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Baumgartner bill targets left-lane slowpokes

OLYMPIA – Slowpokes beware.

Driving under the speed limit while in the fast lane could get pricey under legislation being pushed by state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, who wants a new crackdown on “aggravated left-lane driving.”

Slow left-lane drivers are not only a nuisance but also a safety hazard, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes or weave around them, Baumgartner said.

“You can recognize them by the long line of frustrated drivers you’ll find right behind them,” he said in a statement. “There ought to be a penalty for that sort of obliviousness.”

Motorists already can get a $124 ticket for driving continuously in the left lane of a highway when it impedes the flow of traffic. Left lanes are supposed to be used for passing, moving aside for merging traffic, or preparing to make a left turn.

Baumgartner’s bill would add $27 to the fine if the driver is traveling 1 to 5 mph below the speed limit and up to $67 for driving 16 to 20 mph under the limit.

The bill got a hearing Thursday in the Senate Transportation Committee but hasn’t been sent to a budget committee for further consideration. Although the deadline for new bills has passed, exceptions can be made for legislation that includes revenue potential such as traffic fines under provisions allowing late consideration for plans that are “necessary to implement the budget.”

Baumgartner has made it clear he’d like to shorten his commute from Spokane to Olympia. Earlier in the session he sponsored a bill to raise the speed limit along a rural portion of Interstate 90 to 75 mph. A House version of that plan, which would leave the final decision up to the state Transportation Department, is expected to be signed into law Wednesday.


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