Nebraska bill targets left-lane laggards; other states may limit lane use

| 3/4/2010

An effort in the Nebraska Unicameral to increase safety would keep most drivers out of the left lane on the state’s multilane highways. Similar bills are being discussed in other statehouses.

The Nebraska bill would prohibit all drivers from lingering in the passing lane. Sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine, the measure – LB1060 – would allow trucks and other vehicles to drive in the left lane to pass vehicles in the right lane, to make left turns, to exit or to allow traffic to merge onto the roadway.

It would also make an exception for vehicles traveling at speeds greater than the traffic flow.

Nebraska law already requires vehicles to drive in the far right-hand lane if they are traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic. Another law prohibits drivers from “intentionally impeding the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same speed while in the adjacent lane.”

Fischer’s bill is in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Nebraska isn’t the only state this year where lawmakers are addressing lane use. A Georgia bill is focused on cutting down on traffic congestion and driver frustration. It would allow law enforcement to crack down on slowpokes that clog traffic by driving in the left lanes.

Georgia law already makes it a misdemeanor to impede traffic by driving slower than the speed limit in the left-hand lane of multi-lane highways “once such person knows or should reasonably know that he is being overtaken in such lane from the rear.” A bill moving through the state’s House would impose a minimum fine of $75.

High-occupancy vehicle and high-occupancy toll lanes would be excluded. In addition, anyone traveling the speed limit in the left lane would not be required to make way for another vehicle exceeding the speed limit.

At least 20 states have similar left-lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In recent months, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas have enacted laws to limit left-lane use.

The legislative efforts are welcome news to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The Association says it is common sense to have rules in place to encourage slower vehicles to yield to faster traffic.

One more bill singles out trucks to stay to the right on steep grades along Interstate 70 in Colorado.

Intended to improve traffic flow along I-70 through the Colorado mountains, SB173 would require vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds to stay out of the left lane on grades of 6 percent or more for at least one mile.

Exceptions would be made for exiting or entering the roadway, weather conditions that require slower travel, and traffic congestion that limits vehicle speeds by at least 20 mph.

The proposed rule change would affect areas near the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass. The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Nebraska in 2010, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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