Few things are likely to make your average driver more frustrated than a middle lane hogger. But what does the law say? And what’s the right way to deal with it?
You’re eating up the miles in your rental car or van. The road is flowing freely and all is right with the world. And then the middle lane hogger comes into view. They’re doing a cruise controlled 70mph (exactly). The inside lane is clear, but the outside lane is busy. What do you do?
First things first…
Is middle lane hogging illegal?
Yes, middle lane hogging is illegal. It’s not an offence in its own right, but like tailgating or driving while distracted, it is one of a number of types of driving classed as ‘careless’. Get caught and police can hand you a fine of £100 and 3 points on your licence. It’s worth noting that if you’re spotted and fined remotely, it won’t matter that you were driving a rental vehicle – the fine and points will still end up at your door.
Of course, not every foray into the middle or outside lane can be classed as hogging. Part 264 of the Highway Code says: “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.”
So providing you do that, it’s not hogging. Nor will it be considered hogging if you’ve moved over as you’re approaching a slipway, getting out of the way of emergency or broken down vehicles on the hard shoulder, or if you’re overtaking a stream of traffic. In fact, it’s considered more dangerous to weave in and out.
Is middle lane hogging getting worse?
According to a recent survey by the AA & Populus “half of drivers think middle lane hogging (49%) and overtaking on the left/inside (50%) are getting worse.” That may be a result of fewer fixed penalty notices (FPNs) being issued for the offence by police. As the AA notes, 16,800 FPNs were issued in 2016, but that fell to 15,400 in 2017 (the most recent stats available).
So if fewer people are being fined for it, and many feel the problem is getting worse, what can you do about it?
Can you undertake a middle lane hogger?
The simple answer is no. No matter how clear the inside lane and no matter how congested the outer, if your hire car or rental van is stuck behind a middle lane hogger that’s keeping up with traffic, then you should overtake on the right/outside.
There are exceptions. Undertaking is permissible when traffic is moving slowly, when you are instructed to ‘stay in lane’ or when lanes are moving at roughly the same speed and weaving in and out would be more dangerous.
Other no-no’s include sounding your horn, flashing your lights or tailgating, all of which could also be classed as careless driving.
So if your rental vehicle does come up against a middle lane hogger, overtake on the right. And then, one the manoeuvre is complete, move back across and show them what the left lane is for.