Virginia bills cover left lane use, other road safety concerns

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, January 20, 2017

Multiple bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly for consideration in the weeks ahead cover driving issues that include left lane use, vehicle removal following wrecks, and reckless driving.

Virginia law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Authorities are also able to restrict trucks from the left lane on interstates with three or more lanes in one direction.

Delegate Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland, has offered a bill to prohibit all vehicles from hanging out in the left lane. Specifically, HB1725 would limit left-lane use for passing another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn.

Violators would face $250 fines.

Revenues would not be allotted for transportation purposes. Instead, the money would be deposited into the state’s Literary Fund.

A related bill covers motorists and others who disobey the existing left lane rule.

Advocates for left-lane passing-only rules, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the passing lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

Delegate Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, is the sponsor of a bill to increase the fine amount for driving too slowly in the left lane. HB2201 would increase the fine amount from $100 to $300.

Another House bill covers removal of vehicles and cargo following traffic incidents.

Sponsored by Delegate Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, the bill specifies that vehicles and cargo that are impeding traffic flow due to a wreck be removed from moving lanes. The Virginia Department of Transportation would also be able to clear vehicles from travel lanes if there are no injuries and the vehicle cannot be driven.

Drivers would be required to move a vehicle from the roadway after an emergency, wreck, or breakdown that did not result in injury or death – if the vehicle is moveable and the driver can do so safely.

Virginia law already allows affected vehicles to be moved but it is not required.

About half of all states have in place authority removal laws, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The feds say the primary intent of the rule is “to expedite removal of damaged or disabled vehicles from the travel lanes to enhance the overall level of safety on the roadway and reduce associated congestion and delay.”

The Virginia DOT reports that losing one lane of traffic reduces highway capacity by 65 percent.

All three House bills are in the House Transportation Committee.

Another road safety bill covers reckless driving offenses.

State law says it is a reckless driving offense to drive at least 80 mph on some highways.

Sponsored by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, SB1409 would increase the threshold to at least 85 mph.

Advocates say the 80-mph limit was set in Virginia when highway speeds were 65 mph. They add that many states use a threshold of 15 mph or more over the posted speed for reckless driving offenses.

Since 2010, Virginia has a 70 mph speed limit on interstates. Drivers exceeding the posted speed by more than 15 mph can result in a $2,500 fine and possible jail time.

Opponents say driving more than 80 mph is never safe.

One more bill covers instances that are not classified as reckless driving offenses. Sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, SB1406 would set improper driving as an offense punishable by a fine of $300.

Any person who drives a vehicle on any highway while failing “to provide the attention necessary” for safely operating the vehicle, but the conduct does not constitute reckless driving, would be guilty of improper driving.

The Senate bills are in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

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