While driving on the highway, you may have witnessed semi-truck drivers using the left lane, potentially preventing you from passing other vehicles. Although it is a relatively common occurrence, you may have wondered if it’s legal for them to do so.
Discover the Indiana laws and regulations concerning truck driving in the left lane, learn about the hazards and dangers they cause, and discover how a truck accident lawyer can help you if you are involved in a collision with a truck.
Indiana State Laws
Laws differ depending on the state. While many don’t specifically note trucks, each state highway has unique rules and regulations regarding the left lanes. Indiana state legislation clearly defines the rules regarding where commercial trucks can drive and whether a truck driver is legally allowed to use the left lane of a highway.
According to the Indiana Code, it is unlawful to drive a truck, trailer, or semi-trailer on any interstate highway on any lane except the right lane. Exceptions apply if:
- The driver is passing a slower vehicle.
- A “special hazard” requires the driver to use an alternate lane (e.g., a roadside accident).
- The driver is entering or exiting the highway.
Additionally, on highways with three lanes or more per direction, trucks may drive in the two rightmost lanes. For example, a commercial truck driver may use the center and right lanes on a 3-lane highway.
What Are the Dangers of Trucks in the Left Lane?
Although there are a few legally defined situations in which truck drivers can drive in the left lane in Indiana, truck drivers that continuously remain in the left lane or frequently change lanes can create hazardous situations for other road users.
Vehicle Speed and Traffic Flow
Semi-trucks are significantly larger and heavier than typical passenger vehicles, which affects their speed and acceleration rates. Generally, trucks are slower and cannot adjust their speed as easily as a car, nor can they reach the same top speeds.
If a truck uses the left lane for extended periods, they risk disturbing traffic, forcing cars behind them to brake or slow down, and increasing the risk of crashes due to sudden speed changes.
Truck drivers must carefully consider when changing lanes is appropriate and maintain awareness of their surroundings at all times. However, trailer trucks possess multiple blind spots:
- Front blind spot: Approximately 2 to 3 feet ahead, between the road surface and the front window.
- Rear blind spot: About 30 feet directly behind the trailer.
- Driver-side blind spot: Approximately one car length, starting from the side mirror.
- Passenger-side blind spot: Approximately 1.5 car lengths, starting from the side mirror. The length of this blind spot can increase up to 3 car lengths if there are multiple lanes to the right of the truck.
A truck driver in the left lane cannot safely see cars on the right–or passenger–side of their truck because of the massive blind spot. This makes them liable for crashes if they are in the left lane and hit another vehicle while changing lanes.
Assuming roughly equivalent braking power, the heavier the vehicle, the longer the stopping distances needed to come from a given speed to a complete stop. A fully laden commercial truck with a trailer and cargo can reach up to 80,000 lbs. In contrast, the average passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. depending on the age and class.
Consequently, trucks require a much longer braking distance and need more time and space to react to changing road conditions, even when traveling at the same speed as passenger cars. If a large truck drives faster than the speed limit, this significantly increases braking time and distance, possibly leading to deadly crashes.
The left lane is intended for passing, with a higher average vehicle speed than the right lane. Truck drivers who stay in the left lane or constantly switch lanes jeopardize their ability to brake in time and avoid road hazards, significantly increasing the chances of a crash.
What Penalties Do Truck Drivers Face?
Truck drivers who remain in the left lane for excessive periods or switch lanes unsafely create dangerous situations for other drivers; they may also be breaking state laws.
Violating the Indiana Code is a Class C infraction punishable by a fine of up to $500. If the violation resulted in bodily injury, it is a Class A infraction instead, punishable by up to $10,000.
In all cases, the penalties will be recorded, and the truck driver may also face license suspension, loss of CDL certification, and other administrative penalties.
Contact Wagner Reese’s Team of Truck Accident Lawyers Today
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a truck accident in Indiana, you need qualified, experienced legal representation. The attorneys at Wagner Reese are committed to fighting on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.