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Bill aims to hit passing lane slowpokes with $200 fine

A new bill aims to fine slow drivers who hold up traffic by driving in the passing lane.
A new bill aims to fine slow drivers who hold up traffic by driving in the passing lane. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

We’ve all been there.

Accelerating through traffic on Interstate 77 or 85, trying to get to work or home on time, only to find a 55 mph slowpoke blocking the passing lane and refusing to move.

You want to lay on the horn. Or tailgate them. Or glare at them as you finally pass.

Now, Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, aims to hit them with a $200 fine. Tarte filed a bill last week to that effect. It passed first reading in the Senate on Monday.

It says any vehicle “proceeding at less than the legal maximum speed or impeding the steady flow of traffic” needs to stay out of the passing lane (the one next to the center line or median on a multi-lane highway). The only exceptions: when it’s passing another vehicle itself or about to make a left-hand turn.

What qualifies as impeding “the steady flow?”

“If the person knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken from the rear by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed,” the bill says.

So, no more camping out in the left lane because you have an irrational desire to drive with the nearest curb on the same side of your car as the steering wheel. (Don’t laugh. I’ve known at least one passing lane squatter for whom that was the rationale. You can see the curb better – less chance of running off the road, they felt).

Tarte’s been awfully busy with driving-related bills of late. He sponsored one that would almost entirely ban holding a cellphone while driving. He sponsored another that would allow drivers to turn left on red under certain circumstances.

As annoying as passing-lane slowpokes can be, one does wonder whether it’s an offense serious enough for a $200 fine. Plus, these days the “flow of traffic” is often traveling far faster than the maximum posted speed limit.

If Tarte’s bill passes, here’s hoping folks don’t misconstrue it to mean they can go as fast as they want, as long as they’re in the slowpoke-free passing lane.

--Eric Frazier

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