Arkansas to tap Tahoes to help with left lane enforcement
September 15, 2021
A new law in Arkansas intended to deter drivers from cruising in the far left lane is being bolstered by new enforcement vehicles.
Arkansas is one of a handful of states this year to take action to address concern about left lane use for motorists and truck drivers.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.
Arkansas rule now in effect
Since early August, a new law in place in Arkansas addresses left lane use.
In 2013, the state acted to prohibit all travelers from continuous driving in the left lane on multiple-lane roadways whenever traffic flow is impeded.
Although the rule was intended to address slower-moving vehicles traveling in the passing lane, state officials point out the rule also applied to instances when a vehicle is traveling at or above the posted speed limit but a faster-moving vehicle is attempting to pass.
“Slower traffic keep right” signs are posted around the state.
The Legislature acted in 2019 to add a requirement for yellow “state law” signs to be added at locations already posted with keep right signs.
The new law revises the rule to state that left lane travel is only permitted when passing or overtaking another vehicle. Other exceptions include preparing to turn left or when other lanes are closed or unusable.
Additionally, the Arkansas State Police points out the law requires all drivers to travel below the posted speed, even when passing.
State Police get enforcement boost
On the heels of the new lane use rule taking effect, Arkansas troopers have acquired 25 new low-profile highway patrol vehicles.
The black Chevrolet Tahoes equipped with law enforcement equipment were purchased with federal grant money totaling $1.15 million provided by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
Touted to help troopers identify aggressive and distracted driving, the partially marked vehicles include the state police insignia visible only from the passenger side.
Colonel Bill Bryant, director of the Arkansas State Police, said the new vehicles with a taller platform will offer troopers an improved visual perspective to detect drivers violating distracted driving laws or spotting a vehicle being driven in an aggressive manner that threatens other motorists.
Additionally, Bryant said the department has seen a “brazen spike” in incidences of drivers refusing to stop when state troopers attempt to initiate traffic stops.
Troopers assigned to the low-profile patrols will additionally be watching for drivers who illegally use the left lane of multilane roadways.
Left lane violators now are receiving warnings while acclimating themselves to the rule change. Troopers soon will begin issuing citations to violators.
Another state to revise its left lane rule is South Carolina.
State law has required any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for situations that include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.
No penalties were attached to the law.
State lawmakers approved a bill this year to make a change they say is necessary because the current deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior.
Since Aug. 15, the left lane rule applies to situations on highways with at least two lanes when a vehicle is traveling behind a slower-moving vehicle. Fines would be limited to $25.
H3011 specifies that commercial vehicle drivers would be exempt from the rule when they are unable to move into the right lane safely due to other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right, or when a truck’s driver is unable to move into the right lane safely due to a highway grade or other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation is required to post signage along highways to alert travelers of the law.
Warnings will be issued for violations occurring during the first 90 days.
Also in effect in Alabama is a revision to the state’s left lane rule.
State law prohibits drivers from hanging out in the far-left lane. A 2019 revision to the rule clarified that while traveling on an interstate it is against the law to stay left more than 1.5 miles without completely passing another vehicle. Certain exceptions apply, such as while driving through a work zone or during heavy traffic congestion.
A new law focuses on notifications for the public about the lane-use rules.
Oklahoma is another state to take action on the issue. A new law is intended to clarify Oklahoma’s left lane rule.
State law has limited left lane use on roadways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Statute specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing or preparing to turn left, or for safety measures.
A bill signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt revises wording in statute to specify that vehicles would be in violation of the law when traveling on highways. HB2054 states that county roads that are not part of the interstate or turnpike system are to be excluded.
The new rule takes effect Nov. 1. LL
More state trends
Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.