Left-lane regulations clash on Florida turnpike

| Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Driving in the left lane on Florida’s Turnpike in Miami-Dade County could cost truckers a hefty fine. Unfortunately, turnpike officials and state officials can’t agree on how “hefty” that fine should be.

On April 25, turnpike officials passed a new regulation that prohibits commercial vehicles from driving in the far-left lane – with the exception of passing and avoiding accidents – on the six-lane, 27-mile stretch of road between Interstate 75, at Exit 39, and Caribbean Boulevard, at Exit 12. Violators will be fined up to $115.50 and have three points added to their drivers licenses.

The regulation contradicts legislation currently waiting to be signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. The bills, S732 and HB157, collectively known as the “Road Rage Reduction Act,” restrict all vehicles – not just trucks – from driving in the left lane. If the governor passes the bills into law, violators will receive up to a $60 fine and four points added to their licenses – a stark difference from the fines issued by the turnpike’s regulation.

For example, if the law passes, a trucker who is pulled over on that section of the turnpike could face a fine ranging anywhere between $60 an $115, with a varying number of points added to his or her license, while a passenger vehicle would face a maximum fine of $60.

Sonyha Rodriguez-Miller of Florida’s Turnpike Operation Center said she was aware of the state legislation, but was not familiar with the specifics of the law’s attached fines.

“This program that we’re putting in place is kind of like a pilot program,” Rodriguez-Miller said. “It’s something that we will evaluate in six months to a year. But if this bill passes, we’ll have to re-evaluate and see if it’s redundant or not, but it’s too early to tell.”

Officials with the Florida Highway Patrol said they are uncertain as to which law would prevail. Maj. Ernesto Duarte, Chief of Public Affairs for the patrol, said his organization would have to wait until the bill was signed to make any decision regarding fines, but policies in other traffic violations might set a precedent in how the Highway Patrol would handle such violations.

“We do actually have statutes in the book that sort of regulate the behavior, but basically, it falls on the discretion of the officer,” Duarte said. “He or she would have to determine the best possible charge for the violation.”

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