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Lawmaker to left-lane loiterers: Move over or pay the price

It could cost you to dawdle in the passing lane if this legislator's law passes

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Traffic travels along Interstate 380 just north of Swisher during the evening rush hour in 2013.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Traffic travels along Interstate 380 just north of Swisher during the evening rush hour in 2013.

DES MOINES — A state lawmaker who drives 300 miles a week from his north-central Iowa home to the Capitol and back has a message for drivers who poke along in the passing lane: Move over or pay a $100 fine.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, has introduced a bill that would require drivers in the left lane on Iowa interstates and highways to maintain a speed no less than 10 mph below the posted speed limit. That would be 60 mph on interstates.

“Each trip to Des Moines it seems like a half-dozen vehicles will be in that passing lane and they’re causing a situation that I think needs to be addressed,” Byrnes said Tuesday.

“I see a lot of people in that left lane, which is the passing lane, and you start to get cars bunched up and these people aren’t even going the speed limit and they won’t get over.”

On his way to Des Moines on Monday, Brynes said, he came up behind a driver doing 60 miles an hour in the left lane on Interstate 35.

“Rather than move to the right lane, they turned on their four-way flashers,” he said.

Byrnes has been hearing complaints from commercial truckers that slow vehicles in the passing lane are “backlogging our roads because they won’t move over.”

“It’s a safety issue,” he said, adding that in some cases “it’s almost like an arrogance thing. They want to make you go around them.”

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Former Johnson County sheriff’s deputy Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, isn’t likely to back Byrnes’ bill if it comes over to the Senate. He pointed out that drivers should move over to the left lane to allow vehicles to merge from the right and move over when they pass law enforcement or service vehicles on the shoulder.

Kinney also thought that Byrnes’ approach would require raising the minimum speed limit.

“There are reasons to be in the left lane,” he said. “That’s not the solution.”

That’s true, Maj. Paul Steier, Department of Transportation motor vehicle commander, said, but drivers can be fined for “willful obstruction.”

Enforcement of the section of the code is not tied to a vehicle’s speed, but left to law enforcement officers’ discretion to stop a driver for “impeding traffic,” Steier said.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, was skeptical of Byrnes’ bill.

“That’s kind of extreme,” he said about the $100 fine. “For the most part, I think drivers behave, so I’m not ready to jump on that.”

Byrnes hoped that the discussion of the bill might prompt some drivers to be more courteous and for law enforcement to be aware of the problem.

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