Michigan bill would require left lane restriction signage

| 7/26/2006

An effort in the Michigan House is intended to help notify drivers that it is illegal to stay in the far left-hand lane on certain roadways in the state.

The bill would require the Michigan Department of Transportation to post on each four-lane limited access highway signs that indicate the right lane is for driving and the left lane is for passing. At least 20 states have similar left lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Supporters said the bill would help publicize the state law that prohibits all drivers from lingering in the passing lane. Existing state law allows law enforcement to ticket drivers who fail to return to the right lane after passing another vehicle – even if they are traveling the speed limit.

Advocates for the signage also said that misuse of the left lane of a freeway can result in bottlenecks and encourage dangerous driving practices, such as tailgating and excessive braking, which can lead to accidents and incidents of road rage.

Opponents said they understand the concern about left-lane use but there are several other important issues to address. Specifically cited was the cost for the Michigan Department of Transportation to post new signs that reflect the increased truck speed limit that takes effect on Nov. 9.

The higher 60 mph limit applies to vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more and truck-tractors with trailers. Other motorists will continue to drive at the current 70 mph limit.

Opponents also said there are numerous traffic laws of which drivers are unaware or that they disregard. The bill would “open the door for requirements that MDOT post signs notifying drivers of these other laws, as well.”

The expense of posting left-lane restriction signage wasn’t provided in the bill’s fiscal impact statement.

The bill – SB1127 – is in the House Transportation Committee. The Senate approved it in June by a 34-3 vote.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor