Seven states take action on left-lane use

July 19, 2018

Keith Goble

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Action continues at statehouses around the country to make changes to lane use rules.

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.

So far this year new rules on left lane use have been adopted in at least four states.

Mississippi is one state to enact a change to left lane rules.

The Magnolia State already requires vehicles driving slower than the normal speed of traffic to stay in the right lane of multilane highways. Vehicles are allowed to merge left to overtake and pass slower moving traffic.

Previously HB80, the new law permits police to ticket travelers lingering in the far left lanes of multilane highways. It took effect on July 1.

The change expands the state’s rule to require travelers on multilane roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle. Also, drivers would be exempt if they are in the left lane to turn or exit.

Violators could face fines of $5 to $50.

Also now in effect in Idaho is a new law intended to keep vehicles out of the far-left lane for “an unreasonable amount of time.”

State law already prohibits impeding the “normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”

H471 covers impeding “the flow of other traffic traveling at a lawful rate of speed.”

Violators could face $90 citations.

Elsewhere, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a change to how vehicles are alowed to use the left lane.

The Sooner State already limits left lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Since Nov. 1, state law specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing or preparing to turn left or for safety measures.

The state has erected more than 200 signs notifying travelers “slower traffic keep right” and warning them not to “impede the left lane.”

Violators face $235 fines.

A new rule amends the 2017 law. HB3290 specifies that roadways within the city limits of a municipality would not be covered by the lane use rule, as long as such roadways are not part of the interstate highway system.

Road conditions and weather conditions would also be added to the list of exceptions for left lane use.

In New Hampshire, left-lane laggards also are the target of a new law.

State law specifies that anyone driving slower than the normal speed of traffic must stay in the right lane, except to pass or turn left.

HB1595 eliminates the speed language in the rule. Instead, the new law states that vehicles must travel in the right lane unless passing another vehicle.

Violators would face $50 fines.

Efforts still active in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania also address left lane use.

One Pennsylvania House bill singles out large trucks in the left lane.

HB2032 would create “commuter lanes zones” in congested areas. The intent is to restrict vehicles with more than two axles from accessing the left lane.

Violators would face $100 fines.

Zones would be a minimum of seven miles long. Municipalities would have the option of asking the Pennsylvania DOT to establish a commuter lanes zone within their limits.

“As any experienced driver knows, large trucks traveling in the left lane of highways can be both dangerous and an impediment to traffic flow,” wrote Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

An Illinois Senate bill covers left lane use on interstates or fully access controlled freeways.

State law limits left lane use for actions that include overtaking or passing another vehicle.

SB2820 would add an exception for instances when no other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle in the left lane.

Michigan bill would revise statute to remove the requirement of an audible signal by the driver of an overtaking vehicle to provide the driver of an overtaken vehicle to give way to the right. Essentially, slower drivers in the left lane of roadways would be required to move right even when they haven’t been honked at move over.

Advocates say the requirement of an audible signal when a vehicle is overtaken and passed is an outdated and unenforced provision that dates from an era before vehicles came equipped standard with mirrors. They add that giving someone an audible signal when passing will usually result in a visual signal in response.

“Our roads would erupt in chaos if everyone decided to comply with this outdated law from 1949,” stated Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods.

“There’s no reason to make our driving laws more complicated than they need to be. Rather than let this old law stick around, we’d be better off reminding people to use their turn signals and to maintain a safe distance between their vehicle and the one ahead of them.”

The bill, HB5504, is in the Senate Transportation Committee. House lawmakers already approved it by unanimous consent.

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.