State laws and personal opinions come into play when answering the following questions: Are RVs allowed in HOV Lanes? What about left lanes? Which is the best lane for RVs?…
A recent post in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group on this topic garnered over 600 comments. A married RVing couple couldn't agree on which lane to drive in, so they turned to the community to settle their argument.
“My hubby and I are having a heated discussion!!! What line to use when on the highway?? I said the middle line because I avoid cars merging in and out. He said if you're going 60 and below stay in the right line. Who's right or are we both wrong!!! #rvliving.”
The responses turned into a heated discussion of their own!
Some people cited state laws, and others shared their experiences and opinions. I'm going to share some of the most common responses, as well as provide helpful information on the subject.
Let's first establish the names of each lane since they are different in different parts of the country…
What Are the Different Lanes on a Highway?
There are HOV lanes, toll lanes, express lanes, carpool lanes, right, left, middle, slow, and fast lanes! And yes, some of those are the same thing. Let's break it down:
- HOV Lanes: High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, AKA carpool lanes
- Toll Lanes: Lanes you have to pay a toll to use, AKA express lanes
- Slow Lane: the furthest right lane, AKA the right lane
- Fast Lane: typically the furthest left lane unless there is an HOV or toll lane, AKA as the left lane or passing lane
- Middle Lane: the center lane or any lanes in between the slow lane and fast lane if there are 4+ lanes
Some of the lanes have clear-cut lane rules. For instance, HOV rules require a certain number of passengers in the car, and toll lanes require payment. Posted signs outline the requirements of each, which sometimes change depending on the time of day.
FUN FACT: Some states and counties permit single occupants to drive in the high occupancy vehicle lane if they drive hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles.
However, there is confusion about the remaining lanes as some laws vary by state. There is also the argument of the law vs. common practice, which we'll get into shortly.
First, let's take a look at the basic laws.
Are RVs Allowed in HOV Lanes?
It depends on the state. Some states allow RVs as long as they have the required number of passengers. In other states, the RV has to travel at the posted speed limits and cannot be towing anything. Still, others do not allow any RVs in HOV lanes.
It's best to search directly for carpool rules in the state you're traveling in. From the best I can tell, however, the following states DO NOT allow any RVs in HOV lanes:
Should RVs Go In HOV Lanes?
Whether or not it is legal, some question whether RVs should drive in HOV lanes. The consensus comes down to the size of the RV and the speed it's traveling.
HOV lanes promote carpooling to reduce traffic and improve environmental friendliness. As such, it's meant to be a sort of expressway to bypass heavy traffic from solo drivers. Thus, if you're holding up traffic in the carpool lane, you're defeating the point.
Thus, many people agree that you should not use HOV lanes in an RV that cannot (or a driver that does not) go the posted speed limit. Even if it abides by the law, it can upset other drivers and/or cause them to pass you more frequently, which can put your safety more at risk.
Can RVs Use the Fast Lane?
Again, this depends on the state. However, this depends mostly on how fast you can safely drive your RV. For example, in most cases, towable trailers can't exceed 55-65 mph.
Most speed limits on freeways range from 55-80 mph limit. So, travel trailers or Class A motorhomes with a set 55-65 mph speed limit are restricted to the other lanes by default.
It's important to note that the “fast lane” is not actually the original term for the left lane. While many people call it the fast lane, it is technically the passing lane. According to driver's education, this lane is meant to be used only for passing.
But that's where law vs. common practice come into play…
Technically, through-traffic is not supposed to use the far left lane. This lane is only meant to be used just long enough to pass vehicles that are going slower than the posted speed limit. However, it doesn't always work that way in practice.
For instance, during rush hour or peak travel times, all lanes get crammed with cars.
Plus, many drivers in different states simply don't acknowledge it as a passing lane but as a fast lane. Legal or not, it affects the driving culture, especially in highly populated states.
Californians, for instance, rarely refer to it as a passing lane. Their high-traffic driving culture leads them to use the “fast lane” more liberally. It's even unusual for law enforcement to pull people over in California for staying in the “passing lane” for longer than passing.
So, Which Lane Is Best for RVs?
In most cases, HOV and fast lanes are not best for RVs. The main exceptions would be small motorhomes or campervans that can keep up with traffic flow easily. So, that leaves the middle lane(s) or the right lane.
Since legal lane restrictions and opinions vary so much, I will share what real RVers said in the comments regarding the Facebook post mentioned earlier.
Reading through the comments, Brenda summed up what most people said nicely:
“Left lane passing, middle lane traveling, right lane merging exiting. If there is no middle, you pass in the left lane & travel in the right lane.”
I think a truck driver also shared some valuable advice as far as dealing with a lot of traffic merging onto the freeway. Robinwood said:
“As a truck driver here's my advice… when outside of city limits, stay in the right lane. When you are IN city limits, the middle lane is fine.”
Many people pointed out that it is the merging car's responsibility to speed up or slow down when entering a freeway. However, many people pointed out that “supposed to” and “actually do” are two very different things.
In reality, vehicles in the slow lane often have to react to merging vehicles that aren't merging properly. Huge semi trucks can stand their ground, but that's not necessarily true (or safe!) for RVers!
Professional Advice on Which Lane to Choose
Another FB member, Annegreth, shared some advice she found on DriversEd.com as follows:
“Many roads have two or more lanes going in your direction. Drive in the lane that has the smoothest flow of traffic and is less congested.
If there are only two lanes going in your direction, pick the right lane for the smoothest driving. Don't weave.
If you can choose among three lanes on your side of the road, pick the middle lane for the smoothest driving. Use the left lane to go faster, pass, or turn left. Use the right lane to drive slowly, enter, or turn off the road.
Position your vehicle to keep up with the traffic flow. If other drivers are going faster than the speed limit, slow down and move to the right. You should never exceed the legal speed limit.
Don't drive in the blind spot of another driver or drive in bunches. Try to keep other vehicles out of your blind spots.”
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