Slowpoke bill: States consider changes to lane-use rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/14/2014

Travelers who poke around in the far left lane of multilane highways are under scrutiny at multiple statehouses.

In Georgia, state lawmakers voted to send a bill to Gov. Nathan Deal that would allow police to ticket people driving slowly in the far left lanes on interstates and highways.

Dubbed the “slowpoke bill,” it would require any driver on multilane roadways to move to the right if they are being overtaken by another vehicle. Drivers traveling the speed limit would also be required to yield to vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit.

Violators would face up to $1,000 fines.

Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, said the requirement to move to the right would help reduce traffic in the far left lane and also reduce incidents of road rage.

“This is the good manners your mama should have taught you,” Hitchens told House lawmakers during recent discussion on the bill.

The House approved HB459 on a 162-9 vote. Senators later approved it on a 42-5 vote.

Across the state line in South Carolina, a House bill would prohibit drivers of all vehicles from lingering in the left lane of interstates.

Sponsored by Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Greenville, the bill specifies that anyone driving in the left lane 5 mph below the posted speed limit would be in violation. Left-lane use would only be permitted 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.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

H4391 is in the House Education and Public Works Committee.

Left lane use is also getting attention at the Wisconsin statehouse. Assembly lawmakers voted to advance a bill to the Senate that would get rid of a requirement in state law for passing drivers to alert vehicles ahead.

Wisconsin law now requires drivers impeding traffic to make way and move to the right for overtaking vehicles when they hear an “audible signal” that he or she intends to pass.

Sponsored by Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, the bill would remove the requirement for passing vehicles to give an audible signal, such as honking the horn, to warn the vehicle ahead that they are being overtaken.

Once viewed as a courtesy, Tom Rhatican with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation told committee members that honking the horn at another driver is no longer viewed the same.

“The honking requirement has been interpreted by other drivers to be an aggressive, or anti-social, behavior,” Rhatican said. “We want to eliminate it.”

HB459 is awaiting consideration on the House floor. If approved there, it would move to the governor’s desk.

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