Despite concerns the bill could penalize slow-driving grandmothers, a proposal to fine drivers who block traffic in the left lane advanced in the N.C. House Wednesday.
House Bill 827 would give law enforcement the power to issue $200 fines to drivers caught “impeding the flow of traffic” in the left lane of a highway — unless a driver is actively passing another car or preparing to turn left.
A House judiciary committee approved the bill Wednesday, with a few legislators opposing it in a voice vote. It now heads to the House floor, but it could face roadblocks in the Senate.
The Senate version of the bill was voted down in April 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.
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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 warnings to drivers for the first year the law is in effect.
That change didn’t sway Republican Rep. David Rogers of Rutherfordton. He said the law could create situations where grandmothers are passed by speeders — “somebody waving at them with a middle finger, and the grandma is breaking the law by going the speed limit.”
Hall defended the bill, saying that slow left-lane drivers can cause clusters of traffic and prompt dangerous passing maneuvers in the right lane.
“We are not trying to chase your grandma,” he said. “This is a public safety issue. It actually saves lives, and it actually helps prevent accidents.”
Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, joked that older drivers aren’t necessarily the slow ones. “Half the time, it’s actually the granny who passes me and waves a little finger at me,” he said.
Rogers also voiced concerns that the law could give law enforcement a pretense to stop drivers who are going slower than the officer in the left lane. “That’s all they need to pull them over and search them, and restrict their liberties and freedom,” he said.
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. They also noted that the bill has support from the State Highway Patrol.
Rep. John Bradford, a Mecklenburg County Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, said law enforcement would use the law to educate drivers on safe lane choices.
“I don’t see state troopers writing tickets to Nana all the time,” he said.