There are few things in life more frustrating than getting behind a driver who thinks being cautious means going 10 miles under the posted limit. It is especially frustrating in heavy traffic, when you are running late for work and traveling in the so-called “passing lane” on the left. I mean, can’t Mr. Cautious just get over to the right? That is exactly the position taken by a controversial new bill facing New Jersey lawmakers.
Tougher ‘keep right’ laws
New Jersey Senator Donald Norcross (D) has proposed legislation to impose tougher standards for the state’s “keep right” laws, whose violators cause congestion in the New Jersey Turnpike. Norcross argued that slower-moving drivers who block left-lane traffic are some of the “biggest triggers for road rage.”
Norcross used what many may see as a hyperbolic argument for the tougher laws when he recently spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Some people have told me, when they hear about the fines we’re proposing, that it’s not high enough. They say, ‘It should be execution.'”
Already among the nation’s strictest
The “keep right” laws in New Jersey are already among the strictest in the nation. Currently, the minimum fine for a violation is $50 and the maximum is $200. Norcross wants to raise those limits to $100 minimum and $300 maximum.
New Jersey law officers wrote 5,127 failure-to-keep-right tickets in 2011.
Tourists take heat
Norcross blamed tourists for a lot of the problem. He suggested that part of the proceeds from the increased fines should be earmarked for educational signs at the borders, telling out-of-state drivers what is expected of them in the Garden State.
Senate Bill 530 passed the New Jersey Senate transportation committee 3-to-1. According to Norcross, it should see the Senate floor in the next two weeks.
Vetoed by Bush
In the past, “keep right” legislation has been unpopular with some politicians. Most state laws permit slower drivers to travel in the left lane without citation, even if it impedes traffic.
A “keep right” law was passed in Florida in 2005, but vetoed by then-governor Jeb Bush (R). He said, if passed, the law would:
“…Provide relief for those traveling at high rates of speed, or possessed of emotional intemperance, at the expense of cautious and careful drivers.”
Critics of the N.J. bill
New Jersey Senator Joe Pennacchio (R), the lone dissenter from the state Senate transportation committee, said the “draconian” legislation would encourage lane-weaving and cause more accidents. He also stated that the current already-tough New Jersey laws were adequate for controlling the problem.