To the delight of Florida motorists miffed at slowpokes hogging the left lane, legislation mostly restricting its use on highways for passing is speeding ahead.
Members of the House Transportation and Modal Subcommittee voted 16-0 for a bill (HB 317) that would create clearer rules against continuous left lane driving on thoroughfares with speed limits of 65 mph or more.
“This bill provides for a more safe and efficient flow of traffic and gives law enforcement clear standards about the use of the left lane,” said Fort Myers Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, the bill’s sponsor.
By improperly using the left lane, she said, drivers are creating “a dangerous situation where (they) unnecessarily camp out in the left lane, (leading) to blocking traffic flow, less predictability, more encounters, more passing maneuvers and more opportunities for accidents.”
HB 317 and its identical Senate companion (SB 258) by Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry come with some exceptions.
Naturally, the measure only applies to highways, roads and streets with two or more lanes going in the same direction. Drivers could still use the left lane to exit, turn or if directed to do so by law enforcement personnel or traffic control devices.
It also does not apply to authorized emergency vehicles or vehicles engaged in highway maintenance or construction. In cases where the leftmost lane is marked for high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) use, the restriction would apply to the lane directly to the right of it.
HB 317 and SB 258 are substantively similar to measures Persons-Mulicka and Perry carried during the 2023 Session. Perry’s bill died before reaching a Senate floor vote. Persons-Mulicka’s bill was added to another measure that ultimately failed to pass.
According to MIT, every U.S. state has a law regarding proper lane usage, though they differ in specifics. Florida Statutes provide that motorists should drive in the right lane to keep from obstructing traffic and creating dangerous driving conditions, including right-lane passing and weaving from lane to lane.
But left-lane driving isn’t expressly prohibited. HB 317 and SB 258 would change that by making it a noncriminal traffic infraction punishable as a moving violation. “The statutory base fine is $60, but with additional fees and surcharges, the total penalty may be up to $158,” a House staff analysis said.
Staff noted the fine already applies to improper left lane usage under current statutes.
Perry called the existing law “ambiguous” when discussing his bill last Session.
“This makes it a little bit more clear,” he said, because the current law “is not working and it’s hard to enforce.”
HB 317 will next go to the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee, after which it will head for a floor vote. SB 258 awaits a hearing before the first of two committees to which it was assigned.