One of the bills prefiled in the South Carolina House would make it illegal to drive at least 5 miles per hour below the speed limit in the farthest left lane of a multi-lane highway. The penalty would be two points added to a driver's license.
"About every driver probably has dealt with slow traffic in the passing lane," says Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Powdersville, who prefiled the bill. "It creates a bottleneck and also congestion, which forces drivers to pass the vehicle on the right-hand side, which studies show is more dangerous and leads to higher accident rates."
State lawmakers go back into session in January but they're allowed to prefile bills on certain dates. Those bills are then assigned to committees so they're ready to go when lawmakers return.
Bob Dunn and his wife were driving through South Carolina Wednesday on their way to Florida. Driving an RV towing a car, he stays in the right lane, and thinks it would be a good idea to require that of other drivers. "That sounds like a good idea, that people in the fast lane should be moving along faster than the other cars on the highway," he says.
Rick Todd, president of the South Carolina Trucking Association, says, "From a personal driver's perspective, I support the concept of the legislation, and I think everybody does, so the devil is in the details."
He says the association is not against the bill but truckers do have some concerns, the biggest of which is the two-point penalty for violators. "You get in the left lane, you lose some speed or people start to pass you on the right. Then all of a sudden you've got conflicts all around you and you're stuck, and it takes awhile for that to sort out before you have the opportunity to get back over," he says.
Truck driver Tony Platt says it could also be dangerous if trucks are stuck in the right lane. "We're already dealing with slower traffic trying to merge on and not being able to move over to allow them to merge on, and I think it's going to become more of a safety issue than anything if they go ahead and pass a bill like that."
The bill does have exceptions, including allowing slower traffic to be in the left lane if warranted by traffic or congestion.
Todd says the Trucking Association will work with Rep. Putnam to come up with changes to the bill.
The bill would also make it illegal to use any kind of hand-held communication device while driving in the left lane. Someone ticketed for talking on a cell phone while driving in the fast lane would get a $25 fine.
At least 11 other states have similar laws. Florida passed one earlier this year that has a $60 fine for driving slow in the fast lane. Rep. Putnam says, "It seems to be working in other states."
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