Commercial trucks are responsible for thousands of serious injuries and deaths every year. In an effort to control the safety of the commercial trucking industry and protect the public, several states have enacted laws prohibiting semi-trucks from driving in the left lane or “fast lane.” When commercial truck drivers break these rules, they can cause dangerous and deadly truck accidents. However, New Mexico has yet to pass this type of law.
What Are the Dangers of Large Trucks in the Left Lane?
The far left lane of a freeway that is separated into two or more lanes is reserved for faster-moving traffic. It is meant to be a passing lane, meaning drivers should only enter it to pass slower-moving vehicles in other lanes. The nature of the left-hand lane on a freeway can make it dangerous for large trucks to remain there for any period of time.
In New Mexico, the maximum speed that a large truck can travel is 75 miles per hour on a freeway. While this is the maximum speed limit posted on rural interstates anyway, large trucks often cannot – and should not for safety reasons – travel as fast as smaller cars. A large truck in the left lane could slow down traffic in that lane, potentially causing traffic congestion and increasing the risk of frustrated drivers.
Keeping trucks out of the left lane gives other drivers more room to maneuver at a safe distance away from commercial trucks. This can keep them out of a truck’s blind spot and potentially prevent lane-change accidents. Safely sharing the road with tractor-trailers can be made easier when they avoid the left lane. However, large trucks are currently allowed to drive in the left lane in New Mexico.
New Truck Lane-Keeping Bill Submitted in 2023
A bill to keep commercial trucks out of the left lane was passed in February 2022 but was vetoed later that year. This bill – Senate Bill 174 – would have required all trucks with tractors operated on interstate freeway systems to drive in the right-hand lane except when passing another vehicle or approaching an authorized emergency or repair vehicle displaying its hazard lights. The penalty for leaving the right-hand lane in any other circumstance would have been a fine of $200.
Although SB 174 was vetoed, lawmakers have not given up on restricting large truck access to the left lane in New Mexico. In February of 2023, one year after SB 174 was originally passed, Senator George Muñoz submitted Senate Bill 102. This bill is similar to SB 174 in that it would require semi-trucks to stay in the right lane on any freeway with two or more lanes, subject to a $250 fine for noncompliance. This time, however, Muñoz says he has the statistics he needs to get the bill to pass – such as 384 fatal accidents that happened on I-40 in one year alone.
Use Caution Near Large Trucks in the Left Lane
If you find yourself driving next to or behind a large truck in the left lane in New Mexico, take certain steps to keep yourself safe. First, avoid hovering in the truck’s blind spots. If you are traveling to the right of the truck, stay either far enough ahead or behind the truck to ensure you are not in a blind spot. Remember, if you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s rearview mirror, the truck driver cannot see you.
If you are forced to pass a large truck using the middle or right-hand lane of a freeway, do so as carefully and quickly as you can. Make sure you have plenty of room (at least 30 feet) to the front of the truck before getting in front of it. If you are traveling behind a large truck in the left lane, make sure you maintain a safe following distance so that you have time to react if the truck comes to a sudden stop.