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New Jersey to slow drivers in the fast lane: Get out of the way

March 06, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • Among the annoyances of driving is getting stuck behind a slow driver in the fast lane. One New Jersey lawmaker proposes to crack down on the problem. Here, drivers make their way along California 99 in the San Joaquin Valley in August. As with drivers everywhere, they likely can relate to the lawmaker's frustration.
Among the annoyances of driving is getting stuck behind a slow driver in… (Gary Kazanjian/Associated…)

Tired of that slowpoke hogging the left lane?

Ready to unload a few choice curse words on that overloaded pickup clogging the left, supposed "passing lane"?

New Jersey may be the state for you.

A state not known for courtesy and patience is proposing tougher "keep right" legislation aimed at curbing road rage triggered by slow-moving vehicles blocking faster left-lane traffic.

State Sen. Donald Norcross has introduced legislation that would increase fines for "failure to keep right," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

New Jersey is already fairly tough on such matters, with one of the country’s strictest "keep right" laws. But Norcross proposes hiking the minimum fine from $50 to $100 and the maximum fine from $200 to $300.

Being blocked by a slow vehicle in the left lane is "one of the biggest triggers for road rage," Norcross told the newspaper.

"Some people have told me, when they hear about the fines we’re proposing, that it’s not high enough," he added. "They say, 'It should be execution.'"

At least 30 states have laws that permit vehicles to travel in the left lane in the normal flow of traffic even if they block other vehicles, the Inquirer reported.

In Florida in 2005, then-Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed legislation that would have forced slowpokes to move right. Bush said the legislation would "provide relief for those traveling at high rates of speed, or possessed of emotional intemperance, at the expense of cautious and careful drivers."

In New Jersey, Norcross’ bill passed 3-to-1 in the state Senate transportation committee. Norcross said he expected the bill to make it to the Senate floor in two weeks.

Meanwhile, some politicians are figuratively blocking the left lane.

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, the only dissenter on the transportation committee, called the proposed fine increases "draconian" and said the existing "keep right" law is sufficient.

Forcing drivers to exit the left lane encourages dangerous weaving from lane to lane, Pennacchio told the Inquirer.

"By the time I pass and go in, I’ve got to go back out and pass again," he said. "There may be more of a danger with switching back and forth."

And one more thing: New Jersey, like many states, has a "move over" law that requires drivers to move out of the right lane whenever police or emergency vehicles are on the right shoulder. That means, yes, moving to the left lane.

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