars behind you (rules may vary by state), taking the turnout isn’t just courteous  it’s the law.

3. Being a merger vigilante (and, by the way, you’re probably wrong)

Believe it or not, those drivers cruising along, waiting until the last minute to merge in aren’t the road hogs you think they are. It’s called the “zipper method,” and it’s actually been proven to be one of the best ways to keep traffic flowing, cutting congestion by 40 percent in Minnesota.

Here’s how it works: you stay in your current lane and then when you come to the merge area, you alternate lane by lane to get everyone merged most efficiently. So if you’re slowing down to try to get into the correct lane waaaaaaaaay back there, or have slowed down to try to thwart Last-Minute Lou in the merge lane, you’re the one who’s not doing it right.

4. Driving distracted

Oh, yes, we see you fumbling around for a snack, turning up the radio, or handing a sippy cup to your toddler in the back seat. Any time you’re distracted by something inside your car, you often inadvertently slow down. It’s dangerous to slow down when you’re driving, and it’s dangerous to be distracted. Please just pull over and attend to your business.

Remember: slow driving CAN be safe driving too

There’s a “minimum” speed limit for a reason. Although of course you shouldn’t drive at the maximum posted speed limit if there’s a good reason not to — like if visibility’s limited. Or the road is wet, rough, or otherwise impaired. Or virtually any reason why a lower speed is necessary to drive safely. But if all conditions are good and you’re still traveling along at a snail’s pace, realize that your slow driving could be as unsafe as a speedster.

Wondering what other actions can help make you a safer driver? Check out our tips on safer driving and get information on accidents and claims.

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.