Thursday, the House passed legislation, HB212, requiring that motorists to use the left lane for passing on interstates.
State Representative Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, is the sponsor of HB212 and is a former state trooper.
“If you are driving 50 miles per hour in the left lane you are impeding traffic,” Pettus said. “I know of two shootings that happened because of people driving in the left lane.”
State Representative Laura Hall, D-Huntsville. Responded, “That was crazy people. You can’t do anything to stop crazy people.”
“I have talked with DOT and if this passes they are going to put up signs and do PSAs.” Pettus said. “This is interstate only. It does not apply to U.S. Highways or state highways. I am not changing anything to do with the regular highways.”
If a motorist drives for more than a mile and a half in the left hand lane of an interstate without passing they could be cited and fined by law enforcement.
Hall asked, “Why did you use a mile and a half?”
“This is what Texas did,” Pettus said. “That is the distance that it takes a big truck to pass. That is a long distance for a car/”
State Representative Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, asked, “Do you think they are going to mind that?”
Pettus replied, “If we get enough troopers on the road to enforce it they will.”
“This would cause traffic to flow a whole lot better and I thank you for bringing it,” state Representative Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, said. “I used to live in Connecticut for 8 years where they had this and it worked real well.”
“I ride in the left hand lane because the big trucks tear up that right lane so bad that you go bumpity bumpity bump,” said state Representative Mary Moore, D-Birmingham.
Pettus said, “The DOT says that they are going to spend $25.000 on advertising.”
“I called some of these people that are smarter than I am, and I gave them this equation,” said state Representative Artis A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston. If there was one car lawfully driving 70 miles per hour and they were passing a person lawfully driving 68 miles an hour, how long would it take to pass. The calculation came that it would take three miles to overtake and pass.
Pettus said that his bill would not apply if there was congestion.
“I come through Birmingham every week and it is always congested,” Pettus said. “Nobody is running the speed limit there because it is so congested.”
“Most people, if they see law enforcement coming up behind them, are going to get over,” Pettus explained.
“When I am in the fast lane I want that slow driver to get out of my way,” state Representative John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said.
“As long as you are passing, you can drive in that left lane from Huntsville to Mobile,” Pettus said. “Interstates are set up for the movement of traffic.”
Rogers asked, “How are you going to enforce this?”
“I am a retired trooper, it is easier to enforce than what we have now,” Pettus answered. “If everybody would ride in the right lane there would be no tickets and that would be perfect.”
“Why don’t you create HOV lanes?” state Representative Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, asked, “I don’t profess to be the brightest cookie in the jar; but I am asking these questions. You say that it is a simple bill; but it is not because of the unintended consequences.”
Pettus said that HOV lanes are for high occupancy vehicles. That is more used in urban areas. This bill applies more to rural areas. “This is probably not going to get enforced in Birmingham because it is so congested there.”
Pettus said that this bill would combat road rage. “People are much shorter tempered than they were 30 years ago. My goal is not to get everybody tickets, but to get everybody in compliance.”
State Representative Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores, offered an amendment that exempts this if a vehicle is traveling through a construction zone.
“I think it is a very good amendment,” Pettus said. “I think it makes the bill better.”
The friendly amendment passed 82 to 0.
The bill itself passed 61 to 24.
Pettus said that if his bill passes there would be a sixty day grace period before it is enforced to make the public aware of the change.
“This would be a misdemeanor,” Pettus said. A citation for this would be a $20 fine plus court costs.
“This left lane issue is very very important,” said Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia. Travelling in the left lane, it can be a hazard. Traffic starts backing up and people start getting impatient.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.