Florida Senate approves bill to clear left lanes

| 4/13/2011

An effort to keep most drivers out of the fast lane on Florida highways is moving forward.

The Senate voted 37-1 to advance a bill to the House 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 effort has been pursued at the statehouse.

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.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has since changed the bill to address some of the concerns.

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.”

Travelers would be prohibited from driving in the left lane of a multilane highway if they “reasonably should know” that they are being overtaken by another vehicle. In the past, 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 targets those drivers who get upset by slower moving vehicles. Tailgating and other risky maneuvers in response to slower drivers could result in $100 fines. Repeat offenders would face as much as a $500 fine and a mandatory court appearance for “aggressive careless driving.” Offenders also would receive points for each offense committed.

The bill – S244 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the House.

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

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