Oregon House passes bill banning left-lane hogs on highways – OregonLive.com
Oregon left-lane hogs beware: Your days of puttering along in a highway’s “fast lane” without worrying about getting a traffic ticket appear to be numbered.
A bill designating the left lane on interstate and state highways for passing only just made it through the state House, with its sponsors optimistic about the proposal’s chances in the Senate.
“This is totally about traffic safety,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who commutes daily on Interstate 5 between Portland and Salem during legislative session. “This a problem that’s just getting worse out there.”
HB 3414 would apply to roadways with two lanes or more of traffic moving in the same direction. Violators would be ticketed $160.
In an effort to keep traffic flowing and to combat tailgating and road rage, 40 states have already made left lanes passing-only zones with fines for violators.
In Washington, the left lane of freeways and multi-lane state highways is for passing only. In recent years, state troopers there have become increasingly aggressive about going after what Autoblog calls the “left-lane ignorati.”
In Oregon, however, that rule applies only to freight trucks and vehicles hauling campers and trailers. Passenger vehicles can legally cruise in a freeway’s left lane freeway as long as it doesn’t impede “the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”
Oregon currently has a traffic statute addressing “failure to drive on right.”
However, lawmakers say the existing law – telling drivers to stay on the “right half” of a roadway of “sufficient width” – is intended primarily as a basic rule to keep drivers to the right of oncoming vehicles. In fact, ORS 811.295 specifically excludes highways with three marked lanes, such as I-5, U.S. 26 in Washington County and I-84.
“Nothing specifically says, ‘You can’t just hang out in the left lane on a highway,'” said Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, who sponsored the new bill.
Helm said it was intriguing to watch many rural Republicans join him to support the ban on left-lane cruising, even as many of his fellow Democrats voted against the idea. (It passed 34-25 last week.)
Lawmakers who drive long distances to Salem, Helm said, were able to immediately relate to the frustration with slowpokes refusing to move out of the left lane.
“What I object to is the fact that these drivers are completely clueless or they’re being intentionally inconsiderate,” Helm said.
Before reading a 2012 Oregonian/OregonLive commuting column about motorists the behavior, Burdick actually thought camping out in the left lane was already illegal.
However, Burdick’s last attempt to formally outlaw the annoyance crashed and burned because it did not include a GOP amendment to raise the Oregon speed limit to 75 mph.
“I think it will pass this time,” Burdick said, “because I think the speed limit increase will go through this time.”
In fact, Burdick, who has opposed bills to boost state highway speeds in the past, said she plans to vote for SB 459, increasing the maximum to 70 mph for cars.
Oregon currently has the lowest speed limits in the West. Supporters of the proposal bouncing around in the Senate say it would keep I-5 consistent with speed laws in Washington and California.
Burdick said she had change of heart about bumping up the speed limit while on a recent road trip with her daughter through Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
“There were places where you could go 80 mph,” she said. “It was like the Autobahn. And guess what: There were no left-lane hogs.”
In case you’re worried about Burdick having a lead foot, she doesn’t, at least according to state court records. The only citation under her name is a 2000 overtime parking ticket in Portland.