Officials in five states single out trucks, others in left lanes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/1/2016

State legislatures from coast to coast are discussing possible rule changes to left-lane use by truck drivers and motorists.

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.

The Tennessee House has voted to advance a bill to allow police to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes of interstates and highways with at least three lanes of traffic in one direction.

Dubbed the “slowpoke law,” HB1416 would require any driver on affected roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle.

Violators would face up to $50 fines. No points would be added to drivers’ licenses.

Certain exceptions would apply that include weather and merging traffic concerns.

Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, said he thinks it is a good idea for Tennessee to join the list of nearly 30 states that have rules in place covering slow traffic in the far left lane.

“I’ve discovered it is the weaving in and out of traffic trying to get around the slowpoke drivers that drives up accidents (in Tennessee) by 8 percent,” Howell testified.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation would not be required to post signage to alert drivers of the rule. Instead, they could use existing permanent electronic overhead displays on interstates to notify travelers of the rule.

According to TDOT, 393 miles of roadway in the state would be affected by the bill.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate.

Another effort to reduce road rage is being undertaken at the Washington statehouse. One of 29 states to already have in place rules on impeding traffic, Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, wants to up the ante for drivers who disobey the existing law covering multilane highways.

The Washington State Patrol says troopers noted nearly 14,000 “contacts” with violators statewide one year ago.

On top of the $136 fine for hanging out in the far left lane, SB6105 would add fines between $27 and $67 based on how slow drivers are traveling in the passing lane.

SB6105 awaits consideration on the Senate floor.

Concern about left lane use is also spurring activity in the Hawaii Legislature.
Dubbed the “lollygagging bill,” the measure targets drivers who impede traffic. Specifically, any drivers on multilane roadways would be required to move to the right if they are being overtaken by another vehicle, if they are driving below the posted speed, or if they have at least three vehicles following closely behind.

The House Transportation Committee voted to advance the bill, HB2746, after their decision to delay implementation until 2050.

In Alabama, one bill on the move would revise the state’s “keep right” law to apply to all drivers.

Currently, vehicles traveling below the posted speed limit are required to stay to the right. HB203 would change the rule to include a blanket requirement on interstates for all vehicles, regardless of speed, to stay right except to pass.

Certain exceptions would apply.

A South Carolina bill calls for the state Department of Transportation to erect signs along the state’s interstates to alert travelers that large trucks, and slower moving vehicles, must drive in the farthest right lane. Violators face $150 fines.

According to a fiscal impact estimate on H4970, the cost to post signs along highways would be $50,000.

Efforts were turned back in New Hampshire and Oklahoma that called for banning trucks from using the far left lane on highways with at least three lanes in one direction.

Current law in both states requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. The lane rule does not apply when preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws and while perhaps not intended, efforts to restrict trucks from certain lanes pose serious challenges for truckers and jeopardize the safety of the traveling public.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said that truckers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.

He added that existing keep-right laws in both states are an appropriate policy to ensure safety and maximize capacity.

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