Maryland fails to advance move-over and left lane bills

| 4/28/2008

A Maryland bill that has died called for limiting the use of traffic lanes for cars and trucks on certain roadways in the state. Another failed effort sought to 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.

Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Cumberland, offered a bill that would have required all vehicles on interstates and multilane controlled access highways with posted speeds of at least 50 mph to clear the far left lane when being overtaken by vehicles. Exceptions would have been 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 – was killed in the House Environmental Matters Committee. It can be brought back for consideration during the 2009 regular session.

Another bill that will have to wait until next year for consideration was designed to protect emergency personnel during roadside stops. The measure – HB131 – failed to meet a deadline to advance, effectively killing it for the year.

Sponsored by Delegate Frank Conaway Jr., D-Baltimore, the measure would have required drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with their lights flashing.

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

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

Failure to obey the rule would have resulted in $75 fines.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor