The Missouri Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill that
would ban large trucks from driving in the far left lane on most urban highways
and interstates in the state. It also would toughen the state’s seat belt law.
The legislation, sponsored by Senate Transportation
Committee Chairman Jon Dolan, would restrict commercial vehicles to the right
lanes of highways and interstates that have three or more lanes in each
Senators voted 29-1 on March 16 to forward the bill to the
House for further consideration. If approved by House lawmakers, the bill would
head to Gov. Matt Blunt.
Under the bill – SB221 – truckers caught in the left lane
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
“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 restrictions.
Another provision in the bill would permit police to pull over drivers solely for not wearing their seat belts. State law now allows motorists to be ticketed for failure to
buckle up only after being stopped for another traffic violation.
Dolan, R-Lake Saint Louis, said a primary seat-belt law is
important for safety and could bring the state millions of dollars in federal
“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.
Dr. Jeffrey Runge,
head of the NHTSA, told lawmakers earlier this year the federal government
plans to offer a $17 million, one-time incentive to each state that passes a
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