A fine for slowpokes?

The Observer editorial board

We have a fantasy about driving. We bet a lot of you have this one, too.

We think of it sometimes when we’re stuck behind a car puttering below the speed limit in the left lane with no intention of moving over - even if the joggers running past it asked nicely. “Wouldn’t it be great,” we wonder (although perhaps with more colorful language), “if doing that were against the law?”

Now it may be. Three N.C. Republicans, including Mecklenburg Sen. Jeff Tarte, filed legislation Thursday that would fine left-lane drivers who are driving below the speed limit or “impeding the flow of traffic.” The $200 fine wouldn’t apply to those in the left lane because they’re about to turn left.

We admit that when we first learned of this bill, our inclination was to high five the lawmakers who filed it. That’s because left-lane slowpokes are not only discourteous, but dangerous. They prompt other drivers to do rash things like swerving in and out of traffic to pass.

Still, SB 303 raises questions. First, the bill says impeding the flow of traffic happens when a driver “should know that he or she is being overtaken from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.” Does that mean someone obeying the speed limit has to change lanes for someone breaking the law? Also, if you’re driving 44 on a crowded 45 mph road but are approached by a faster car, do you accelerate and exceed the speed limit or stay at 44 and violate SB 303?

The reality is that while we wish left-lane slowpokes would move over – even when they’re driving near the speed limit – SB 303 seems to blur the line between what’s legal and what’s not with regards to speed limits. That line is fuzzy enough, anyway.

We wonder if SB 303 would improve with some specificity – say a fine for impeding left-lane traffic while driving at least 5 mph below the speed limit. Or perhaps we could just hope that more people will drive with courtesy and smarts. Talk about a fantasy...