MN bill seeks to push drivers out of the way of speeders

Rich Pedroncelli | AP File

Now that the Minnesota Legislature has seen fit to consider the growing state crisis caused by The Bachelor, it may turn its attention to the woes of people who think they own the road.

The Star Tribune says Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, wants to crack down on people who drive below the speed limit in the passing lane.

It’s an understandable problem on the rare occasions when it occurs. It slows everyone down and creates a hazardous situation on its own.

But it is rare. Anyone who travels on a freeway knows that almost nobody drives the speed limit and the left hand lane gets plugged with people going  a little over the speed limit, followed closely — and I do mean closely — by people going a lot over the speed limit.

“Sometimes it’s arrogance,” Shelia Dunn, communications director for the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association, tells the Strib.  “People think if they’re driving the speed limit, why not drive in the left lane?”

The paper says a “road rage report” conducted by the travel website Expedia found the “Left-Lane Hog” was the fourth most-annoying driving behavior.

This placed it behind the person texting while driving, the tailgater, and the person who cuts in line at the last minute.

The person texting while driving? The person who actually kills people?

Lawmakers can’t go wrong pushing the “slowpoke” law.

“I can’t tell you how many people come up to me from all walks of life, including ‘gun nuts’ who are just totally opposed to everything I’m doing on guns and say, ‘I hate everything you’re doing on guns but I love your left-lane bill,’ ” Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, told PBS NewsHour.

Facts be damned.

“I have not seen any research that says that hogging the left lane is a major safety issue,” said Charles Farmer, vice president of research and statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by the auto insurance industry told NewsHour. “We definitely know that speeding is a major safety issue. The evidence is overwhelming on that.”

Politicians nationwide have characterized the effort as a road rage prevention measure, in which the person who is technically abiding by the law needs to be punished to guard us all against the person who isn’t.

Georgia passed a 2014 “slowpoke law” under a similar frustration that pushed the issue higher on the political agenda than it deserved, then found out it apparently presented quite a dilemma for the cops, the Atlanta Journal Constitution says.

“If they are already breaking the law going 80 in a 70, and someone comes along behind at 85, which one would you have the priority to enforce?” State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry said.

“Law breaking speeder/tailgaters get their own lane,” a Strib commenter says. “No matter how fast I’m going , get out of my lane. I have rights too.”

The current Minnesota law allows for a $125 fine for driving slowly in the “high speed lane”. It’s a petty misdemeanor. Increasing the penalty could make a misdemeanor and bring a potential 90-day jail sentence and a fine of $1,000, although a penalty isn’t yet specified with the current effort.

Meanwhile, the penalty for texting while driving remains in its own slow lane: $225. The second time someone is caught.

There hasn’t been much of a rush to fix that problem.