Left lane law revisions under review at nine statehouses

February 28, 2020

Keith Goble

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Concern about lane use is a constant area of focus from state to state. Legislators around the country are taking strides to address the issue.

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 amended bill moving through the Arizona House is intended to make sure beginning drivers are clear about left lane travel in the state.

Arizona 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.

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Sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, HB2590 would require the Arizona Department of Transportation to include left-lane restrictions in any education and examination material.

“We need to educate the people better about slower traffic should be in the right-hand lane, not in the left-hand lane,” Griffin said during a recent committee meeting.

As introduced, the bill called for requiring signs to be posted to alert travelers about the state’s left lane rule.

The House Transportation and Rules committee have voted to advance the amended bill. HB2590’s next stop is the House floor.

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Delaware

An ongoing effort in the Delaware General Assembly would revise the state’s left lane use rule.

State law now specifies that vehicles traveling below the posted speed limit must stay to the right. Violators face fines starting at $25.

Sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, SB185 would include a requirement that all traffic stay to the right. Exceptions would be made for using the left lane to pass, turn or exit a highway.

One provision in the bill singles out large trucks. Specifically, trucks weighing at least 10,000 pounds would be prohibited from using the left lane along a stretch of state Route 1 except to pass, turn or exit a highway.

The change would only apply to a 50-mile stretch of highway between Interstate 95 and the area south of Dover.

Violators would face fines up to $100. Repeat offenders would face up to $200 fines.

“The bill addresses the problem of operators of vehicles driving below the designated speed limit in the left-hand lane of state Route 1 and causing congestion thereon,” Townsend wrote about the bill.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Iowa

A Senate panel has taken the first step toward revising the state’s rule on left lane use.

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

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that targets drivers who hang out in the left lane. Specifically, SF389 would specify that drivers who “reasonably should know” another vehicle is attempting to overtake the vehicle would face escalating fines for failure to merge right.

In the most recent fiscal year there were 37 violations in Iowa for failing to yield to a passing vehicle, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.

The bill would authorize $100 fines for simply 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.

SF389 awaits additional consideration in the Senate.

Advocates say the left lane rule change would benefit professional drivers.

Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, has a family trucking business. 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.

Maryland

One Maryland state lawmaker wants to improve adherence to the state’s left lane law.

State law requires any vehicle driving at least 10 mph below the posted speed to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule would include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Sponsored by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, HB1262 would revise the rule to specify that any driver traveling slower than the “general speed” of traffic must stay to the right.

The bill includes a provision to require the state to include the information in the state’s driver education curriculum. Additionally, posting signage about the rule would be mandated.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing March 5 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Mississippi

A Mississippi House bill combines two road safety issues.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Escatawpa, HB711 would prohibit the use of hand-held devices while traveling in the far left lane of multilane roadways.

The bill is in the House Transportation and Judiciary B committees.

New Hampshire

A New Hampshire bill described as “misguided” has been put to rest.

A 2018 state law targeted left-lane laggards. The law specifies that anyone driving slower than the normal speed of traffic must stay in the right lane, except to pass or turn left.

The rule covers motorists and professional drivers. Violators face $50 fines.

One House bill, HB1383, introduced early this year focused on trucks in the left lane.

The bill called for prohibiting commercial vehicles with three or more axles from traveling in the left lanes of an interstate or turnpike. Specifically, the bill would limit truck travel in the left lane from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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

The bill was rejected by the House Transportation Committee.

Oklahoma

An effort underway in the Oklahoma House attempts to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

The Sooner State limits left lane use on roadways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. State law specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing or preparing to turn left, or for safety measures.

Sponsored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, HB4047 would revise wording to specify that vehicles would be in violation of the law when traveling on highways.

The bill has advanced from the House Rules Committee. It awaits further consideration in the chamber.

South Carolina

The South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee voted on Thursday to advance a bill that is intended to further discourage slowpokes hanging out in the far left lane of highways.

South Carolina 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 of up to $100.

Advocates say the deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior.

H4835 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. Violators would face $50 fines and 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.

The bill awaits further consideration in the chamber.

The Senate Transportation Committee has voted to advance a similar bill. S9 would permit travel in the left lane solely for overtaking or passing another vehicle. Car and truck drivers found in violation would face $100 fines.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, the House Transportation Committee voted to move forward a bill to extend the state’s left lane use rule.

State law prohibits drivers from hanging out in the far left lane on interstates and highways with three or more lanes in each direction. Violators face $50 fines.

Sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, HB618 would revise the rule to apply on roads with two or more lanes.

Windle said he introduced the bill at the request of truck drivers in his district.

“This bill simply makes Tennessee’s highways safer for the men and women who get up every morning and go to work driving a truck on our highways,” Windle said during a recent committee meeting.

West Virginia

West Virginia law specifies that vehicles stay to the right except to overtake and pass another vehicle in the same direction.

Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson, has a bill to go one step further. HB4700 would prohibit drivers from traveling slow in the far left lane of a roadway or interstate for more than one and one-half mile without completing a passing maneuver of another vehicle.

The bill is in the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee.

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 other articles by him.

Keith Goble

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.