Seven states advance bills covering left lane use

March 16, 2021

Keith Goble

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Work continues at statehouses around the country to address left lane use.

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.

South Carolina

The South Carolina House voted unanimously to advance a bill covering concern about left lane use on the state’s roadways. It now heads to the Senate.

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.

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

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

Their bill, H3011, calls for fines for motorists to double to $200. An amendment made to the bill includes the possibility for motorists in violation of the rule to spend up to 30 days behind bars.

An exception would be made for commercial driver’s license holders. Truck drivers found in violation would face $50 fines.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation also would be responsible for posting signage 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.

H3011 has moved to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Arizona

One Arizona bill halfway through the statehouse 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 House-approved bill, HB2365, awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Iowa

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

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, HF494 specifies that drivers who “reasonably should know” another vehicle is attempting to overtake the vehicle would face escalating fines for failure to merge right.

Violators would face $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 in the House.

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. Violators face up to $500 fines and up to three points added to their driver’s license.

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.

A signage requirement to alert travelers of the rule is included in the bill.

“By voting for this, we are going to create a safer interstate system in Maryland, and we are going to reduce congestion, and we are going to encourage more courteous driving,” Parrott testified to the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Parrott added there would be no penalties for violators.

The bill remains in committee.

Minnesota

An effort in the Minnesota House to limit trucks’ use of the far left lane has died.

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 called for going a step further to prohibit truck travel in the far left lane. Exceptions would apply for circumstances that include overtaking or passing another vehicle.

The bill did not get consideration in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

OOIDA opposition

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.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House voted unanimously to advance to the Senate a bill that attempts to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

State law 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. County roads that are not part of the interstate or turnpike system would be excluded.

The bill, HB2054, awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

West Virginia

A West Virginia House bill seeks to prohibit vehicles from driving slowly in the far left lane.

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

Sponsored by Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson, the bill would go one step further. Drivers would be prohibited from traveling slow in the far left lane of a roadway or interstate for more than 1½ miles without completing a passing maneuver of another vehicle.

First-time offenders would face fines up to $100. Subsequent violations would result in escalating fine amounts. Certain exceptions would apply.

HB2222 is in the House Judiciary 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.

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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.