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‘Left-lane bandits’ may face $250 fine

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By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The House of Delegates has approved a bill that would impose a mandatory $250 fine for driving too slowly in the left lane on highways.

HB 2201was introduced by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, and co-sponsored by Democrats Del. Kaye Kory of Falls Church and Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax to show bipartisan support for the measure. O’Quinn said this is something that affects all Virginians, regardless of which side of the aisle they align themselves with.

“It doesn’t matter which corner of the commonwealth you come from,” he said when addressing the bill on the House floor Monday. “It doesn’t matter which interstate or four-lane highway that you have going through the districts you represent. I guarantee you are going to encounter this many times, even if you’re on the highways for just a few minutes.”

“Left lane bandits,” as they are often known, have become a “particularly pervasive and ever-growing problem” on Virginia roadways, O’Quinn said.

Under current Virginia law, driving in the left lane is illegal except when passing or when it is deemed “otherwise impractical,” but there is no fine for failing to obey the law. O’Quinn said that, for the safety of all Virginian drivers, he hopes to change that.

“I consulted with a lot of law enforcement officers, first responders, et cetera, about this, and every single one of them, without fail, had some sort of story where they ran up on a car who’s going grossly under the speed limit in the left lane, which then required them to have to attempt to pass on the right, which is not legal nor safe,” O’Quinn said. “A number of close calls and a few accidents, in fact, have occurred from that.”

O’Quinn also said that, in addition to helping curb dangerous high-speed accidents, the bill would help decrease road rage incidents on Virginia’s highways.

“This is also something that is one of the leading causes of road rage – which certainly, I am not condoning by any stretch – but it’s something that law enforcement officers many times can point back to as the root of a number of road rage incidents,” O’Quinn said.

He added that he and his co-sponsors are not trying to change traffic laws, but rather help drivers understand the dangers of disobeying lane rules.

“I’m not trying to mess with the definition of what it means to pass on the left or stay in the right lane or any of that stuff,” he added. “But, simply put, a penalty behind it shows that we understand the seriousness behind it and that we’re going to be serious about actually enforcing it.”

The House voted 66-31 for final passage of the bill on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

How they voted

Here is how the House voted Tuesday on HB 2201 (“Failure to drive on right side of highways or observe traffic lanes; increases penalties”).

Floor: 01/31/17 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (66-Y 31-N)

YEAS – Adams, Anderson, Austin, Bell, John J., Bell, Richard P., Byron, Campbell, Cline, Collins, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Hayes, Head, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hodges, Holcomb, Hope, Ingram, James, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Krizek, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lindsey, Lingamfelter, Lopez, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Plum, Ransone, Rasoul, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Watts, Webert, Wright, Yancey, Yost, Speaker Howell – 66.

NAYS – Aird, Albo, Bagby, Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Cole, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Hugo, Keam, Kory, Levine, McQuinn, Miyares, Mullin, Murphy, Pogge, Poindexter, Price, Robinson, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Wilt – 31.

NOT VOTING – Fariss, Morefield – 2.

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