Bill would clear Florida's left lanes

| Monday, January 22, 2007

A Florida state lawmaker has renewed his effort to keep most drivers out of Florida's fast lanes. This is the fourth year in a row the bill has been offered in the state.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is hopeful this is the year it will be approved. The bill - S536 - is intended to combat aggressive driving on the state's multilane highways by reducing the number of drivers in the far left-hand lane.

Dubbed the "Highway Safety Act," it would give law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic, even if they are driving the speed limit in the left lane. A failure to stay to the right would be included as one of the offenses that make up "aggressive careless driving."

The bill died twice in committee and was vetoed in 2005 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. He said it would punish people who are driving the speed limit for not getting out of the way of speeders.

Bennett has since changed the bill to address some of the concerns.

The 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. Previously, the bill 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."

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. Drivers also would receive points for each offense committed.

The bill is awaiting assignment to committee for the session that begins in March.

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