Bills in six states address left lane use

January 26, 2021

Keith Goble

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Travel in the left lane is a point of concern for professional drivers and others traveling on highways across the country. Legislators in at least a half-dozen statehouses have introduced bills that are intended to address the continuing safety concern.

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.

Arizona

An Arizona House bill would revise the state’s rule on travel in the far left lane of multilane highways.

State law specifies that travelers driving slower than the speed of traffic must stay in the right lane except to pass. Offenders face fines up to $250.

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, the bill would amend the rule to require drivers traveling below the posted speed limit on multilane highways to stay out of the far left lane.

The bill, HB2365, awaits assignment to committee.

Indiana

One Indiana bill would revise the state’s left lane driving rule for travel on rural interstates.

State law now requires drivers traveling on multilane roads to move right when they should “reasonably know” another vehicle is trying to pass. Violators face up to $500 fines.

The state’s Legislative Services Agency reports in the most recent fiscal year there were 80 convictions statewide for failing to yield to a passing vehicle.

A bill from Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, SB211 would amend statute and apply lane use restrictions solely on highways with a posted speed limit at least 65 mph.

Specifically, continuous driving in the passing lane would be forbidden. Violators would face up to $10,000 fines. Exceptions would apply.

Revenue from violations would be routed to the state’s general fund.

SB211 is in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.

Iowa

Travel in the left lane also is the topic of a bill in the Iowa House Transportation Committee.

State law already mandates slower traffic to stay to the right. Violators face $50 fines.

Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, has offered a bill that targets drivers who hang out in the left lane. Specifically, HF157 specifies that drivers who “reasonably should know” another vehicle is attempting to overtake the vehicle would face escalating fines for failure to merge right.

The bill would authorize $135 fines for failing to move right. If inaction results in serious injury, violators would face $500 fines and/or a 90-day driving suspension. Incidents that result in death could carry a $1,000 fine and/or loss of driving privileges for 180 days.

Worthan, who has a family trucking business, says the left lane rule change would benefit professional drivers. He previously said he has experienced drivers of all vehicle types create a rolling roadblock by not making their pass and getting back into the right lane in a reasonable amount of time.

Minnesota

An effort underway in the Minnesota House would limit trucks’ use of the far left lane.

Minnesota law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Violators faces $50 fines. A 2-year old law added a $75 surcharge for failure to allow another vehicle to pass, bringing the total fine amount to $125.

Sponsored by Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, HF233 would go a step further to prohibit truck travel in the far left lane. Exceptions would apply for circumstances that include overtaking or passing another vehicle.

OOIDA says that truck drivers are first-hand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, and while perhaps not intended, efforts to restrict trucks from certain lanes pose serious challenges for truckers and jeopardize the safety of the traveling public.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA manager of government affairs, says that by restricting the movement of trucks to the right lane, trucks will inevitably block entrance and exit ramps and impede motorists from safely entering and exiting the roadway.

He adds 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.

The bill is in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

North Dakota

One bill in the North Dakota House Transportation Committee covers travel in the left lane.

State law requires travelers driving below the “normal speed” of traffic to stay in the right lane except to pass.

The bill, HB1477, would require drivers on multilane highways to merge right when another vehicle “immediately behind the first vehicle” is attempting to overtake and pass the slower moving vehicle. Certain exceptions would apply.

South Carolina

Multiple South Carolina bills also address concern about left lane use on the state’s roadways.

State 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 situations that include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Violators face fines up to $100.

Republican Reps. Jay West of Anderson, Murrell Smith Jr. of Sumter, and Gary Simrill of York, are behind a bill that is intended to further discourage slowpokes hanging out in the far left-hand lane of highways.

Bill sponsors say the deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior.

Their bill, H3011, would double the fine amount to $200 and attach a two-point violation for improper driving in the left lane.

An exception would be made for commercial driver’s license holders. Truck drivers found in violation would face $50 fines. No points would be assessed against his or her driving record.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation would also be responsible for posting signs along interstates to alert travelers of the law.

An estimated 128 signs would be installed along the state’s interstates at a cost of $24,000, according to a fiscal impact statement.

A second bill focuses on lane use along interstates.

Sponsored by Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, S434 would require drivers to move to the right when another vehicle is attempting to overtake the vehicle.

Warnings would be issued for the first 90 days after enactment. Afterward, violators would face $25 fines.

S434 is in the Senate Transportation Committee. H3011 is in the House Education and Public Works Committee. 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.

PrePass

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.