Florida prefiles cover left lane use, ticket cams

| Monday, September 19, 2011

As fall approaches, state lawmakers in Florida already have an eye on legislative efforts they plan to pursue this winter. Among the issues expected to be considered when lawmakers return to Tallahassee next year is a left-lane restriction and new rules on ticket cameras.

One effort is intended to keep most drivers out of the fast lane on Florida highways and reduce road rage in the process.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has prefiled a bill for the 2012 regular session 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. The issue has turned into an annual pursuit for supporters at the Florida statehouse.

The legislation historically has struggled because of concerns it would punish people who are driving the speed limit for not getting out of the way of speeders.

Bennett recently tweaked the legislation 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 when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle. Originally, the legislation allowed law enforcement to issue citations to drivers who used the left lane for anything other than passing.

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 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.

Another bill addresses the use of red-light cameras in the state. Sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, the bill stops short of an outright ban on the cameras, but it could reduce the number of tickets issued.

HB33 calls for lengthening yellow light durations based on traffic speed. In addition, intersections with a posted speed more than 55 mph, on approach, would be required to alert drivers.

Camera opponents say advance warning signs on all approaches to intersections equipped with automated enforcement would virtually solve the red-light running problem – in Florida and elsewhere.

The bills can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 10, 2012.

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

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