Florida lawmakers approve slow driver restriction, truck rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/30/2013

An effort to keep most drivers out of the fast lane on Florida highways is headed to the governor’s desk. It would also bring the state in line with certain federal truck rules.
The Senate voted unanimously to advance a lengthy transportation bill that includes a provision to combat aggressive driving on the state’s multilane highways by reducing the number of drivers in the far left-hand lane. House lawmakers then signed off on changes to clear the way for the bill – HB7125 – to move to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
The effort is a perennial topic at the statehouse.
The legislation historically has struggled to advance from committee because it permitted ticketing of drivers who fail to move right for speeders. 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.
Changes made through the years to address some of the concerns spurred lawmakers to again send the lane use restriction to the governor’s office.
Defining road rage, the bill would give law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic in the left lane by traveling slower than 10 mph below the posted speed. 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 too slow 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.
Violators would face $60 fines.
Advocates say the change would avert dangerous situations where frustrated motorists stuck behind a slower-moving vehicle try to pass on the right.
Also included in the 226-page transportation bill are provisions to bring some of the state’s truck rules in line with federal truck rules.
The provisions would comply with federal rules on learning permits for commercial driver’s licenses and outlaw texting and the use of hand-held cellphones by truckers while driving.
Failure to make the changes could result in Florida losing out on 4 percent of federal highway funds the first year. Withholdings double each year thereafter until compliance is achieved.
States must adopt the CDL testing standards by July 8, 2014. The deadline to adopt the texting ban is Oct. 27, 2013, and the cellphone driving rule must be updated by Jan. 3, 2015.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida, click here.

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