A new bill introduced in the Florida legislature last week would make cruising in the left lane of a divided highway illegal. Currently, the law allows drivers to use the left lane for cruising provided that no faster traffic is approaching from the rear; the new law would mirror the “keep right except to pass” laws in other states that more stringently enforce safe lane discipline.
Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka’s proposed bill is refreshingly simple; it would require amending only two lines of Florida’s highway code and would put the onus on drivers to exit the passing lane after overtaking slower traffic. The current wording allows drivers to cruise in the left lane as long as they want, provided they don’t believe they’re impeding faster traffic:
316.081 (3): On a road, street, or highway having two or more lanes allowing movement in the same direction, a driver may not continue to operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane if the driver knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed. This subsection does not apply to drivers operating a vehicle that is overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or is preparing for a left turn at an intersection.
Strictly speaking, this makes it illegal to “camp” in the left lane, however the “knows or reasonably should know” language is a loophole large enough to fit an off-white Mercury Grand Marquis doing 10 under the limit. The current language is ambiguous enough that the the Florida Department of Highway Safety has a webpage dedicated to educating drivers on the nuances of left-lane cruising.
The proposed new language would read as follows:
On a road, street, or highway having two or more lanes allowing movement in the same direction with a posted speed limit of at least 65 miles per hour, a driver may not continuously operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left hand lane, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, when preparing to exit the road, street, or highway, or when otherwise directed by an official traffic control device. This subsection does not apply to authorized emergency vehicles and vehicles engaged in highway maintenance or construction.
The new language still allows some leniency for special circumstances (America still has plenty of left exits), but explicitly spells out the fact that the left lane is for overtaking only, not for cruising. Velieve it or not, there’s opposition such as a driver named Paul, who understandably would not give his last name. Paul says he drives in the left lane to stay away from the big rigs: “I drive like I drive. I mean, I drive a little over the speed limit, but I’m not gonna go get into those trucks so that some other guy can get on my bumper,” said Paul. His take on staying out of the left lane? “Hell no.”
Even if the new wording passes, it would take a concerted effort by the Florida Highway Patrol to enforce it.