Maryland bills to clear left lanes, move traffic over for emergency personnel

| 2/25/2008

A Maryland House panel is reviewing a bill that would limit the use of traffic lanes for cars and trucks on certain roadways in the state. Another bill would mandate a practice followed by professional truck drivers for decades.

Existing rules in the state require vehicles driving at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit or at a rate lower than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right, when possible.

Sponsored by Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Cumberland, the bill would require all vehicles on interstates and multilane controlled access highways with posted speeds at least 50 mph to clear the far left lane when being overtaken by vehicles. Exceptions would be made for turning left or if traffic volume makes it difficult to safely merge into the non-passing lane.

At least 20 states have similar left lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States considering implementation this year of similar restrictions include Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The Maryland bill – HB605 – is in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Another bill drawing consideration in the House panel is designed to protect emergency personnel during roadside stops. Sponsored by Delegate Frank Conaway Jr., D-Baltimore, the measure would require drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with their lights flashing.

Dubbed the “Move Over Act,” the bill – HB131 – would require drivers to merge into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles, if practical. On two-lane highways, drivers would be required to slow to a speed “that is sufficient to ensure the safety” of emergency personnel, including police.

Failure to obey the rule would result in $75 fines.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor