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Honk if you like this solution for slow drivers who clog the fast lane

Traffic slows on Interstate 85 near McAdenville.
Traffic slows on Interstate 85 near McAdenville.

In his weekly drives between Cornelius and Raleigh, three-term N.C. Sen. Jeff Tarte has ample opportunity to witness what most of us endure: slow drivers blocking the fast lane of interstate highways.

Now Tarte and two cosponsors have a solution: $200 fines for “impeding the steady flow of traffic.”

Slow driving “creates congestion, limits through-put on the interstates, creates road rage and it’s a safety hazard,” Tarte said Friday. “People move left and then you don’t know if they’re going to move back over or not.”

Tarte’s bill, filed Thursday, tinkers with an existing law that prohibits driving less than the speed limit in the left lane except when passing.

His version refers to controlled-access highways – interstates – and adds wording on impeding traffic. It deletes references to speed, on the grounds that it’s not relevant to whether a lane is being blocked.

And, oh yes, it inserts a $200 fine for drivers who “reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.”

The North Carolina Highway Patrol could offer no statistics on accidents caused by lane-blockers. Current law makes it illegal to drive at less than 45 miles per hour on interstates or primary highways with a speed limit of 60 mph or higher.

While he lives in an urban area, Tarte said he’s found fast-lane blockers most irritating on the open highway, when one or two slow drivers can quickly back up faster traffic.

Tarte says his research found that North Carolina is one of only five states without left-lane yield laws. He modeled his legislation on laws in Georgia and Florida.

Police probably wouldn’t enforce the law, if it passes, during rush hours, he said. He envisions a public education campaign that could include warning tickets or billboards.

“After a few tickets,” he said, “I think we’re going to get their attention.”

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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