After a similar measure was rejected in the N.C. Senate, House lawmakers are trying again to restrict slow drivers from blocking traffic in the left lane.
The House Transportation Committee voted Monday to issue a $200 fine to drivers caught “impeding the flow of traffic” in the left lane of a highway – unless the driver is actively passing another car or preparing to turn left.
The Senate version of the bill was voted down last week by the Senate Transportation Committee. Senators from both political parties voiced concerns about whether a left-lane law was needed or could easily be enforced.
The House bill – sponsored by Democratic Rep. Duane Hall of Raleigh and Republican Rep. Jon Hardister of Greensboro – softens the proposal by instructing law enforcement to issue only a warning to drivers for the first year the law is in effect. The Division of Motor Vehicles would also receive funding to update its driver education materials to get the word out about the new law.
“The idea was brought to us by the Highway Patrol, who we feel is in the best position to judge traffic pattern safety issues,” Hall said. “Every other state in America except for five has a bill that addresses left-lane traffic. Those clusters or bundles of traffic cause more accidents than a speeding driver would.”
Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, successfully added an amendment that stripped the bill of language targeting drivers who are in the left lane and driving slower than the posted speed limit.
Speciale said he routinely cruises in the left lane of U.S. 70 when there’s little traffic because he thinks it gives him more time to see and avoid a deer running into the road. “This would allow you to drive in the left lane if there’s no other traffic,” he said of his change to the bill.
Bill sponsors stressed that the penalty in the legislation wouldn’t be considered a moving violation, and therefore wouldn’t cause higher insurance rates for drivers caught hogging the left lane. Hall said the proposal is less strict that what’s already on the books in other states.
The bill now heads to the House Judiciary I Committee. If it passes the House, it’s unclear if the latest changes to the proposal would give it more support in the Senate.