Ore. Senate bill aims to herd slow drivers out of the left lane

Ore. Senate bill aims to herd slow drivers out of the left lane

SALEM, Ore. - Anyone droning down I-5 between Portland, Salem, Eugene or Medford with the cruise control on knows the frustration of the dreaded Slow Driver In The Left Lane.

You either have to slow down or wait to make a less-than-safe pass using the right lane before resuming your previous pace.

Now, an Oregon politician who admits she has become frustrated with left lane lollygaggers - and has even been one herself - has introduced legislation to make it illegal to poke along in the fast lane.

"If someone on the freeway passes me on the right, I feel a sense of personal failure," State Senator Ginny Burdick said with a laugh. "Even I, as hard as I work at it, can get careless at times" and drive too slow in the left lane.

"It would just basically enforce common courtesy on the roads," Burdick said of Senate Bill 511. "If you’re not passing, get over in the next lane and then you don’t even have to think about it. You’re where you belong and if somebody wants to pass you they can pass you on the left - where they should be."

So far, Burdick said reaction to the bill has been very positive.

"There’s just a lot of enthusiasm around this bill," she said. "And I think people are ready to have more enforcement of what really is existing law, you’re not supposed to impede traffic. But that’s kind of a vague term and this is very specific."

The law would not apply during heavy, congested traffic. Burdick hopes to have the bill out of committee next week and up for a full vote soon.

Burdick said the legislation was born of "many thousands of miles of observation - of personal observation - on this problem" while on the road. "It would simply make it a traffic offense to drive in the left hand lane when you’re not passing."

"All you have to do is look on the freeway and you’ll see somebody tailgating, trying to get by, sometimes you’ll see them flashing their lights, you’ll see them dodging in and out of traffic and those are all signs of frustration," Burdick said.

She said the bill "would simply make it a traffic offense to drive in the left hand lane when you’re not passing."

"I think I would have less gray hair if Oregon had had this a while ago," Burdick said. "I’m on a feckless mission to train the traffic."