Tennessee bill to limit left-lane use dies

| 6/24/2008

A bill that has died in the Tennessee Senate was intended to keep most traffic out of the left lane on the state’s multilane highways.

Tennessee law now mandates that vehicles traveling slower than 55 mph on interstates and four-lane controlled-access highways stay out of the far left lane. Trucks also are restricted to right lanes on designated areas of highways with three or more lanes in each direction where signage is posted. The only exception is for passing slower vehicles – one at a time.

In an effort to further limit how many vehicles are in the left lane on multilane roadways, Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, offered a bill to require car and truck drivers to stay to the right.

Vehicles still would have been allowed to use the left lane to pass or overtake slower moving vehicles or when traffic flow requires it. Making room for emergency vehicles parked along the roadside also would have been allowed.

At least 20 states have similar left lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Burchett’s bill – SB3816 – remained in a Senate committee when the regular session ended, effectively killing it for the year.

Another bill in the Senate that met the same fate was intended to make it clearer that trucks need to stay to the right on stretches of highway where they are restricted to right lanes. Sponsored by Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, the bill – SB2701 – sought to authorize the Tennessee Department of Transportation to paint a portion of affected roadways with the word “TRUCKS.” Arrows pointing to the right also would have been painted on the pavement.

Priority would have been given to segments of highways with steep climbs, limited visibility due to weather conditions, or other areas deemed appropriate.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor