Tennessee approves 'slowpoke law'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, June 07, 2016

A new law in Tennessee would keep clear the far left lane of certain highways around the state.

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

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a bill to permit police to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes of interstates and highways with at least three lanes of traffic in one direction.

Dubbed the “slowpoke law,” HB1416 requires any driver on affected roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle.

During recent Senate floor discussion, Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Knoxville, said the rule is needed to help reduce incidents of road rage.

“A lot of people get out in the left-hand lane and just stay there. People pull up behind them and it causes a lineup of traffic,” Niceley said.

Violators would face up to $50 fines. No points would be added to drivers’ licenses.

Certain exceptions would apply that include weather and merging traffic concerns.

The House voted 69-13 to approve the bill. Senators followed suit on a 21-7 vote.

Opponents, including Sen. Mike Bell, R-Niceville, questioned the need for a new law saying drivers in the state already can be ticketed for impeding traffic in such situations.

“Why do we need another law on the books just to restate what is currently against the law?” Bell asked Niceley before the Senate vote.

Niceley said the bill gives police on the scene discretion to see who is causing the problem. He pointed out that the Tennessee Highway Patrol supports the rule.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is not required to post signage to alert drivers of the rule. Instead, they can use existing permanent electronic overhead displays on interstates to notify travelers of the rule.

According to TDOT, 393 miles of roadway in the state are affected by the new law that takes effect on July 1.

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

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