Louisiana Legislature OKs bill to limit left-lane use

| Thursday, June 11, 2009

A bill on its way to the governor’s desk would allow law enforcement officers in Louisiana to ticket drivers who hold up traffic by lingering in the left lane. If signed into law, the Pelican State would be at least the third state this year to make changes to its lane use rule.

Louisiana law already prohibits vehicles from using the left lane if they are moving at less than the normal speed of traffic. But Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Chalmette, said it is difficult for the State Police to enforce the rule.

Intent on stopping “rolling roadblocks,” the Senate unanimously approved the bill – HB855 – to make the left lane off limits for cars and trucks except for passing. House lawmakers voted Wednesday, June 10, to sign off on changes to the bill, which cleared the way for it to move to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk.

Exceptions to the lane rule would be made for preparing to turn at an intersection or when the right lane is congested.

“People are traveling in the left lane, which is clogging our highways up tremendously, and I like to be able to get rid of clots just like we have in the arteries of our bodies. We have the same thing in the arteries of our economy, which is the highways,” Henderson told lawmakers during recent discussion on the bill.

Owner-operator and OOIDA member Chuck Guintard of Lake Charles, LA, said he doesn’t believe the left lane issue needs to be revised. However, he notices the biggest abusers of the existing rule on left lane use are motorists from outside the state.

“In Louisiana we have a bunch of casinos. Anybody riding in that left lane and not going the speed limit always has a Texas license plate. It’s like when they cross the river to come over they forget how to drive,” Guintard told Land Line.

Guintard said the same holds true in other states.

“I don’t know what it is. They get out of their comfort zone and they forget how to operate a vehicle,” he said.

At least 20 states have similar left-lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Louisiana isn’t the only state to pursue changes this year to lane use rules. Oklahoma and Kansas have enacted laws to limit left-lane use.

In the Sooner State, the new rule allows law enforcement officers to crack down on slowpokes who clog traffic by driving in the left lanes of multilane roadways. It takes effect Nov. 1.

A similar rule change was signed into law in neighboring Kansas. The new law there limits use of the left lane for passing only. It applies only to highways outside city limits.

The lane use rule in Kansas takes effect July 1. Violators will receive warnings for the first year. After July 1, 2010, officers will hand out tickets.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.