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Motorists towing trailers need to stay in their lanes

Q. Honk, recently I was traveling north on the 57 Freeway, midday, in the fast lane at about 70 mph. I looked in my rearview and two 18-wheelers were behind me flashing their lights. I have always thought that 18-wheelers were not allowed in the far-left lane. Has the law changed?

— Gary McDaniel, San Clemente

A. Nope.

Vehicles with three or more axles – including any car or truck towing anything – must stay in the far-right lane on a freeway when there are three lanes going in the same direction.

An exception is when passing: Then, the car or truck can slide into the middle lane, explained Ian Hoey, an officer and spokesman for the California Highway Patrol up in its Sacramento headquarters.

On a freeway offering four or more lanes in one direction, those with three axles must always stay in the two far-right lanes.

When truckers and others towing a trailer count the lanes, to see where they can go, they cannot consider the carpool lane in their counts.

Now, if a motorist maneuvering three or more axles is approaching an interchange that it will take, officers will likely grant the driver slack, even letting him or her slide over perhaps a mile out.

After all, no one wants a lumbering tractor trailer, or a guy headed to the river lugging his Jet Ski behind his pickup, to be forced to make a hasty lane switch.

A fun fact from Officer Hoey: “A motorcycle towing a trailer would be subject to the same lane restrictions.”

Q. The headlights on many newer vehicles don’t seem to be aimed down and angled to the side as had always been the case previously. Is it because LED headlights aren’t able to be focused in a certain direction? The new headlights today are a true hazard!

— Dave Walters, Cypress

A. To unravel this mystery, Honk reached out to Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. He kindly asked Megan McKernan, head of its Automotive Research Center, and Dave Skaien, manager of its Approved Auto Repair program, for their expertise.

Neither had heard of such specifications for vehicles. Pointing headlines downward, even a smidgen, would reduce visibility down the road.

But, Dave, they said over the last couple of decades there have been headlight changes that might be in play with what you are seeing:

  • More vehicles now, with the infusion of SUVs and trucks, sit higher than sedans. “The center point of the headlight is higher and closer to the line of sight of motorists, who are seated in a ‘normal’-height passenger car,” Spring told Honk in an email.
  • Some newer cars carry headlight bulbs that burn hotter and “feel much brighter on your eye because the color of the light is whiter than (other) headlights,” Spring said. “The upside is they give the driver a better view of the road ahead.”
  • In the 1990s, some top-drawer vehicles started using high-intensity discharge headlights that can change the beam’s shape based on what is ahead, such as fog, and are brighter.
  • After-market bulbs and headlights, some of which are illegal, appear to be extra bright.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

Source: Orange County Register

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