Drivers who stay in the left lane when others are trying to pass are a “nuisance’’ who need to move over, according to a Michigan state lawmaker who introduced a bill taking aim at road hogs.
“Get out of the way so people aren’t running up on you so quick,’’ said state Rep. Robert Kosowki. “It’s just common courtesy to move over when someone is trying to pass.’’
The Westland Democrat introduced a House bill this week that would make it a civil infraction to stay in the left lane of the freeway when other drivers are trying to pass.
Michigan already has statutes against chronic left-lane driving, but Kosowski says they’re somewhat confusing. “It’s in seven different areas of traffic law,’’ he said. “This bill clears it up.’’
Under the bill, if you’re on a road with two or more lanes going in the same direction, drivers in the far left lane have to move over if someone is trying to pass. How will you know? The car coming up from behind is “traveling at a higher rate of speed,’’ the bill says.
“People going 65, 68 miles an hour in the passing lane; it can cause problems,’’ Kosowski said. “Drivers want to get around. And then there’s the whole issue of road rage.’’
A handful of states in recent years have passed laws setting harsher penalties for left lane hogs, including Georgia, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee. Fines elsewhere range from $50 to $500.
Under House Bill 4062, emergency vehicles and road maintenance trucks would be exempt. Other exceptions are for lousy weather and road work. Slower cars would still be able to use the left lane in order to exit or turn left.
Chronic left lane hogs are a source of frustration for motorists like Wesley Morris. The Houghton Lake man found himself behind a U-Haul truck on southbound U.S. 131 Friday morning; the driver wouldn’t budge from the left lane.
“I moved around him,’’ Morris said during a break at a rest area along U.S. 131 north of Rockford. “I drive quite a bit; the left lane slow drivers are a pain. I’m glad this thing has got a chance to go through.’’
Mary Cascaddan of Evart is also a supporter. She encountered a few left lane hogs during her Friday drive from Osceola County to Grand Rapids.
“That’s one of my pet peeves,’’ Cascaddan said. “It just drives me up the wall; why can’t they move over? I end up passing in the right lane, which technically is illegal.’’
Michigan State Police for years have tried to encourage chronic left lane drivers to move over. The state has even erected signs along freeways, including Int. 96 between Grand Rapids and Detroit, telling motorists to drive right and pass on the left. “It’s the law,’’ the road signs point out.
On roads with two or more lanes in one direction, vehicles “shall be driven in the extreme right-hand lane,’’ according to the existing law, MCL 257-634. If all lanes are occupied “in substantially continuous lanes of traffic,’’ all lanes are fair game, according to the statute.
Then there’s this: “On a freeway having three or more lanes, a driver may use any lane lawfully available.’’
Kosowski says that is confusing. “We wanted to clear it up,’’ he said. “We’ve met with Michigan State Police and have gotten positive feedback.’’
The state police in 2014 handed out 2,070 tickets for left lane violations, Kosowski said. Between Jan. 1, 2015 and May 31, 2015, the agency issued 763 tickets for the offense, he said.
Educating drivers, he said, is crucial. Often times, left lane violators say they did not know the lane is intended for passing, he said.
“This is not about writing more tickets,’’ Kosowski said. “The problem is there is not enough information getting through to drivers; it’s not ingrained in us.’’
Kosowski’s bill comes on the heels of a new state law bumping speed limits from 70 miles per hour to 75 mph on some 600 miles of rural freeways.