South Carolina bills pursue left lane, speed limit changes

December 13, 2022

Keith Goble

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Multiple measures filed for the 2023 regular session in South Carolina cover left lane use and minimum speed limits on the state’s busiest roadways.

In 2021, Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill to modify the state’s left lane rule.

Previously, state law required 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.

No penalties were attached to the law.

The revision signed into law by McMaster applies the left lane rule to situations on highways with at least two lanes when a vehicle is traveling behind a slower-moving vehicle. Fines are limited to $25.

Additionally, commercial drivers are exempt from the rule when they are unable to move into the right lane safely due to other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right, or when a truck’s driver is unable to move into the right lane safely due to a highway grade or other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right.

As the revision made its way through the statehouse, advocates said the change was necessary because the deterrent was not enough to discourage the behavior.

Fine amount revisited

Just over a year after the new law took effect, Sen. Ross Turner, R-Greenville, is looking to update the rule.

A Senate bill filed for consideration during the session that opens Jan. 10 is intended to further increase the deterrent. Specifically, S304 would increase the fine amount from $25 to $100.

The 2021 version that was signed into law initially sought to fine violators $200 with the possibility to spend up to 30 days behind bars. A separate penalty of $500 for commercial drivers was included.

A conference committee made up of select members from the House and Senate eventually agreed to the $25 fine amount, which both chambers agreed to send to the governor.

Turner’s bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Speed limits

Another road safety effort underway at the statehouse addresses concern about slow-moving traffic on the state’s fastest highways.

State law prohibits slow-moving vehicles from impeding “the normal and reasonable movement” of traffic. Exceptions are made for when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation and local authorities also are authorized to establish minimum speed zones. Affected areas can be set when an engineering and traffic investigation shows that slow speeds on a portion of highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

Sponsored by Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, H3364 would raise the minimum speed limit along the state’s interstates. Specifically, the bill reads that along highways with a maximum posted speed of 70 mph the minimum speed would be 50 mph – up from 45 mph.

The state DOT previously estimated that about 230 signs would be needed to post a new minimum speed limit. The cost was estimated at $200,000.

The bill has been sent to the House Education and Public Works Committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from South Carolina is available.

 

Lucas Oil

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.