New Georgia laws could bump up urban speeds, limit left lane use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, May 29, 2014

Truckers and others traveling through some of Georgia’s highly populated areas could soon be authorized to travel a little faster, but left lane use around the state will be more limited.

Speed limits in metro areas around the state with more than 50,000 people are presently capped at 65 mph.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law that includes a provision to allow the speed limit in urban areas to be raised to 70 mph – up from 55 mph and 65 mph.

Josh Waller with the Georgia Department of Transportation told lawmakers during discussion on the bill that the change could be done in areas where it could improve traffic flow.

Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, said the new law is an effort to bring Georgia speed limits up to par with other nearby states. However, he noted passage of HB774 doesn’t mean that speeds will change.

Watson said studies would need to be done to make sure a change is needed.

Specifically, HB774 requires traffic studies performed by the state DOT before travelers on urban interstates could be authorized to drive faster.

The agency increased the speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph on a nearly 30-mile stretch of Interstate 285 in Atlanta late last year.

Waller addressed concerns about areas with heavy traffic. He told lawmakers there are certain areas with road signage and heavy driving conditions that would make any speed changes inappropriate. But based on posted speeds in neighboring states, he said higher speeds could work on certain Georgia highways.

“We looked at our neighbors with their urbanized maximum speeds set at 70 mph. It seems appropriate to take this step to give us the flexibility to make changes,” Waller said.

Another new law targets travelers who poke around in the far left lane of multilane highways. Previously HB459, the new law allows police to ticket people for driving slowly in the far left lanes on interstates and highways.

Dubbed the “slowpoke law,” drivers on multilane roadways are required to move to the right if they are being overtaken by another vehicle. Drivers traveling the speed limit would also be required to yield to vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit.

Signage will be posted to alert travelers to the new rule. Starting July 1, violators would face up to $1,000 fines.

Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, referred to the change as “the good manners your mama should have taught you.”

He said the requirement to move to the right will help reduce traffic in the far left lane and also reduce incidents of road rage.

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