Three states near rule changes for left lane use

April 14, 2021

Keith Goble

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Discussion continues at multiple statehouses to address 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.

South Carolina

The use of the left lane is a hot topic at the South Carolina statehouse.

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.

There are no penalties attached to the law.

House and Senate lawmakers say change is needed because the current deterrent is not enough to discourage the behavior.

The two chambers this year have unanimously approved a bill to cover concern about left lane use on state roadways. The versions, however, differ on multiple points.

The House-approved version 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 approved a version to limit fines for all drivers to $25. There is no provision included about jail time.

The chambers agreed to provisions in the bill that specify 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 grade or other vehicles overtaking or passing the truck on the right.

House lawmakers approved a version that would apply the lane use rules on highways with at least two lanes moving in the same direction. Senators want to limit application of the rule to interstate highways with at least three lanes in each direction.

Both chambers have agreed to language in the bill that would require the South Carolina Department of Transportation to post signs along interstates to alert travelers of the law.

The bill, H3011, has moved to a conference committee made up of select members from both chambers to work out differences. If approved there, the bill would need final approval in each chamber before it could move to the governor’s desk.

Maryland

The Maryland Senate could soon vote on a House-approved bill to 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 sign requirement to alert travelers of the rule is included in the bill.

Parrott said there would be no penalties for violators. He says the sign requirement is more significant for creating a safer interstate system in Maryland.

“By having the signage, we are going to encourage people to drive in a more safe and courteous manner,” Parrott testified to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The panel voted last week to advance the bill to the Senate floor.

Oklahoma

One bill nearing passage in the Oklahoma Legislature 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. Statute 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, HB2054 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 Senate Public Safety Committee has voted to advance the bill to the full Senate. If approved there, the bill would head to the governor’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it. 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.

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.