A renewed push at the Ohio statehouse calls for banning trucks from using the far left lane on certain highways “to provide clear and safe passage” for motorists.
Current Ohio law requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.
The House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee has met twice this month to discuss a bill to mandate that large vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds stay in the two right-hand lanes on stretches of highway with three or more lanes in the same direction.
Exceptions to the rule would include situations when a trucker is preparing to exit the roadway from the left.
Sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley, HB100 would authorize fines up to $150 for violators. Offenders who were convicted of other traffic offenses within the past year would face fines up to $500 and/or up to 60 days behind bars.
She points out that the Ohio Turnpike already has the truck-lane restriction in place.
Officials at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that truckers are first-hand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, and while perhaps not intended, HB100 would pose serious challenges for truckers and jeopardize the safety of the traveling public.
Slaby introduced the same bill during the 2013 regular session but it failed to advance from committee.
In hopes that sentiment has changed, Slaby told panel members during recent discussion on the bill that the lane restriction “will help to deter drivers from attempting to pass on the right hand side of the road by maintaining an open lane with which to pass slower moving trucks.”
Truckers say they use the left lane while driving through congested areas to avoid traffic entering and exiting the roadway. They say it is the safest place to be during peak travel times.
Others say it is the responsibility of the Ohio Highway Patrol to enforce the existing rule on slow moving vehicles impeding traffic.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said that truckers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.
“If the left-hand lane is open, trucks should be free to use it and be held to the same standard as every other motorist,” Matousek said. “At the very least, it is counterproductive to enact and enforce traffic laws that actually decrease safety; rather than improve it.”
The bill awaits further consideration in committee.
A provision added to the state’s transportation budget bill also addresses left-lane use. Specifically, HB53 includes a provision to make the left lane of affected highways off limits for all vehicles except to pass or make room for merging vehicles.
If approved, the Ohio Department of Transportation would be responsible for posting “Keep right except to pass” signs to alert travelers of the rule.
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