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Rutherford: Keep to the right lane after Jan. 1

Monday, December 22, 2003 Posted 5:30 p.m.
Springfield - State Senator Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac) reminds area residents that beginning January 1, 2004, the State-s new left lane law will take effect. Designed to help improve safety on highways and Interstates, the new law makes a moving violation if a driver is in the left lane of a multi state highway and detaining the traffic flow. Exceptions were built into the law. Rutherford was the Chief Senate sponsor with State Rep. John Millner (R-St. Charles), a former police chief himself, taking the lead in the House.

Most Illinois drivers note that their biggest pet peeve is: slow drivers in the left lane. Rutherford said, -It is primarily a safety concern, and on a multi lane highway, drivers who detain others in the left lane cause more problems than simply annoying the drivers who want to pass. Tailgating and congestion on our highways and Interstates lead to accidents, especially when road conditions are not that good. It also detains emergency service vehicles that may be caught in the back traffic. Our new law will help reduce such congestion by giving law enforcement officials another tool to enforce slower drivers being in the right lane.-

Illinois law already states that on Interstate highways a vehicle must drive in the right lane, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle. Still many drivers ignore this law and drive at slow speeds in the left lane, creating traffic congestion and decreasing safety.

The new law prohibits detaining traffic in the left lane on Interstate highways. The legislation, House Bill 1574/Public Act 93-447, outlines specific situations where it is not in violation to remain in the left lane. They are:

  • when passing another vehicle
  • when no other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle in the left lane,
  • when traffic conditions and congestion make it impractical to drive in the right lane;
  • when snow or other inclement weather conditions make it necessary to drive in the left lane;
  • when obstructions or hazards exist in the right lane;
  • when approaching an emergency vehicle or highway construction area;
  • when exiting the highway from the left lane;
  • when it is necessary to use I-PASS or to comply with an official traffic control device; or
  • when changing lanes to avoid law enforcement vehicles, emergency vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles, and workers or personnel.
Illinois is not the first state to consider such legislation. South Carolina already has a left lane law and a Texas law requires highway signs stating: -slower traffic keep right- and -left lane for passing only.- Collier County, Florida limits use of the left lane by large trucks and Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington are also considering left lane restrictions on highways.

Rutherford added, -I have been asked if one is driving the speed limit in the left lane and cars come up form behind speeding, is the lead car in the left lane at fault? The answer is if one is detaining traffic in the left, it is their obligation to move over to the right. The lead car in the left is not responsible to be the enforcer of the law, not to be the hall monitor. It would be their obligation to get out of the left lane and let the law enforcement officials ticket the speeders.-

-I know some people like to drive in the left lane because it is smoother than the deteriorated right lane. That's all well and good, but if one is detaining traffic in the left, move over, let them pass, and then go back to the left,- Senator Rutherford noted.