Slow left-lane drivers could soon pay hefty fines

A bill ready for a vote in the N.C. House would penalize drivers for holding up traffic in the left lane on highways. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A bill ready for a vote in the N.C. House would penalize drivers for holding up traffic in the left lane on highways.

House Bill 827 would create a $200 fine for drivers who are "impeding the steady flow of traffic" in the left lane. A driver impeding traffic is defined in the law as a person who "knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed."

"I just drive the speed limit," said Cynthia Lawless, who despite her name claimed she always drives the speed posted on the sign. "I'm not comfortable with driving in the left lane, so I usually only do it when I'm passing someone who's driving slower than I am, which seems hard to imagine."

It's already illegal to drive slower than the speed limit in the left-most lane of a highway. This law would make it illegal to drive in the left lane even if drivers are going the speed limit.

Sen. Jim Davis (R), who represents the western-most counties of North Carolina, introduced a similar bill (Senate Bill 303) in March, but it never made it to the Senate floor.

He said he drives 630 miles a week when the legislature is in session in Raleigh going to and from Franklin.

"I get behind long lines of traffic, and somebody is just camped out right beside a tractor trailer and not passing them," Davis said. "They're just not going anywhere. Well, get out of the way. And be respectful of your fellow motorists."

The issue is a big pet peeve for many drivers, some of whom say it can cause road rage.

Greg Rolstad has been driving long haul trucks for the past five years after a career in railroads. He claims slow left-lane driving is one of the biggest dangers he sees on highways.

"You have to keep your cool out there driving a big rig," said Rolstad. "You're the professional. You have to act like a professional. You're the big rig out there, and you got a little car. If he's in the left-hand lane, you got a horn to help move him out of the way."

Rep. David Rogers (R), of Rutherford County, said the bill "encourages or at least facilitates unlawful aggressive driving."

In an email to News 13, Rogers said "This bill says if you are driving the maximum speed limit allowed by law you can be fined $200 plus $188 court costs if you don't clear out of the way for an aggressive driver who is exceeding the speed limit and following too closely.

"I understand the issue is safety, but we should not penalize and make unlawful the careful driver that is already going the maximum speed allowed. We should find another way to address the issue."

The bill would go into effect Dec. 1, 2017 if it passes.

Any infractions by drivers within the first year would be subject to a warning ticket rather than the $200 fine.

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