By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
As the beginning of the legislative year approaches in Florida, state lawmakers are filing bills that cover a variety of topics. Among the approximately 400 bills already filed is a renewed effort to keep most drivers out of the state’s fast lanes.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has once again prefiled a bill that is intended to combat aggressive driving on the state’s multilane highways by reducing the number of drivers in the far left-hand lane. This is the seventh time in recent years the bill has been offered at the statehouse.
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.
The latest effort would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multilane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle. Originally, the effort allowed law enforcement to issue citations to drivers who used the left lane for anything other than passing.
Critics say the bill is “code for increasing speed limits” and that it supports the actions of speeding drivers coming up behind slower drivers. Advocates say the change 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.”
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.
The bill – S244 – is awaiting assignment to committee for the session that begins in March.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida, click here.
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