Three states adopt rule changes for left lane use

May 24, 2021

Keith Goble

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Three states have taken action in recent weeks to address concern about left lane use for motorists and truck drivers.

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.

Arkansas

A revision to Arkansas’ left lane rule has been signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

In 2013, the state acted to prohibit all travelers from continuous driving in the left lane on multilane roadways whenever traffic flow is impeded.

Although the rule was intended to address slower-moving vehicles traveling in the passing lane, state officials point out the rule also applied to instances when a vehicle is traveling at or above the posted speed limit but a faster-moving vehicle is attempting to pass.

“Slower Traffic Keep Right” signage is posted around the state.

The Legislature acted in 2019 to add a requirement for yellow “State Law” signs to be added at locations already posted with keep right signs.

Previously HB1849, the new law revises the rule to state that left lane travel is only permitted when passing or overtaking another vehicle. Other exceptions include preparing to turn left or when other lanes are closed or unusable.

New signs to alert travelers to the rule change will cost the state $100,000, according to a fiscal impact statement attached to the bill.

Oklahoma

Across the state line in Oklahoma, a new law is intended to clarify the state’s left lane rule.

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

Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed into law a bill to revise wording to specify that vehicles would be in violation of the law when traveling on highways. HB2054 states that county roads that are not part of the interstate or turnpike system are to be excluded.

The new rule takes effect Nov. 1.

South Carolina

The left lane rule in South Carolina also is being revised.

State law has 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.

House and Senate lawmakers have reached an agreement on a change they say is necessary because the current deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior. A conference committee met recently to hash out differences in each chamber’s version of legislation to address the issue.

The prior House-approved version of H3011 called for violators to face $200 fines and the possibility for motorists in violation of the rule to spend up to 30 days behind bars. The maximum fine for commercial drivers could not exceed $50.

Senators backed a version that permitted fines up to $25.

The version approved by conference committee members and later sent to the governor’s desk specifies that commercial vehicle drivers would be 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.

Gov. Henry McMaster took action last week to sign into law the bill to apply the left lane rule to situations on highways with at least two lanes when a vehicle is traveling behind a slower-moving vehicle. Fines would be limited to $25.

The revised rule takes effect in mid-August. In the meantime, the South Carolina Department of Transportation will be required to post signs along highways to alert travelers of the law.

Warnings will be issued for violations occurring during the first 90 days after the revised rule takes effect. 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 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.