Nebraska bill targeting left-lane laggards dies; truck lane ban still alive

| 2/8/2006

An effort in the Nebraska Unicameral to keep most drivers out of the left lane on the state’s multilane highways has died. Another bill that would restrict large trucks to the right, however, remains active.

The bill to prohibit all drivers from lingering in the passing lane has been rejected by senators in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The ban would have applied only if the speed limit were at least 65 mph.

Sponsored by Sen. Marian Heiss Price of Lincoln, the measure – LB909 – would have allowed trucks to drive in the left lane to pass vehicles in the right lane, make left turns, exit or if the volume of traffic made it impossible to safely merge back into the right lane.

Senators voted down the bill after several members, including the committee chairman, Sen. Tom Baker of Trenton, pointed out current state law seems to cover the issue.

Nebraska law already requires vehicles to drive in the far right-hand lane if they are traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic. Another law prohibits drivers from “intentionally impeding the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same speed while in the adjacent lane,” the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

A more limited lane-restriction bill is in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Sponsored by Sen. Carol Hudkins of Malcolm, the bill – LB816 – would prohibit big rigs, buses and other large vehicles from being driven in the far-left hand lane of highways with at least three lanes going in each direction.

The goal is to keep vehicles that cannot stop or start quickly out of that lane, Hudkins told the Journal Star.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said Hudkins’ thinking is flawed.

“Adopting lane restrictions would be an ill-advised step to take,” Spencer said. “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 simply discourage smart, safe driving practices.”

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor