Citing the frustrations of drivers who get stuck behind other vehicles crawling along at turtle pace, House members debated a proposal Tuesday to let motorists drive around slowpokes – even if it means crossing double yellow lines that mark no-passing zones.
The state Department of Transportation expressed concerns about the idea. Some House members worried that it would lead to accidents.
“What concerns me is the oncoming traffic that you can’t see,” Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican, told members of the House Transportation Committee. “I have to assume that DOT put those double yellow lines there for a reason.”
Backers said the bill could make highways safer.
“I have truckers in my district,” said co-sponsor Rep. Rayne Brown, a Lexington Republican. “They say, ‘We are constantly getting behind mopeds, garbage trucks, bicycles – people that drive less than half the posted speed. And we think it is more dangerous for us to stay behind them.’ ... We’re talking about excessively slow speeds.”
The bill would let drivers cross the double yellow line to get around other vehicles that are moving no faster than half the posted speed limit.
This maneuver would be legal as long as the passing driver stayed at least 3 feet to the left of the slower vehicle and made the move without driving faster than the speed limit. The driver would have to be able to see that the oncoming lane was clear and be confident that the slow vehicle could be passed safely.
DOT said the double lines are recognized nationwide as a warning that it is not safe to pass.
“When a double solid line exists, it means DOT engineers have reviewed the location and do not believe there to be sufficient passing sight distance to permit the majority of drivers to make a safe passing maneuver,” spokesman Mike Charbonneau said by email.
Co-sponsor Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a North Wilkesboro Republican, said the bill would reduce conflict for drivers who complain about being delayed behind bicyclists. It would apply equally to anything described as a vehicle under state law, he said, including a horse.
Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, warned against the proposal.
“I’m not sure we’re at that point, yet, to say ‘pass any car that’s moving slow,’ ” Carney said. “I’m concerned about liability when I pass on the double yellow line – legally – and for some reason I hit something.”
The committee postponed its vote on the legislation.