Legislation in nine states take on left lane use

February 16, 2021

Keith Goble

|

Travel in the left lane is a point of concern for professional drivers and others traveling on highways from coast to coast. Legislators from around the country are considering bills 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

The Arizona House voted 40-20 to advance a bill to 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 in the Senate.

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 approved by the Iowa House Transportation Committee.

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

Sponsored by Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, the bill 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 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.

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.

The bill awaits further consideration on the House floor.

Maine

A Maine Senate bill would open up the center lane on the Maine Turnpike to motorists for continuous use.

State law limits travel on a portion of the Maine Turnpike to the far right lane. On the affected stretch of roadway from milepost 1 to 44, motorists can only use the far left lane and center lane to overtake and pass another vehicle. Trucks are forbidden from using the far left lane, and passing is limited to the center lane.

Sponsored by Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, the bill would revise the rule to allow motorists to also use the center lane of the Maine Turnpike as a travel lane.

The Maine Motor Transport Association is opposed to the legislation. Tim Doyle the group’s vice president, cites concern about trucks continuing to be limited to the far right lane and the difficulties it would create for motorists to be free to hang out in the center lane.

“If the normal course of travel is legalized in the center lane in addition to the rightmost lane, trucks will lose their ability to use the center lane for the passing of slower traffic,” Doyle testified. “This will result in congestion in the more populated areas of southern Maine.”

The bill, LD228, is scheduled for additional committee consideration on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Maryland

One Maryland bill would revise the state’s left lane use rule.

State law requires all vehicles traveling at least 10 mph below the posted speed to stay to the right.

Sponsored by Delegate Neil Parrott, R-Washington, HB964 would require drivers traveling slower than the “general speed” of traffic on rural interstates to stay right.

The House Environment and Transportation Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill on Thursday.

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

The North Dakota House Transportation Committee voted to sideline a bill that 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. Violators face $20 fines, and two points added to their license.

Sponsored by House Speaker Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, 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.

Koppelman told the committee that more and more drivers cause traffic congestion problems due to their desire to remain in the far left lane.

“In North Dakota, this problem has worsened in recent years, and it is now common on our interstate highways,” he said. “It is time we clarify our law.”

The committee voted 10-4 against moving forward the bill. Legislators cited concerns that include redundancy in statute and in the legislation and a preference for posting signs to alert travelers about existing law.

Oklahoma

A renewed effort in the Oklahoma House attempts to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

The 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, the bill would revise wording to specify that vehicles would be in violation of the law when traveling on highways.

McCall offered the same bill one year ago. At that time, the House voted unanimously to advance the bill. The effort was derailed in the Senate due to the disrupted schedule from the pandemic.

This year’s version, HB2054, will start in the House Transportation Committee.

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 slower drivers remaining in the far left 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 also would 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 summary.

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. After that, 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.

J.J. Keller
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.