Anniversary of Illinois left-lane law seen as positive in trucking industry

| 1/11/2006

Although most left-lane laws will make truckers shake their heads in disgust, a relatively new law in Illinois has some in the trucking industry nodding in agreement.

Earlier this week, the Illinois State Police released a report showing the number of tickets issued since the state’s left-lane law went into effect Jan. 1, 2004. According to the report, 170 citations – each of which carries a fine of $75 – and more than 2,500 warnings were given to drivers who violated the law.

Unlike other left-lane laws – which often place restrictions only on trucks, or require drivers to always operate in the right lane at all times – Illinois ’ statute allows all motorists to drive in both lanes. A possible violation only comes into play if drivers in the left lane do not move into the right lane when a vehicle behind them is trying to pass.

Rick Hector, a spokesman for the patrol, told The Quad-City Times the law is more of an educational effort than a ticket and revenue generator.

“We have been teaching this for years in our defensive-driving class,” Hector said.

He added that the law does not excuse vehicles from speeding, and that the patrol is still strictly enforcing speed limits in all lanes.

While the trucking industry has traditionally opposed lane restrictions, Todd Spencer, executive vice president for OOIDA, said Illinois ’ law is an example of how common sense in lawmaking can make the roads safer for everyone.

“The whole idea, in most instances of people trying to force trucks to operate in the right lane, is so they can operate in the left lane at faster speeds, and that messes things up,” Spencer said.

“Traffic should engage in a predictable manner, and one of those ways is that people understand that you pass on the left, and drivers maintain an awareness of the road and other traffic. When another vehicle is moving faster, you move over to accommodate.”

Spencer compared the law to common-sense lane practices on roads in other countries – such as Germany ’s Autobahn – where blocking the fast lane is often considered a more serious offense than speeding. He also said that any program that emphasizes education over enforcement, such as Illinois ’, would have a more positive outcome.

“As opposed to enforcement, it’s based on people actually being able to drive their vehicles safely,” he said. “They’re respecting others on the road, and focusing on what they’re doing – using safe driving skills.”

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer