Some AZ lawmakers are sick of people driving slow in the left lane

By Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2024 - 11:39am
Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2024 - 4:27pm

Do you like driving in the left lane?

Sen. David Gowan, who said he's been stuck behind some of those folks on the highways, wants to deter you from doing that by hitting you in the wallet.

So he is proposing that there be a fixed $250 fine for motorists who are found to have violated the law.

And if that doesn't seem like much, consider the fact that fee is before all of the surcharges and assessment the state tacks on to each traffic ticket for everything from providing more dollars to police forensic labs and helping to fund emergency services to providing funds for candidates who agree not to take private donations.

All totaled that could more than double the tab.

The Sierra Vista Republican said the penalty is merited.

"If you do a lot of traveling on the freeways, highways, which I know we all do, you'll see a lot of congestion happening, especially these days," he told members of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Technology and Missing Children.

"You'll ultimately see wrecks and car crashes and such," Gowan said. "And sometimes that's from people staying in the lane they shouldn't be in."

It's already the law that anyone driving at "less than the normal speed of traffic" that is appropriate to the time, place and road conditions must drive in the right-hand lane  or "as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway." The only exceptions are for passing someone else who is driving even slower or for motorists preparing to make a left turn.

"What this would do is put some teeth into that," Gowan said of his flat $250 fine.

The difference from current law depends on where someone is cited: Current law leaves the penalty pretty much up to the judge.

Sen. Teresa Hatathlie said it's a good idea. She said she sees the problem when she drives to the Capitol from her home in Tuba City.

"That's my pet peeve," she said. "The fast lane should be the fast lane — providing you're driving within the speed limit."

But SB 1681 could have an even broader effect than Gowan's stated intent of seeking to deter drivers from cruising along the highways in the left lane.

The underlying law — the one on which Gowan hopes to put that flat $250 fine — is not limited to freeways and highways. It actually makes it illegal to drive in the left lane other than to pass or make a turn "on all roadways."

Gowan said that's not his intent. And the senator said he will study the scope of the law further before he brings the issue to the full Senate.

Not everyone on the committee voted for the proposal.

"I, like everyone else, am irritated by people driving slowly in the left lane," said Sen. David Farnsworth.

"However, I don't think we should fine people for stupidity," the Mesa Republican said. "I don't like to increase fines and fees unless it is a very serious issue."

Sen. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) also voted against the measure. He did not explain his opposition.

Politics Transportation