Bill would clear Florida's left lanes

| 4/4/2006

A Florida Senate panel has approved a bill intended to keep most drivers out of Florida’s fast lanes. This is the second year in a row the effort has been considered in the state.

The Florida Legislature approved a bill last year intended to combat aggressive driving on the state’s multilane highways by reducing the number of drivers in the far left-hand lane. But Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the effort saying it would punish people who drive the speed limit for not getting out of the way of speeders.

Dubbed the “Road Rage Reduction Act,” it would give law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic, even if they are driving the speed limit. A failure to stay to the right would be included as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.”

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said he changed the bill this year to address some of the governor’s concerns.

The revised measure would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multi-lane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle. The old version would have allowed law enforcement to issue citations to drivers who used the left lane for anything other than passing.

Opponents say the bill is “code for increasing speed limits” and supports the actions of speeding drivers rubbing up behind slower drivers. Supporters say the measure would avert dangerous situations where frustrated motorists stuck behind a slower-moving vehicle try to pass on the right.

The bill also changes, from two to three, the number of driving offenses that must be committed at one time to constitute “aggressive careless driving,” The Miami Herald reported.

Violators would face a $100 fine in addition to any other fines. Repeat offenders would face as much as a $500 fine and a mandatory court appearance.

The Senate Transportation Committee has unanimously approved the revised bill. The measure – S224 – faces two more committee stops before it can head to the full Senate.