Mississippi bills limit lane use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, February 18, 2016

Travelers who poke around in the far left lane of certain multilane highways are under scrutiny at the Mississippi statehouse.

A bill from Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, would allow police to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes of interstates and highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction.

HB98 would require any driver on affected roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle. Also, drivers would be exempt if they are in the left lane to turn or exit, or in an emergency situation.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

A similar bill in the committee targets travelers who hang out in the far left lane of multilane highways driving at a rate below the posted speed. Specifically, drivers would be required to move to the right if they are being overtaken by another vehicle.

Exceptions to the rule include instances when traffic congestion makes lane changes difficult, or weather conditions make travel in other lanes impractical.

Drivers traveling above the posted speed attempting to pass to the left would still be subject to a traffic citation.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, have said that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

A separate provision in the bill from Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point, covers instances when a vehicle is driving at a rate of speed causing three or more vehicles to be blocked and unable pass on the left. HB873 would require affected drivers on roads with two lanes or a three-lane road with a center lane to pull off to the right or the right lane “at the earliest reasonable opportunity” to allow the blocked vehicles to pass.

Two more bills in the House Transportation Committee cover motorcyclists who ride around traffic to bypass congestion.

Sponsored by Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, HB532 would permit so-called lane splitting with motorcycles along roadways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction.

Motorcycles would be authorized to be driven between rows of stopped or slowed vehicles in the same direction if the speed of traffic is less than 30 mph. However, motorcycles could be driven no more than 10 mph in excess of the speed of traffic.

Supporters say that lane splitting saves motorcyclists time and fuel. They also point out that it helps many motorcycles avoid overheating while sitting in traffic.

Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, has offered a second bill to allow motorcycles to be driven on shoulders of roadways during traffic jams or slowdowns. HB109 specifies that traffic must be slowed to below 30 mph and the motorcyclist could not exceed the speed of stalled traffic by more than 10 mph to maneuver along the shoulder.

The bills authorize misdemeanor punishments for any drivers or passengers that impede a lane-splitting, or shoulder-use motorcycle.

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

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