Lane restriction bill awaits Missouri Senate vote

| 3/8/2005

The Missouri Senate is expected to vote this week on a bill to ban large trucks from driving in the far left lane on most urban highways and interstates in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jon Dolan, would restrict commercial vehicles to the right lanes of highways and interstates with three or more lanes in each direction.

Trucks would be permitted to merge left in certain situations, such as a vehicle entering the roadway.

Under the bill – SB221 – violators could be subject to a fine ranging from $200 to $300.

The Grain Valley, MO-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

“Adopting lane restrictions would be an ill-advised step to take,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Such restrictions invariably cause more problems than they fix.

“Trucks and other vehicles need to be able to move over a lane when necessary. It’s common courtesy, but this is also about highway safety.

“When you start restricting vehicles to certain lanes you end up with more vehicles tailgating and making unsafe passing maneuvers in all lanes. This isn’t good for congestion or highway safety.”

“Lane restrictions that discourage smart, safe driving practices are just absurd.”

Spencer pointed out that Missouri law already requires slower moving vehicles to move to the right for faster moving vehicles.

“This law applies to both cars and trucks, but there is little to no signage throughout the state informing drivers,” he said.

“Drivers will tend to comply with policies and procedures they know are in effect. Without appropriate signage, how in the world could any lawmaker think drivers are going to instinctively know about state policy?”

The association, representing more than 6,000 Missouri-based truck drivers, has encouraged its members to voice their opinion to lawmakers about the lane ban.

A provision recently added to the bill would permit police to pull over drivers for not wearing their seat belts. Violators would be fined $10, the same amount as current state law.

Dolan, R-Lake Saint Louis, said a primary seat-belt law was important for safety and could bring the state millions of dollars in federal incentive money.

State law now allows motorists to be ticketed for failure to buckle up only after being stopped for another traffic violation.

“Seat belts will pass this year, or many (other) bills will die,” Dolan recently told his fellow lawmakers.

“It’s just something that we have to do.”

While supporters of a primary seat-belt law sometimes point to federal money the state would lose for failing to scrap its secondary law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says no direct grant funds are doled out for having a primary law.

However, there could be a financial perk for Missouri to strengthen its law.

Jeffrey Runge, head of the NHTSA, said recently the federal government plans to offer a $17 million, one-time incentive to each state that passes a primary law.

Missouri is one of 28 states without the stricter provision. Twenty-one states allow police to pull over drivers solely for not wearing their seat belts. New Hampshire is the only state without a mandatory seat-belt law.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor