When I’m towing my boat or travel trailer, is it legal for me to be in the left lane on the freeway?

February 28, 2021 by PEMCO Insurance

Generally, no, unless you're exiting on the left or using an HOV lane, which isn't considered the left lane. Washington and Oregon law spell out the restrictions, which vary slightly between the states. For example, Washington specifies freeways with three lanes moving in one direction (with specific stretches of road exempted), while Oregon specifies freeways with two lanes in one direction (with no roadways exempted).GettyImages-172365589.jpgMost trailer manufacturers recommend top towing speeds of no more than 55 miles per hour (rarely fast enough to use the left passing lane). Some other safe-towing tips:

  • When shopping for a tow vehicle, look for tow/haul packages that include the proper hitch, trailer brakes, larger mirrors and an updated cooling system to keep your engine from overheating.
  • Watch for excessive shifting. With the added weight of towing, an automatic transmission shifts more often than it usually does. That creates heat that can lead to a breakdown. Unlike your engine, your transmission probably doesn't have a heat gauge on your dashboard display. Check your transmission fluid levels often and change fluid as scheduled. You might also ask your mechanic for recommendations about installing an external transmission cooling system or a deeper pan, which can accommodate more fluid.
  • Fill your gas tank before you hitch up the trailer and keep an eye on the gauge. You burn more fuel when towing.
  • Plan routes to avoid dense city traffic and steep hills.
  • Brake early and gently – you have more weight to stop.
  • If your trailer starts to fishtail, ease up on the gas, but don't hit the brakes, which could result in a further loss of control.

NOTE: While we're experts in loss prevention and home/auto safety, we don't consider ourselves experts in traffic laws or their enforcement. Information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have legal concerns, we urge you to contact a law enforcement source or attorney in your community.

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