Fair, 79°
Weather sponsored by:

Florida House tries to move slowpokes from left lanes


Posted

Florida may have fewer left-lane laggards on high-speed roadways next year if the Senate approves legislation that just zipped through the House.

The bill (HB 317) cleared the Legislature’s lower chamber on a 113-3 vote. Its twin companion (SB 258) now awaits consideration on the Senate floor.

If approved, the measure would provide that the left lane on roadways with speed limits of 65 mph or more is for passing only.

“If you have ever been frustrated by drivers camping out in the left lane on the interstate, then this is the bill for you,” said Fort Myers Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, the bill’s sponsor.

“When drivers impede the flow of traffic in the left lane, it’s not only a cause of frustration for us, but it creates a dangerous situation … of less predictability, more encounters, more maneuvers, more opportunities for accidents, and more opportunities for increased road rage.”

The measure would not apply to authorized emergency vehicles engaged in maintenance or construction. In cases where the leftmost lane is marked for high-occupancy vehicle use, the restriction would apply to the lane directly to its right.

Naturally, that rule would apply only to thoroughfares with two or more going lanes in the same direction. Motorists could still use the left lane to exit or turn if directed by police or traffic control devices.

The House floor vote Thursday marked the first time HB 317 faced opposition in the chamber as Democratic Reps. Christopher Benjamin of Miami Gardens, Dianne Hart of Tampa and Angie Nixon of Jacksonville voted “no.”

Benjamin told Florida Politics his problem with the bill, which he hadn’t been able to vote on until Thursday, was that it would likely lead to reduced roadway capacity.

“The current law requires that when you are in the left lane and are given the signal to pass, you must evacuate the lane. This new law will reduce all highways by one lane now, providing that the only time you can ride in the far-left lane will be to overtake someone and then return to the right lane,” he said by text.

“Governments have spent money on widening roads and increasing the number of lanes in order to help alleviate traffic. That will now be negated by this bill.”

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 avoid 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.

HB 317 and SB 258 are substantively similar to measures Persons-Mulicka and Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith 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.

Perry is again sponsoring the Senate bill, which awaits the chamber’s full and final vote after clearing three committees with nary a roadblock.

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida, focusing on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at Jesse@FloridaPolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.