UPDATE: Officials in 11 states focus on left lane use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/12/2019

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

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.

New Mexico

One bill halfway through the statehouse would limit trucks to the far right-hand lane on all interstate highways.

The Senate voted 26-11 to advance the bill to the House for further consideration.

SB359 would apply the lane restriction to highways with more than two lanes of traffic in one direction. An exception to the rule would be made for passing another vehicle.

Also included in the bill is a provision to slow trucks from 75 mph to 65 mph on affected roadways. The change would create a 10-mph differential between the posted speed for cars and trucks.

The bill has moved to the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

Connecticut

Two bills in the Joint Committee on Transportation are intended to keep clear the far left lane of the state’s busiest highways.

Connecticut 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.

Sponsored by Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Stafford, HB5061 would further limit left lane use for motorists and truck drivers. Specifically, the bill would prohibit staying in the far left lane on any state highway.

Exceptions listed under current law would continue to apply.

A similar House version is HB5557.

Delaware

In nearby Delaware a rule already exists to prohibit driving in the left lane below the posted speed.

Noting that slower traffic in the passing lane continues to generate complaints, a Senate measure to pass both statehouse chambers requests the State Police and state Department of Transportation look into the issue of slower traffic in the left lane. Senate Concurrent Resolution 7 requests the agencies to offer recommendations to address the issue.

Recommendations could include additional restrictions on left lane use and additional or different signage.

Senators voted unanimously to advance the resolution to the House where it awaits final approval.

Iowa

Left lane use has the attention of multiple Iowa state legislators.

State law already mandates slower traffic to stay to the right.

The Senate Transportation Committee has voted to advance a bill that targets drivers who hang out in the left lane. Specifically, SF389 would specify that drivers who “reasonably should know” another vehicle is attempting to overtake the vehicle would face escalating fines for failure to merge right.

Simply failing to move right could result in a $100 fine. If inaction results in serious injury, violators would face $500 fines and/or a 90-day driving suspension. Incidents that result in death could carry a $1,000 fine and/or loss of driving privileges for 180 days.

SF389 awaits additional consideration in the Senate.

The bill has two House versions – HF74 and HF481.

Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, has said the left-lane rule change would benefit professional drivers. He says he has experienced drivers of all vehicle types create a rolling roadblock by not making their pass and getting back into the right lane in a reasonable amount of time.

Minnesota

Across the state line in Minnesota, one bill would penalize slowpokes in the far left-hand lane of highways.

Minnesota law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Violators faces $50 fines.

Sponsored by Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, SF620 would set the fine at a minimum of $100.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Finance Policy Committee. The House version, HF1210, is in the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division Committee.

Maryland

One effort underway in the House is intended to ease bottlenecks.

State law already requires any vehicle driving at least 10 mph below the posted speed to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule would include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

HB984 would require drivers traveling on roadways with at least three lanes for traffic moving in the same direction to use the left lane only for overtaking and passing another vehicle. The rule would apply only on roadways with speed limits of at least 55 mph.

Citations could not be issued until Oct. 1, 2021. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Transportation would be responsible for posting signage on state highways alerting travelers to the rule.

The bill is in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Massachusetts

A bill in the Joint Committee on Transportation is intended to avoid potential road hazards caused by vehicles traveling on a spare tire.

Sponsored by Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, H3056 would prohibit vehicles operating on a spare tire from driving in the passing lane.

South Carolina

A state lawmaker is trying again to further discourage slowpokes hanging out in the far left-hand 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 of up to $100.

Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, does not believe the deterrent is enough to discourage the behavior. He has introduced legislation that 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 multi-lane highway would increase to as much as $200. Warnings would be issued to violators for the first 90 days.

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

This year’s version, S200, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Oklahoma

The Senate Public Safety Committee voted 11-1 to advance a bill that attempts to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

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

Sponsored by Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, SB640 would revise wording to specify that vehicles would be in violation of the law if impeding the flow traffic.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate.

Elsewhere, legislation to address left lane use has already fallen short of passage.

Mississippi

A Senate-approved bill has died that covered travelers who poke around in the far left-hand lane of multilane highways.

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.

Senate lawmakers approved the bill to permit police to ticket drivers solely for continuous operation in the left lane with it impedes the flow of traffic. House lawmakers, however, failed to advance SB2383 before a deadline. The chamber’s inaction effectively killed the bill for the year.

Arizona

The House Transportation Committee voted to kill a bill to require signage to be posted to alert travelers about the state’s left lane rule.

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.

HB2535 would require the Arizona Department of Transportation to erect signs every 50 miles on rural highways notifying the driving public of the state’s lane law.

The signage would be posted during regular maintenance of other highway signs. The deadline for posting signage is Sept. 1, 2022.

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

The price tag to post signage was estimated at $200,000.