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Pa. law outlaws cruising in left lane

December 28, 1999

Left lane lawBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Truckers at the Travel Port truck stop in Greencastle showed little concern Tuesday over a Pennsylvania law that took effect last week making it illegal to stay in the left lane on major roads.

The law forces drivers to use the lane "nearest the right-hand edge of the roadway," except to pass or to make a left turn - and then for only two miles before making the turn.

"It's a left-lane fiasco," said State Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Waynesboro.

The law was an amendment to the Graduated Driver's License Reform Bill, which requires young first-time drivers to have 50 hours behind the wheel with an adult before taking the state road test.

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Fleagle called the fast-lane amendment "a very poor measure that has become very, very controversial."

"I opposed it so much that I voted against the entire reform bill," he said.

Some truckers interviewed in Greencastle Tuesday said they saw little problem with the left-lane restrictions.

"It won't really affect me," said Bill Turner of Georgia as he prepared to pull his big rig back onto I-81 from the Greencastle truck stop. "I don't think you should drive in the left lane unless you're passing, anyway."

Cheri Johnston of California has been driving trucks for 12 years. She was behind the wheel of a red Freightliner at the truck stop.

"It's been a law in California for a long time, so I'm used to it," he said. "Most truckers stay in the right lane because it's already a law in so many states.

"It's OK if you drive with common sense, with safety and you read the road signs. There are always a few out there who will stay in the left lane just because they're told not to."

Joe White of Oklahoma said he thinks it's a good law. "I don't drive in the fast lane a lot except to pass and get back in (the right lane)."

His partner in the rig, Ron Pace of Oklahoma, took a different view. "I think we ought to be able to drive where we want, as much road taxes as we have to pay."

Jack Lewis, public information officer for the Pennsylvania State Police headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., said the law is aimed at slow drivers who hog the left lane and back up traffic behind them.

He said it is legal to pass on the right in Pennsylvania, but law enforcement officials don't encourage the practice. "It's safer on the left, where people expect you to pass," he said.

Lewis said troopers won't be specifically looking for violators of the fast-lane law but will pull over motorists who flagrantly flaunt it, whether they are moving fast or slow.

"This is not a law that the state police asked for," he said. "Troopers will consider all the circumstances."

Drivers found in violation can be fined up to $100, police said.

Fleagle said one reason for his opposition to the bill can be found on the stretch of I-81 between Exits 8 and 9 north of Chambersburg, Pa. The road there, with its dips and hills, creates a washboard effect that is uncomfortable to drive over, and it is worse in the right lane.

"With the new law you can't move to the left lane there unless you're passing," he said. "And who in their right mind wants to get their guts kicked around like that?"

The way he interprets it, the new law means motorists shouldn't move to the left lane when cars merge into traffic from an entrance ramp. "That's not considered passing," he said.

Fleagle said he doubts the state will spend much money putting up signs to warn motorists of the new law except for an occasional one warning drivers that the left lane is for passing only.

He is pushing House Bill 2130, which would modify the left-lane law that just took effect. It contains exceptions that allow left-lane travel when speed in that lane is greater than the traffic flow and shifts to the left to let incoming traffic merge.

Primarily the law was passed to get slow-moving vehicles out of the fast lane, Fleagle said.

"It turned out that the cure was worse than the problem," he said.

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