States consider lane-use, truck lane restrictions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/5/2013

Travelers who poke along in the far left lane of multilane highways will undergo scrutiny at multiple statehouses after the first of the year.

In South Carolina, Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Greenville, filed a bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session, which is intended to combat aggressive driving on the state’s major highways. The bill would prohibit drivers of all vehicles from lingering in the left lane of interstates.

Advocates say that people who stay in the left lane force others to pass them on the right, causing wrecks and frustration.

Putnam’s bill would specify that anyone driving in the left lane 5 mph below the posted speed limit would be in violation. Left-lane use would be permitted only for passing other vehicles.

Violators would have two points added to their drivers’ license.

The rule would not apply when there are no other vehicles in the left lane. Also, drivers would be exempt if they are in the left lane to turn or exit, or if traffic doesn’t allow them to merge back to the right.

Cellphone use while traveling in the far-left lane would also be forbidden. Fines would be $25.

In 2005, lawmakers approved a similar effort only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Mark Sanford. The governor cited the severity of penalties that called for a $150 fine with two points added to licenses.

The 2014 version, H4391, can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 7.

A Virginia law already prohibits very slow traffic in the left lane. Delegate Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, filed a bill for the upcoming session that would change the rule.

HB51 would prohibit driving below the posted speed in the left lane of any of the state’s interstates.

The bill will be sent to a committee for consideration during the session starting Jan. 8.

An Ohio bill already being considered at the statehouse would ban large trucks from using the far left lane on certain highways.

Current Ohio law requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

The House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee met recently to discuss a bill to mandate that large vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds stay in the two right-hand lanes on stretches of highway with three or more lanes in the same direction.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Gordon Johnson of Fredericktown, Ohio, and owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Scott Grenerth of Arlington, Ohio, testified on the bill.

Johnson told lawmakers that he uses the left lane while driving through congested areas to avoid traffic entering and exiting the roadway.

“If I run the right lane, I have cars coming on the highway in front of me doing 30. If I’m driving the middle lane, I have cars coming at me from both sides. They cut in front of me to get on or off the ramps,” Johnson told Land Line. “The left lane is the safest place to be.”

Grenerth brought attention to the state’s existing law on lane usage and questioned why new rules are sought instead of simply holding the Ohio Highway Patrol accountable for poor enforcement of the existing rule.

“Why are we encouraging more government involvement in our lives instead?” Grenerth asked committee members.

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