UPDATED: Officials in 12 states focus on left lane use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/28/2018

Lane use is a constant area of focus from state to state. Legislators around the country continue to address the issue.

Less than one year after enacting a rule for left lane use, multiple Oklahoma state lawmakers are looking to revise the rule. Elected officials want to further discourage drivers from hanging out in the passing lane.

The Sooner State already limits left lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Since Nov. 1, state law specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing, preparing to turn left, or for safety measures.

The state has erected more than 200 signs notifying travelers “slower traffic keep right” and warning them not to “impede the left lane.”

Violators face $235 fines.

Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, is behind a bill to revise exiting law in an effort to prohibit large trucks accessing the far left lane.

HB3306 would limit truck traffic from the left lane on roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in one direction.

Exceptions would be made for moving left to accommodate merging traffic and preparing for a left turn.

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 government affairs, said truckers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.

Another bill from Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, would amend the 2017 law. His bill specifies that roadways within the city limits of a municipality would not be covered by the lane-use rule as long as such roadways are not part of the interstate highway system.

HB3290 would also add road conditions and weather conditions to the list of exceptions for left lane use.

Similarly, Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, has filed SB1025 to limit application of the 2017 law to interstates or turnpikes.

Multiple bills cover the fine amount – $235 – specified in the left lane law.

SB938 would limit fines to $20. The Department of Public Safety also would be prohibited from assessing points for violations.

SB1027 and SB1076 would also keep fines at $20.

Oklahoma is one of at least a dozen states so far this year to pursue action to change left lane rules.

State law specifies that vehicles traveling below the normal speed of traffic must stay to the right. One Senate bill, SB78, would go a step further to include a blanket requirement on roadways with at least two lanes of traffic for all vehicles, regardless of speed, to stay right except to pass.

Passing vehicles would be allowed 2 miles to complete the maneuver. Certain exceptions would apply.

Violators would face $250 fines – up from $100.

A separate House bill targets truck travel in the far left lane.

Sponsored by Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Scottsboro, HB4 would prohibit vehicles with three or more axles from driving in the left lane on the state’s interstates and U.S. highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction. The ban, with certain exceptions, also would apply along roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in the same direction.

“By restricting the movement of trucks to the right lane, they will inevitably block entrance and exit ramps and impede motorists from safely entering and exiting the roadway,” Matousek wrote in a letter to Hanes.

He said that lane restrictions create the “barrier effect,” which leads to dangerous merging and lane-changing conditions, more aggressive driving, reduced following distances, and ultimately an increase in the number of accidents.

Matousek added that the bill is redundant to the state’s existing keep right law.

The state House voted 35-22 to advance a bill that calls for getting the word out about the state’s keep right law. It now moves to the Senate.

Arizona law specifies that travelers driving slower than the speed of traffic must stay in the right lane except to pass. Offenders face fines up to $250.

HB2301 simply requires the Arizona Department of Transportation to erect signs on rural highways notifying the driving public of the state’s lane law.

The signs would be posted during regular maintenance of other highway signs. The deadline for posting signs is Sept. 1, 2021.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said signs already are posted on roadways that include Interstate 17 alerting truck drivers to left-lane restrictions.

“There’s been many times when I’ve gotten behind a semi who is passing another semi … that truck will be in the left lane for the next 3 miles,” Thorpe said during House floor discussion.

Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, said he is familiar with the signs.

“Those signs do exist. They don’t work,” he said.

Instead, Andrade urged more enforcement to make sure the rule is obeyed.

The bill awaits further consideration in two Senate committees.

Two bills at the statehouse address concerns about trucks driving in the left lane.

The first bill covers left-lane use and speed limits. Specifically, SB2118 would prohibit vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds from using the far left lane on highways with three or more lanes. Certain exceptions would apply.

The bill also would do away with uniform speeds. Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds would be limited to 55 mph – down from 60 mph.

A House bill focuses solely on left- lane use for roadways with at least two lanes of traffic. The truck lane restriction would likely not affect most professional drivers. Implementation of the restriction would be delayed until 2050.

In the meantime, the amended version of HB2440 is intended to “facilitate further discussion.”

As introduced, the Hawaii Department of Transportation opposes the bill. The agency cites concerns about a “blanket lane use restriction.”

“Although this kind of restriction has been utilized on various rural interstates in a few jurisdictions, implementing this restriction for all roadways having two or more lanes moving in the same direction is not appropriate,” according to prepared remarks from the agency.

HDOT added that studies have shown such rules lead to reduced speeds and increased delays for trucks resulting in an overall economic loss.

On the other hand, the Honolulu Police Department supports the legislation.

“Drivers of heavy trucks and larger vehicles create a hazard when they drive in the left lane,” testified Ryan Nishibun, major of the department’s traffic division.

The Idaho House voted 41-28 to advance a bill that attempts to keep vehicles out of the far-left-hand lane for “an unreasonable amount of time.” H471 awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

State law already prohibits impeding the “normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”

The bill covers impeding “the flow of other traffic traveling at a lawful rate of speed.”

Violators would face $90 citations.

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, said during House floor discussion the focus should be on eliminating the state’s car-truck speed limit differential.

A Senate bill covers left lane use on interstates or fully access-controlled freeways.

State law limits left-lane use for actions that include overtaking or passing another vehicle.

SB2820 would add an exception for instances when no other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle in the left lane.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

A House bill would impose left-lane restrictions on certain highways for professional drivers.

State law already requires vehicles traveling below the posted speed limit on any limited access highway with a posted speed limit of at least 65 mph to stay to the right. Exceptions are made for passing, yielding to traffic entering the highway, or when it is unsafe to use the right lane.

Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, has introduced a bill that would single out commercial vehicles. Specifically, his bill would prohibit vehicles weighing in excess of 44,000 pounds from driving in the left lane on highways with at least three lanes of traffic and posted with speed limits of at least 65 mph.

Exceptions would apply for entering or exiting a highway from the left, when necessary during construction, or when traffic conditions exist that would prohibit the safe use of the right or center lanes.

HB113 is in the House Transportation Committee.

One bill is intended to ease bottlenecks. HB965 would require drivers traveling on roadways with at least three lanes for traffic moving in one direction to use the left lane to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

The rule would apply only on roadways with speed limits of at least 55 mph.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing on March 1 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

A separate bill would apply solely to large trucks on the same roadways. HB1738 is in the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

Lane use for truck drivers and other highway users is among the topics of conversation at the statehouse.

The Magnolia State requires vehicles driving slower than the normal speed of traffic to stay in the right-hand lane of multilane highways. Vehicles are allowed to merge left to overtake and pass slower moving traffic.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to approve a bill to permit police to ticket travelers lingering in the far left lanes of multilane highways. House lawmakers already approved the bill on an 87-27 vote.

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.

Violators could face fines from $5 to $50.

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 bill awaits consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would head to the governor’s desk.

New Hampshire
Left-lane laggards also are the target of a bill in the New Hampshire statehouse.

State law specifies that anyone driving slower than the normal speed of traffic must stay in the right lane, except to pass or turn left.

Rep. Reed Panasiti, R-Amherst, is behind a bill to eliminate the speed language in the rule. Instead, HB1595 states that vehicles must travel in the right lane unless passing another vehicle.

The House Transportation Committee has voted to advance the bill.

One House bill singles out large trucks in the left lane.

HB2032 would create “commuter lanes zones” in congested areas. The intent is to restrict vehicles with more than two axles from accessing the left lane.

Violators would face $100 fines.

Zones would be a minimum of seven miles long. Municipalities would have the option of asking the Pennsylvania DOT to establish a commuter lanes zone within their limits.

“As any experienced driver knows, large trucks traveling in the left lane of highways can be both dangerous and an impediment to traffic flow,” wrote Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

South Carolina
A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee is intended to discourage drivers from hanging out in the far left lane of highways.

South Carolina law already 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 situations that include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Violators face fines up to $100.

Sponsored by Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, S809 would raise the fine for violators of the keep-right law.

Specifically, the fine for driving less than the speed of normal traffic in the passing lane of a multilane highway would increase by as much as $200. Warnings would be issued to violators for the first 90 days.

The South Carolina DOT would also be responsible for posting signage along interstates to alert travelers of the law.



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