Lane use for truck drivers and other Mississippi highway users is among the topics of conversation at the statehouse.
Since 1972, Mississippi law has required drivers of vehicles going slower than the normal speed of traffic to be in the right-hand lane of multilane highways. Vehicles are allowed to merge left to overtake and pass slower moving traffic.
Three bills in the House Transportation Committee address lane use.
The first bill is a renewed effort to permit police to ticket travelers lingering in the far left lanes of multilane highways.
Sponsored by Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, HB80 would expand the state’s rule to require travelers on multilane roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle. Also, drivers would be exempt if they are in the left lane to turn or exit.
Supporters, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.
Busby introduced the same bill during the 2017 regular session. The House approved the bill but it never made it to the Senate floor for passage to the governor’s desk.
Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point, has introduced another bill that covers travelers who poke around in the far left-hand lane of multilane highways. His bill, HB565, would permit police to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes when the person “knows, or should know, that another vehicle is overtaking from the rear.”
Certain exceptions would apply, including during times of congestion and when inclement weather conditions make travel in other lanes impractical.
A separate provision covers instances when a vehicle is driving at a rate of speed that three or more vehicles are blocked and cannot pass on the left. Affected drivers on roads with two lanes or a three-lane road with a center lane would be required to pull off to the right of the right lane “at the earliest reasonable opportunity” to allow the blocked vehicles to pass.
One more bill singles out truck traffic traveling in the Jackson area.
Sponsored by Rep. Randall Patterson, R-Biloxi, HB193 states that commercial vehicles must operate in the right-hand lane on a 7-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 49 in Rankin County. Specifically, trucks would face lane restrictions from Eagle Post Road in Florence to Kroger Drive in Richland.
OOIDA is opposed to restricting trucks from any lanes of traffic. The Association says that truckers are first-hand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of government affairs, said by restricting the movement of trucks to the center and right lanes, trucks will inevitably block entrance and exit ramps and impede motorists from safely entering and exiting the roadway.
“The right lane is used for merging traffic, and it is certainly not feasible to keep all trucks in the center lane,” he said.
OOIDA is on record at the Mississippi statehouse that the effort is redundant to the state’s existing “keep right” law. Matousek adds that lane restrictions create the “barrier effect,” which results in decreased safety by creating dangerous merging and lane-changing conditions, more aggressive driving, and ultimately an increase in the number of accidents.
In addition, he says that truck drivers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.
“If the left-hand lane is open, commercial trucks should be free to use it and be held to the same standard as every other motorist.”
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