ANNAPOLIS — Speed demons, unite.
Well, briefly, then get back to the right.
That was the message during a breezy hearing Thursday in Annapolis. Lawmakers considered a bill from Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, that would require slowpoke drivers to stay out of the left lane.
The bill seemed popular with the quick-paced House Environment and Transportation Committee. Chairman Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, reminded committee members that they supported similar bills in years past. In those years, the legislation hit a roadblock in the Senate and ultimately didn’t pass.
Folden’s bill restricts the use of the far left lane of a road, reserving it only for drivers to overtake and pass another vehicle. It would apply to roads in the state with a speed limit of 55 mph or higher, in spans when at least three lanes of traffic are moving in the same direction.
“We’ve all ridden down the roadways ... and you get that vehicle ... that sits in the left lane and seemingly camps out right at or just below the speed limit, bless their heart. But they won’t move over. They won’t yield,” said Folden, a Frederick police officer who commutes to and from Annapolis each day during the 90-day General Assembly session.
He pointed out that keeping the left lane generally clear of traffic also makes driving safer for first responders.
All lanes would be available to drivers when no one is able to move quickly: traffic jams.
Weather or road hazards would also lift the requirement. Carpool lanes would not be affected.
Folden found support for the bill in Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone. In written testimony, Didone broke down elements of traffic engineering that show that reserving the left lane for passing helps move traffic along more smoothly.
Speaking before the committee, he lamented those drivers who park themselves in left lane at a low speed, including one of his own family members.
“It drives me crazy,” Didone said.
He told the committee about watching faster and slower drivers interact in the left lane. One of a few things usually happens, Didone said: The slower car yields and moves over (rarely); the faster car passes on the right; or the faster car “would drive up their butts and try to push them along.”
“That’s a technical term,” Folden interjected.
Delegate William Wivell, R-Washington, said he was disappointed that Folden made the measure an “urban” bill by restricting it just to three-lane roads, when rural two-lane roads are peppered with the same dawdlers.
Folden said he hoped that changing the law on the widest roads first would result in a statewide culture shift from left-lane driving.
After discussions among the committee, Folden said he would be open to consider amendments that would change the proposed ticket to a civil citation.
No one testified against the bill — or honked their horns, if you will — on Thursday.