State Politics

Bill would keep slow pokes out of left lane, but wouldn’t help US 90

A bill in the Mississippi Legislature would increase the fine for driving slowly in the left lane of highways.
A bill in the Mississippi Legislature would increase the fine for driving slowly in the left lane of highways.

Doesn’t matter what lane drivers are in, if they are on U.S. 90, it seems they are not happy. At least the vocal drivers.

People who write to Sound Off complain drivers get in the left lane, then lollygag down 90, holding up traffic. The slow pokes in the left lane write in to say if they get in the right lane, they’ll never be able to move over to make a left turn.

Fist-shaking commences.

A bill dealing with left-lane drivers is back for a return engagement. But even if it passes, it won’t help the U.S. 90 impasse.

“It doesn’t look like it would apply to 90,” Gulfport police Sgt. Joshua Bromen said.

He’s right. The bill in question, HB 511, would apply to any road “divided into three or more clearly marked lanes of traffic, except through or bypassing a municipality.”

That bill by Rep. Charles Busby of Pascagoula and Rep. Mark Formby of Picayune last week cleared the Transportation Committee, which Busby chairs.

Capt. Johnny Poulos of the Mississippi Highway Patrol said it appears to be a good bill but it’s no substitute for driving skills and a calm demeanor behind the wheel.

“It looks like a well-written bill where the main objective is safety,” he said. “It’s a big safety concern when you have people traveling below the posted speed limit and they’re occupying that left lane and you have vehicles traveling in the right lane. Then, you are impeding traffic.

“We’re dealing with a lot of traffic issues in today’s world. Let me put you in a law enforcement officer’s shoes ... When a vehicle is traveling at a lower speed, that is traveling below the posted speed limit, and they’re traveling in the left lane, it is a huge safety issue.”

Prime example

He said on the hilly portion of U.S. 49 in South Mississippi, for example, a loaded tractor-trailer could be traveling at the speed limit and pop over a hill to find a much slower car driving in the left lane.

“Then you have a collision,” he said.

He said slow drivers in the left lane also impede emergency responders. In fact, a few years back, that was the impetus for Formby writing a bill dealing with left-lane driving. He said he was behind an ambulance on U.S. 49 that was being held up by a driver who refused to get out of the left lane.

The bill would not be, Poulos said, a license to speed.

Education helps

“All traffic laws still apply,” he said. “If this bill passes and becomes law, we’re going to have to make sure the motoring public understands the way the law is written.

“I’ve made stops myself where the driver said, ‘Sir, I didn’t know that I had to return to the right hand lane.’ ”

The bill would allow drivers to be in the left lane “preparing to exit the roadway on the left” but bars drivers from staying in the lane “when it impedes the flow of other traffic.”

Poulos also asked motorists in the above-described situations to remember lives are at stake.

“We just ask people to keep everyone’s lives in mind,” he said. “If that driver in the left lane just will not move over, just slow down and get into the right-hand lane and pass that vehicle.”