Legislator proposes 'keep right' driving law
By LAUREN GAMBINO
Of the Associated Press
SALEM — Frustrated by slow drivers who don't stay to the right, a state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make it illegal to drive in the left lane of interstate highways unless passing another vehicle.
“If you're not passing, stay out of the left lane,” said Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), the measure's sponsor. “It's really not that hard.”
Burdick, who commutes to the Capitol daily, testified in support of the bill Monday before the Senate Business and Transportation Committee. She said the measure would improve traffic flow by clearing the left lane for drivers to safely overtake vehicles that are on the right.
The law would not apply when traffic is heavily congested.
Under the bill, drivers could face penalties of up to $1,000. But Burdick says the proposal's primary purpose is to educate drivers, not penalize them.
A handful of other states have keep-right laws on their books, including Washington, which Burdick pointed to as a model.
Burdick's bill would amend a current state law that she said is “vague and imprecise.” The current law prohibits trailers, campers and trucks from driving in the left lane unless passing. The bill would expand this law to include all vehicles.
In 2012, Oregon state police troopers cited 125 drivers for left lane-related violations, according to police statistics.
In the same year, the Washington State Patrol stopped 14,241 drivers for left-lane violations. Of those stops, troopers ticketed 1,097 motorists, about 10 percent, according to Washington State police statistics.
“We treat this as an education issue rather than an enforcement issue,” said Robert Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman. He said there are some areas throughout the state where motorists can drive in the left lane. These spots are clearly marked by road signs.
“We treat this as an education issue rather than an enforcement issue,” said Robert Calkins, a Washington State Patrol spokesman. He said motorists can drive in the left lane in some areas throughout the state. These spots are clearly marked by road signs.
The Oregon bill seemed to resonate with the committee members, who each had a story to tell about being stuck on Interstate 5 behind a slow-moving vehicle. But some had concerns.
“So will it make things better or worse?” committee Chairman Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, asked Ted Phillips, director of Oregon State Police Patrol Services.
Phillips laughed and said only that he has witnessed reckless driving resulting from drivers frustrated with slower vehicles in the left lane.
Committee member Fred Girod, R-Stayton, said he was worried the measure may negatively impact drivers like himself who use speed control during their daily commutes.
“The bill has nothing to do with how fast anybody's going,” Burdick clarified. She said the bill's aim is strictly to keep the left lane open so drivers can easily and safely pass vehicles.
Burdick said the bill has received a lot of support already and hopes it will be up for a Senate floor vote soon.