Road rage bill would clear Florida’s left lanes

| 4/21/2010

An effort to keep most Florida drivers out of the state’s fast lanes is on the move at the statehouse.

To combat aggressive driving on the state’s multilane highways, the bill is intended to reduce the number of drivers in the far left-hand lane. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, this is the sixth time in recent years the bill has been offered in the state.

Dubbed the “Highway Safety Act,” it would give law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic, even if they are driving the speed limit in the left lane. A failure to stay to the right would be included as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.”

The legislation historically has struggled to advance from committee. It won approval in the House and Senate in 2005, but then-Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed it. He said it would punish people who are driving the speed limit for not getting out of the way of speeders.

Bennett has since changed the bill to address some of the concerns. This year’s version – S482 – has cleared three House committees. It now awaits consideration in the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means.

The bill would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multilane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle. Law enforcement would not be allowed to issue citations to drivers who are simply driving in the left lane.

Opponents say the bill is “code for increasing speed limits” and that it supports the actions of speeding drivers coming up behind slower drivers. Supporters say the measure would avert dangerous situations where frustrated motorists stuck behind a slower-moving vehicle try to pass on the right.

The bill also changes, from two to three, the number of driving offenses that must be committed at one time to constitute “aggressive careless driving.” Those offenses include exceeding the speed limit, making unsafe or improper lane changes, and following too closely.

Violators would face a $100 fine in addition to any other fines. Repeat offenders would face as much as a $500 fine and a mandatory court appearance. Drivers also would receive points for each offense committed.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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