Don’t pass the bill on passing

In the newspaper business, reporters joke that news is what editors see on their way to work. Now there appears to be a legislative version of that phenomenon – laws based on the frustrations lawmakers encounter on their way to the legislature.

The House Transportation Committee last week debated a bill that would allow drivers to pass slow-moving vehicles even if that means they have to cross a double-yellow line, the definitive no-passing sign on state highways.

Rep. Rayne Brown, a Republican from Lexington, is a co-sponsor of the bill. She said she’s not proposing it to speed his 100-mile commute to Raleigh. She’s doing it for truckers.

“I have truckers in my district. They say, ‘We are constantly getting behind mopeds, garbage trucks, bicycles, people that drive less than half of the posted speed. And we think it’s more dangerous for us to stay behind them.’ We’re talking about excessively slow speeds,” she said.

Brown’s bill would allow drivers to move across the double-yellow line if there were vehicles going no faster than half the posted speed limit. There would be other regulations connected to such passing, such as the passer having to stay at least 3 feet to the left of the slower vehicle and pass without breaking the speed limit. And the passing driver would have to see the oncoming lane clearly, being sure the move could be made safely.

How a police officer or Highway Patrol officer would determine whether all those rules had been followed in the event of an accident is a mystery.

The bill’s other co-sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Republican from North Wilkesboro (about 160 miles from Raleigh), said the bill would help drivers who get caught 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,’” she said.

Fortunately for oncoming drivers, this bill is going nowhere fast. The committee postponed its vote on the legislation. It should be kept in a “do not pass” zone.

CORRECTION: This editorial originally referred to Rep. Rayne Brown incorrectly as male.