Alabama bills die; left-lane use, traffic cameras, probable cause unchanged

| 6/19/2008

Several bills of interest to the trucking industry drew consideration during the recently completed regular session in Alabama. Among the efforts that failed to gain passage was legislation to limit left-lane use, authorize red-light cameras in two cities, and give law enforcement officers more power to arrest people for misdemeanors.

One bill was intended to combat aggressive driving on multilane highways by keeping the far left lane clear of most traffic. Traffic would have been prohibited from lingering in the so-called passing lane.

Left-lane use would have been limited to vehicles passing or overtaking slower moving traffic. Violators would have received warnings for the first six months. After that, $25 fines would have been handed out. Offenses would not have counted against driving records.

The measure – HB106 – remained in a Senate committee when the session wrapped up. The House previously approved it.

At least 20 states have similar left lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Any efforts to add Alabama to the list must wait until the 2009 regular session.

A separate bill that must wait until next year sought to allow the cities of Tuscaloosa and Gadsden to install automated cameras at intersections for traffic control.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless who was driving at the time. The city of Montgomery, AL, already approved an ordinance to allow use of the enforcement tool.

The bill – HB24 – called for authorizing law enforcement in Tuscaloosa and Gadsden to issue $25 tickets for running red lights. Revenues would have stayed with the municipality. Offenses wouldn’t have counted against driving records or insurance rates.

Advocates said the bill is about safety and using technology in a helpful way. Opponents, including trucking industry officials, questioned the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe.

The bill advanced from committee to the House floor only to be “indefinitely postponed.” The status effectively killed the bill for the year.

One more bill that met the same fate sought to give law enforcement officers more power during roadside stops. The measure – HB35 – would have allowed officers during investigations of wrecks to arrest people for any misdemeanor traffic offense where there is probable cause.

Existing state law does not generally authorize an officer to arrest a person for a misdemeanor traffic offense that is not committed in the presence of the officer.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor