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Criminal Offense of Impeding the Flow of Traffic


It is not uncommon for a state motor vehicle code to incorporate an individual chapter addressing the “rules of the road.” One such rule is the prohibition against impeding the flow of traffic.

Impeding traffic flow refers to driving at such a slow speed as to impede the normal or reasonable movement of traffic. This type of statutes is frequently referred to as “slow speed” statutes. The statute does not apply when the slow speed is necessary due to special conditions, such as ice, snow, or an emergency scene. The purpose for the statute is rooted in recognition that the slow driver may be the cause of fatal highway accidents as well as the fast driver. The impeding traffic statute is considered a penal statute, and for that reason, it is strictly construed in favor of the motorist. The prohibition against slow-moving traffic on a highway is not limited in its application only to situations where traffic is approaching from the opposite direction. Any slow-moving traffic which would result in hazard to life, limb, or property, regardless of whether the traffic it impedes approaches from the front or rear, or from both directions, is enjoined.

It is axiomatic that a motorist cannot impede the flow of traffic when there is no traffic to impede. Thus, if there is no evidence that a motorist was driving unusually slowly, there can be no conviction. Moreover, so long as the driver does not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic so as to create a clear danger, the law is not violated. For example, courts have found no offense where the speed was not significantly below the speed limit and no other cars were are on the road. Also, the slow speed statute does not apply unless it is shown that the vehicle had been out on the highway long enough to achieve the normal speed of the flow of traffic. There is authority that it is not intended for the statute to apply unless it is first shown that the vehicle was able to be going at the speed of the “normal” stream of traffic. An example of this is where a motorist enters a highway from an entrance lane.

In general, violation of the slow speed statute is a moving traffic violation, which may result in a traffic citation and fine. In addition to the fine, speed-related offenses are subject by law to several surcharges, fees, and cost assessments that make the actual amounts considerably higher. In some states, moving traffic violations carry points, and when you accumulate a certain number of points, the state begins imposing hard-line penalties such as suspension of driving privileges. In addition, your car insurance company will be notified, possible increasing your insurance premiums.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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