A proposed bill could give teeth to the state law that asks slower traffic to keep right and not impede traffic.
Anderson Republican Rep. Joshua Putnam prefiled the legislation in the S.C. House this week. It has been referred to the Committee on Education and Public Works.
“The bill is designed for safety and to eliminate bottlenecks and congestion on our interstates and highway systems. We don’t want cars to be passing folks on the right hand side of the road because that’s where your accidents come into play,” Putnam said. “We don’t want to stop people from driving 5- and 10-miles-per-hour below the speed limits because some people are not comfortable with those speeds … we want them just to use the right hand lanes … It’s a safety concern.”
Current law, S.C. 56-5-1560, says impeding traffic by slow speed prohibited.
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”
No penalties or points against a driver’s license are assigned in the law for impeding traffic.
Under Putnam’s legislation, H. 4390, it would become a two-point violation for a driver to drive less than 5 mph under the posted speed limit in the farthest left-hand lane. Twelve points results in a suspended driver’s license in the state.
“It’s really hard for our law enforcement offers right now; this gives them a clear cut ability to judge if you’re violating the law or not, just as if you’re speeding,” Putnam said. ”If you follow the posted speed limits, everything is going to be OK for you. If you’re already breaking the law, then there is going to be a little bit more of a penalty now.”
Putnam added the proposed legislation is similar to highway’s minimum speed requirements.
“It’s the same concept. We have minimum posted speeds because … it becomes dangerous not going a certain speed limit,” Putnam said.
Putnam said he doesn’t expect much opposition to the proposed bill — despite a similar bill failing to pass earlier this century under then-Gov. Mark Sanford, who vetoed the bill that would make it illegal to use the left lane except for passing.
“If you’re not breaking the law or if you’re not a driver that just likes to drive slow in the left lane to make other drivers mad, I don’t see why you would have any concerns with this bill,” Putnam said.
According to Putnam, he is working with the truckers’ association and law enforcement to create an enforceable law that makes roads safer.
When asked whether or not slow drivers in the left-hand lane were a personal pet peeve — especially traveling between the Upstate and the capital city — Putnam laughed off the question.
“Most times when I’m coming down to Columbia, I’m on the right-hand side of the road because I drive a Ford Focus and it’s a good thing when I get anywhere close to 60. It doesn’t really affect me but it’s something that I see quite often.”