A bill halfway through the Colorado statehouse has sparked debate from truckers and others who are concerned about their safety while traveling roadways in the state.
House lawmakers voted 37-27 Monday, Jan. 26, to advance a bill to the Senate that is intended to keep slow-moving vehicles – cars, trucks or RVs – from blocking traffic and to allow other travelers to stay up to speed.
Colorado law now prohibits vehicles from impeding the normal traffic flow. However, it’s a judgment call by law enforcement as to whether to issue a ticket.
Sponsored by Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, the bill – HB1042 – would make impeding the flow of five or more vehicles following immediately behind a mandatory offense.
The 2004 law was intended to cut down on road rage and ease traffic woes on state highways by encouraging drivers to use the left lane for passing only.
Dubbed the “Courtesy Bill,” Merrifield’s measure would require slow-moving vehicles to drive in the right-hand lane or pull off the road and let the trailing vehicles pass. Pulling off the road would be mandatory only where it can be accomplished safely and lawfully.
Violators would face $50 fines and another $6 in surcharges. Three points also would be added to offenders’ licenses.
The bill was amended on the House floor to exempt commercial vehicles from pulling off if there is fewer than 12 feet of shoulder alongside the road.
“The purpose of the bill is to create the opportunity for those who are backed up behind to pass at a safe time and not be overly impatient and pass when it’s dangerous to do so,” Merrifield said during debate Friday, Jan. 23, on the House floor.
Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said that while they sympathize with lawmakers about RVs that obstruct traffic, “we have concerns about any law that would require trucks to pull over on a grade or in a situation where starting up again would be a problem.”
Merrifield tried to ease the concerns of trucking industry officials and other critics.
“If pulling off the highway and then pulling back on the highway creates a more dangerous situation, they would not be required to do so. They would not be ticketed for not pulling over,” Merrifield said.
The bill is awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate. It is expected to get its first public hearing in February.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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